Carmelo Anthony on Why He Started a Wine Label | Wine Enthusiast Podcast
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Wine Enthusiast Podcast: Why Carmelo Anthony Got Into the Wine Game

As the football season comes to an end in February, the basketball season heats up. This is the first episode in a two-part series we’re calling Wine and Basketball, in which we chat with NBA stars who decided to get into the wine game.

This week we sat down with 10-time NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony and his long-time business partner and entrepreneur, Asani Swann. Together, they co-founded The Seventh Estate VII(N), a new global wine label.

They partnered with third-generation Rhône winemaker Stéphane Usseglio to produce their first vintage Oath of Fidelity, Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2017.

Anthony and Swann talk about their relationship with wine, breaking racial barriers, what inspired the name of the inaugural vintage, Oath of Fidelity and where they envision their wine label will be in the future. 

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Episode Transcript

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting.

Speakers: Asani Swann, Carmelo Anthony, Jacy Topps

Jacy Topps 00:09 Hello, and welcome to the Wine Enthusiast podcast. You’re serving of drinks culture, and the people who drive it. I’m Jacy Topps assistant editor here at Wine Enthusiast. As the football season comes to an end in February, the basketball season starts to heat up. This is the first episode in a two-part series we’re calling wine and basketball. In the series I chat with NBA basketball players who decided to get into the wine game. This week, I sat down with 10 time NBA All Star, Carmelo Anthony, and his longtime business partner, Asani Swann. Together, they co founded The Seventh Estate, a new global wine label. So listen on, as we discussed Carmelo and Asani’s journey into wine, representation in the industry, what inspired the name behind the inaugural vintage Oath of Fidelity, and where they envision their wine label will be in the future.

Jacy Topps 01:09 Hi, I’m Jacy Topps, Assistant Editor here at Wine Enthusiast. And today I’m excited because my guests are Carmelo Anthony and Asani Swann Carlmelo is 10-time NBA All Star. And Asani is a producer, entrepreneur and a longtime business partner of Carmelo together, they co founded the Seventh Estate, a new wine level. Welcome, Asani And Carmelo, Thank you so much for joining me.

Asani Swann 01:33 Thank you for having us. Thank you.

Jacy Topps 01:37 First, I want to say congratulations on launching your new wine label. I mean, that’s a pretty big deal. Congrats.

Carmelo Anthony  01:45 I appreciate that very much.

Jacy Topps 01:47 So inquiring minds want to know, how does one celebrate a one launch? What did you guys do to celebrate your launch?

Carmelo Anthony 01:56 I’ll let Asani take it from here.

Asani Swann  02:00 Lots of lots of lots of sighs of relief in in a lot of excitement. It took us four years to get to this point. And I think we were just elated for the world in the community to see that we were real. And what we were working on was a quality project that we were really proud of. So we of course had to toast to a new wine lunch.

Jacy Topps  02:27 Yes, of course. So there weren’t any parties of anything in large parties or anything like that.

Asani Swann  02:35 At this time.

Jacy Topps  02:36 Okay. So let’s back up about Carmelo I know a lot of podcasts enthusiast know that you have a podcast yourself called what’s in your glass? Yes. And you launched that during COVID. And you talk about wine and current events and things like that, but I do know a lot of people don’t know that you’re into wine. So how long have you been in wine and what got you into wine,

Carmelo Anthony 03:02 I’ve been into wine, I will say, you know, more than 10 years, more than a decade, you know, just that whole experience that whole journey of just, you know, drinking wine and being interested in in just the size of wine and just how was made and you know, at that point of time when I got into wine, it wasn’t it wasn’t a big wine culture, in, in sports in the NBA and in just our community. So I that was something I was very cognizant of I wanted to you know, get into wine and really learned and really understand this so I can be able to you know, go out there and talk and become more educated on just the process of of making wine and that led me you know, 1015 years later here speaking to you about you know, launching the seven foot state

Jacy Topps  03:54 Wow, okay, that’s awesome. What about you as ani is this projects, your first time dealing with wine or were you into wine previously,

Asani Swann 04:03 but like I grew up in the Bay Area, and so I always say you know, the coming of age moment when you turn 21 is go to Napa and go on a wine tasting tour, which is what I did you know, my experience with wine growing up is holiday gatherings, fun experience and people just in very intentionally experiencing one another over nice glasses or bottles of wine and great conversation. But I will also say this is my first venture into the wine business. And what it has done is it has accelerated my education of wine, the industry and the people in it.

Jacy Topps 04:45 Okay, awesome. Speaking of Napa, that’s where you and I met earlier in May. Yeah, it Carmelo was there as well. We were at the Robert Mondavi estate for their dinner in the in the vines event it was so much fun.

