The bubble inside Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. thus far has been a rousing success with the NBA quelling the threat of COVID-19; its pedestrian wine offerings, however, have left much to the imagination for the discerning palates of players, who have had copious shipments of expensive bottles sent to their temporary quarters.
“You notice [wine-related packages] a lot during the day as they come in,” Heather Messer, who handles shipping and administration for NBA events, said via ESPN.
Many players, including Pelicans swingman Josh Hart and guard JJ Redick, have purchased wine fridges and shipped in better provisions to hold them over in their new accommodations, but Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum has taken it a step further.
The oenophile — who has a cellar that holds 500 bottles at his home — has converted his entire hotel room into a wine fridge by cranking up the air conditioning to a frigid 50 to 60 degrees, the ideal temperature at which to store wine. He increases the thermostat slightly when he’s actually there, but always makes sure to keep his 84 bottles (of mostly Oregon pinot noir) shielded from direct light, which can oxidize components of the wine and and sully its flavor profile.
“If you’re in my hotel and you happen to be by the pool, you’ll be able to partake in whatever I’m drinking that day,” McCollum said. “If it’s during the daytime it’ll probably be some bubbly. If it’s at nighttime, it’s probably pinot.”
The 28-year-old former first round pick even bottled his own eponymous Oregon pinot noir called McCollum Heritage 91.
“You see some teams sitting at separate tables, [and] they’re drinking wine or they’re discussing things over wine,” he said. “I think it’s become more common practice, especially associated with dinner — a way to catch up, a way to reflect and relax after a long day of working out and obviously being restricted to the bubble.”
McCollum noted how isolating and jarring the entire experience has been for him and his fellow players, who have had to adapt to life without their families and creature comforts to which they are accustomed.
“Other than [basketball activities], you’re in your room at least half the day, if you include sleep,” he said. “You’re in your room a lot.”
“It provides an escape,” Redick said.
“Obviously, there’s a little bit of alcohol, so it gets you more relaxed and loose,” Hart said. “But the bigger thing is, this is an uncomfortable time in terms of not being with family, not being in your own house, your own bed for at least six, seven weeks. … It kind of gives you a kind of sense of, like, grounding and, like, normalcy even during this uncomfortable time.”
“I think after you work these long days, it’s nice to unwind,” Messer said of the copious libations. “It’s a relaxing thing, and it’s a reminder of home.”
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