Under his Own Vine | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Under his Own Vine

Under his Own Vine

Amar’e Stoudemire holds one of his new Israeli kosher wines/ Courtesy Jewish National Fund-USA

Ex-basketball star launches Israeli-grown kosher wine

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The outsized gallery of reporters who showed up to the launch Amar’e Stoudemire’s eponymous Kosher Israeli wine label is perhaps a good indicator of the cross-cutting fascination that the mercurial ex-basketball star attracts. Assembled were writers for the Jewish press, sports outlets, specialty wine magazines, African-American culture publications, and a smattering of local papers and Kosher food blogs.

Since retiring from professional basketball in 2017 after a fifteen-year career, Stoudemire (35) has become “multi-hyphenated” (in the words of his PR person), an entrepreneur doing this-and-that-and-that-and-that.

Stoudemire is the part-owner of the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team and ended his career playing for it, leading the team to win the Israeli Basketball League Cup in 2016. However, Stoudemire’s connection to Israel runs deeper than his basketball career.

He identifies as a Hebrew Israelite, a community that believes that African Americans who were brought to America as slaves are descendants of the ancient Israelites.

“I have a personal passion connection to Israel that will last until my days are over on this earth,” Stoudemire said.

Although he no longer lives in Israel, Stoudemire frequently travels back to the country. The idea of producing a wine in Israel grew organically from this connection. “It’s my way of giving back to the land. I do what I can to stay rooted,” he explained.

The irony that the Hebrew Israelite community’s connection to the Land of Israel is not recognized by halachic Judaism or the State of Israel seemed to be lost on the crowd of Jewish National Fund officials and baller donors who warmly applauded Stoudemire at the launch event hosted in the JNF house in New York’s Upper East Side.

It was not the first time Stoudemire was embraced by the Israeli and Jewish establishment, either. Stoudamire was also awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Award by the State of Israel, the Jewish National Fund, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York in Jerusalem in 2017.

Stoudamire’s oenophilia began through casual wine drinking with friends, getting more serious about wine as he began including wine tastings in his global travels and spent time in the Chanel chateau in Bordeaux, where he learned and tasted wines. Stoudemire was involved in all stages of creating his line of wines, from the selecting the blends to the design of the labels.

The Stoudemire wines are produced by the Tulip wineries in the Galilee, which employs members of Kfar Tikva, a community for adults with developmental and emotional disabilities. Stoudemire wines come in three varieties, all reds – Stoudemire Reserve, which retails at $59.99, Stoudemire Grand Reserve, which retails at $99.99, and the limited-edition Stoudemire Private Collection, which retails at $249.99.

The wines are currently only available in the New York and New Jersey region. The Stoudemire Grand reserve is a blend of cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot, a full-bodied and rich-flavored blend that, like its namesake, immediately appeals but defies easy characterization. The Stoudemire Reserve is a full-bodied cabernet sauvignon, rich in tannins that should have a familiar appeal to lovers of Israeli wines and delight those not yet acquainted with the region. Both wines are produced from grapes grown in Kfar Shamai in the Upper Galilee, a region regarded among the finest terroirs in Israel (The Stoudemire Private Collection was not on offer at the tasting event).

Stoudemire recommends pairing his wine with red meat – steak or lamb, although when asked about his favorite food to eat in Israel, his answer was “sashimi.”

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