Carmelo Anthony 05:01 We had a hell of a time. That was a that was a great night.

Jacy Topps 05:04 It was it was so beautiful. It was really hot. But it was, it was great. So the inaugural vintage is out, Oath of Fidelity, it’s, um, sounds really awesome. I’m sure there’s something behind it. So what inspired that name?

Carmelo Anthony 05:22 It was, um, again, thinking about culture, right? And being a history buff, right? And then wanted to, you know, connect to different cultures, right? The the wine industry, which is, you know, has forever has been one way, right is only looked upon one way, you know, for certain demographics. And I just wanted to bring some type of culture and you know, speaking about all the fidelity, right in Tucson closures, like, that was somebody who I’ve always looked at and admire in a culture of when it comes to fight and determination, breaking barriers, and, you know, in staking claim and in the world, and that’s where the oath of fidelity comes from. That was the oath, you know, that to saw, you know, his people, our people, they signed it, right, they signed the oath to go along with him, and they trusted him. And Jeff knew to pop, you know, that that’s where the, that’s the castle of the Pope. Right? So it’s just so much history. And you know, that I really want to tap More into, you know, not just with the wine, but in the story, the storytelling aspect of it.

Jacy Topps  06:31 Oh, wow, that’s, that’s really interesting. What is your vision for the brand? I mean, this can go to Carmelo Lourdes or Sony, or both, as far as how do you see the brand growing in the next five to 10 years,

Asani Swann  06:44 I would say, we’re building legacy. I think that’s our collective goal, and to create spaces for other people to enjoy. You know, Melo, and I didn’t just arrive here we have earned our spot will continue to earn a spot and create spaces for people that look like us. But five to 10 years from now, you know, a few of our goals or visions are to create a slate of amazing wines for diverse groups of palates. And to also just create more space for winemakers of color to tell our stories and what goes into our winemaking process.

Jacy Topps  07:26 Oh, I hear that thank you. Asani, I’m going to stick with you because you are now one of the very few black women at the helm of a wine label with Wine Enthusiast have been able to interview and talk with a few of the other black women, you know, Marvina Robinson, who owns her own champagne label and the the Mcbride sisters and Iris Rideau, who was the first black woman to own a winery ever in this country? What does that feel like? Is the industry becoming more inclusive? What is your experience, Ben, since I know you’ve just launched but this has been a long time in the making. What is your experience been as a black woman?

Asani Swann  08:07 Well, well, let me first say it’s an honor to be counted in that number. Because I’m just getting started in these women who have sacrificed and who have been building over the years, it’s an honor to be in their company. And to learn from them. I’d first say, you know, the black women that I’ve met so far in the wine industry have been so incredibly supportive, inviting, and collaborative. And that is a huge piece of how I am able to continue moving forward, they answer the phone, and allow me to ask the questions that I need in order for us to continue building a second successful business, I would say the industry is becoming more inclusive, but it’s slow. It’s slow to the to the starting line, I would say. But we have a unique opportunity to accelerate that growth. And I think one of the things that we do is we support others that are in the space, we don’t have to be so competitive, that we’re not willing to support each other. So that’s one of the things we championship initiatives that drive community. And and that is an important element and to be able to tell our story. But I would also say as a black woman, you know, it continues to be an uphill battle. But I think what makes us different is that we have an innate ability to persevere. And because of that we succeed.

Jacy Topps  09:36 Yes, awesome. Which leads me to the next question. Of course, when I interviewed those women before I always asked is representation important? And of course it’s important. So I’m going to ask you why is representation in the wine community important?

Asani Swann  09:52 It’s important because there’s 8 billion people in the world there’s out of those Ultimately, 8 billion people in the world, approximately 1 billion of those are wine or wine drinkers or individuals who are in the wine business, which means that we need better representation to mirror all the beautiful people in this world who want to experience what you and I get to experience on a regular basis. And that is enjoying what winemaking is and what we put into a bottle to be able to allow that story to unfold. That is why representation is so incredibly important. Yes,

Jacy Topps  10:37 I agree. Let’s talk about the wine. carmello Why did you decide to partner with third generation winemaker Stefano? Why Châteauneuf-du-Pape?

Carmelo Anthony 10:49 Châteauneuf-du-Pape is, is very interesting. If you know, you know, right, it’s very, it’s a very old world, you know, wine. So, you know, that was just a part of my journey, you know, tasting different wines and going over to France, and, you know, just traveling around the world and experiencing different taste profiles, right. So I got, I got a chance to, you know, go down as shot to move in, in Southern Rhone and I felt like that was where I wanted to create and come to come to the market with and invite, you know, my, my consumer and customer and fan base into a region that they probably never even heard of. Right. So, again, that goes to, you know, oh, we’ll meet in New World and just us being that bridge, to be able to give that information and those experience, you know, on both on both sides, and, you know, in France and Europe and around the world, and here in our own country.

Jacy Topps  11:47 Okay. So the wine is how many years? Was it as a as an aged? What’s the it’s a 2000?

Carmelo Anthony  11:57 So 2017 Okay, 2000. You know, we joke about it now, it’s a 2017 CDP, but you’re getting in now, which is almost six years later, right? So, because of COVID, and things like that, that, you know, forced the wine to sit still and, and age by force, people are getting a chance to experience what a real shattering of Depop really can taste like, you know, when it ages and when it relaxes, as opposed to us releasing that 2017 and 2018 and 2019, it will probably would have been, you know, the taste profile probably would have been a little bit different. So we you know, we have some, a little bit of luck on our side when it comes to that. So,

Jacy Topps  12:43 um, what do you say to consumers who kind of don’t believe celebrities are actually involved in their wine labels? Like you just kind of put your name on it, and you walk away? Can you talk about your involvement in the process before it was happening? And kind of now?

Carmelo Anthony  13:00 Yeah, um, as far as this, you know, put your name on it, you know, I think people get into this industry, or any industry for different reasons. For me, it’s, it’s, it’s about building, right, it’s about scale, and it’s about, you know, growing, you know, not just domestically but internationally around the world. So, there’s a plan that’s, that’s been put in place and is still being, you know, still being put in place. And what everybody’s seeing now is the work, you know, that they’re reaping the benefits. Now, the work that we’ve done, over over the past, you know, 678 years, and even the work I’ve done over the past 15 years. So, I think it’s super authentic for people to come along that journey and see it and people will appreciate it. Now, as opposed to me forcing it, you know, on the people, I think people saw the journey, they, you know, they they enjoy the journey, we will continue, you know, bringing that community in on that journey. But it’s just, it’s a lot different when you when you have different reasons of why you want you in the industry.

Jacy Topps  14:04 Okay, so what can we expect from the next vintage? Is this going to be like a every few years thing? Or are you going to put out more varieties and we’re bottles.

Carmelo Anthony  14:15 The beauty of this is we could do whatever we want to do. And you know, and I don’t say that in an arrogant way, right? I just say that because, again, we’re building this from the ground up. So there’s no there’s no ceiling for us. Right? So we have the ability to go anywhere we want to go and try to create and where it makes sense. So I don’t you know, every year we will have, you know, two to three releases, you know, have different vintages and different varietals and so we got to enjoy it and we’re gonna have fun with this this journey.

Jacy Topps  14:52 And it is pretty much all going to come from the and the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region.

Carmelo Anthony  14:57 No, it’s Oath of Fidelity will You know, is Châteauneuf-du-Pape. So that will be that will be the Châteauneuf-du-Pape room underneath of The Seven Estate. And then these other ones will all be different, you know, reasons and varietals and you know, we every room would be different within the state.

Jacy Topps  15:15 I have one final question for both you in a Asani when it’s not Oath of Fidelity what’s in your glass? Oh

Asani Swann  15:31 Yes, so I am really loving right now the Bedrock heritage 2020 I have just discovered it with Chris Cottrell and Morgan, who’s the partner of winemaker and just really enjoying those bottles. I’m ordering another another few as we speak.

Carmelo Anthony  15:55 As far as me, um, whatever is in there. You know, if it’s not if it’s not all the fidelity, you know, obviously, you know, I say that because it’s really, really good, right? I can drink that all day long. But it’s whatever, whatever are going in the in the cellar and just grab, you know, depending on how I feel at that moment.

Jacy Topps  16:24 I understand I get it. Sometimes it’s cocktails. Sometimes it’s wine. Sometimes it’s coffee.

Carmelo Anthony  16:30 Yeah, just just a pin.

Jacy Topps  16:34 Asani Swann, Carmelo Anthony, thank you so much for joining me today. I wish you so much success on this journey of yours and I’m very happy to see everything is taken place.

Carmelo Anthony  16:45 I appreciate that. And we appreciate it. Thank you.Jacy Topps 16:52 From producing fantastic wine for every palate to increasing representation and breaking racial barriers, Carmelo Anthony and Asani know exactly where they’re taking The Seventh Estate. Wine is much more than fermented grapes, its culture and its storytelling. And the more diverse and inclusive this industry becomes, the more and more interesting wine will be. If you liked today’s episode, we’d love to read your reviews and hear what you think. And hey, why not tell your wine loving friends to check us out to remember, you can subscribe to this podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. You can also go to wine backslash podcast for more episodes and transcripts. I’m Jacy Topps. Thanks for listening