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New Portland dinner series with wines from NBA champions and Oregonians Channing Frye, Kevin Love

Best friends through basketball, they personally develop each wine for Chosen Family. Through August, you can taste them paired with delicious food at Cafe Rowan.

PORTLAND, Oregon — An Oregon wine company is celebrating it's second birthday this summer. Chosen Family Wines was created by retired NBA player and former Portland Trailblazer Channing Frye. 

Another co-owner is his best friend Kevin Love, a Lake Oswego native who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They're getting their wines out there with some wildly fun three and six-course winemaker chef dinners you can attend in Portland through August.

"Oregon wine country, I think, is making the best chardonnay in America. It's a bold statement, I know, but I find it very true," laughs Channing Frye as he pops open a bottle of his Chosen Family Chardonnay. 

KGW sat down with him at Cafe Rowan on Southeast Cesar Chavez Boulevard and Holgate where he's been holding wine dinners since October.

Credit: Veronica Padron Photography
Channing Frye attends a winemaker dinner at Cafe Rowan with his Chosen Family wines paired with each dish from Chef Spencer Ivankoe of Cafe Rowan in SE Portland.

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It's a good, intentioned life he's living. Frye met his wife Lauren the first day he moved to Portland to play for the Blazers in 2007. Five NBA moves later, they returned here to her hometown and put down roots.

"I choose to live here because of the people, because of the culture, because of what I've seen go on and where it's going and where I think it's going go. And I live here through the summer and yes, through the rain," he laughs.

The couple now has four kids together. Retiring at 36, the smiley, 7-foot tall Phoenix native with an infectious laugh has several jobs. First is a basketball podcast called Road Trippin.' He also live tweets for the NBA and several other media gigs. But when he was deciding what else he was going to do in "retirement," he kept coming back to wine.    

Credit: Ally B (Chosen Family)
The Chosen Family family photo

"My wife loves wine country, so we started going to wine country," he said. "No one in my 15 years of living here in Oregon has ever gone wine tasting and had a bad experience. I'm interested in terroir. Or when do you pick the grapes, harvest time, and for me, the story of how the winemakers got into wine is interesting."

He started small, learning about Oregon wines, the soil and climate and harvest, then branched out to other regions in California and other countries. He said there were countless flights home from NBA games where guys would bring wine to share on the plane. Frye's were always from the Willamette Valley, and it was when best friend and Cavs teammate Love took notice, that the two hatched a plan. 

"We started writing down in a book, what was important to us? What are some of the names who we would want to work with? What is important about how we're going to be different and how we're going do this for a long run?"

Credit: Ally B. (Chosen Family)
Kevin Love and Channing Frye discuss wine at a recent tasting in Willamette Valley.

Together with CEO Jacob Gray, and Director of Wine, Chase Renton, owner of L'Ongolo Estate winery, the friends started having dinners and tasting and trying more wine with friends and family, and that's how Chosen Family wines got its name. 

"And we were literally like, this is it. You're our family that we choose to spend time with and we choose to listen to. We choose to be real with," he said. "Time is the one thing you can't buy. And so to have the opportunity to share things with someone else, regardless if they are your brother or sister, cousin, if there are people that you want in your life, they're going to become your family. It's all about spending time with the people that are important to you, and sharing things and being unselfish and listening and learning."

Chosen Family has no vineyard. No tasting room. It's the group of four friends, sipping, talking, saying 'a little more of this, less of that' to grapes from across the Willamette Valley to create their perfect blend and bottle it.

How do you do that with a current NBA player like Love's schedule? 

"His involvement is exactly what it needs to be," Frye explained. "He's done some amazing things across the country with us when he has the opportunity. I'm really excited, but I want him to focus on this opportunity now because he's on a really good team in Cleveland. They are really, really good. And I tried to get him to come to Portland, you know! Please fans, I'm trying! But he has a great thing going there with some really good young talent, that can make some moves in the league this year."

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Credit: Nina Mehlhaf (KGW)
A collection of Chosen Family Wines with several of the dishes on Chef Spencer Ivankoe's winemaker dinner menu going on through August at Cafe Rowan.

Under the signature Chosen Family line to start, there is a Rose, Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ranging from $24 to $35 per bottle. Then there are exclusive collaborations with specific wineries.

Enter chef Spencer Ivankoe, who literally 'slid into the DM's' on Instagram and sent Frye a private message. 

"I said to bring the family by. I've been a big fan over the years. I love what you guys are doing right now with your wines," said Ivankoe. 

Frye did come by Cafe Rowan near Reed College. And in the months since, has declared Ivankoe one of Portland's best chefs, pairing Chosen Family wines with his menus for over 30 ticketed dinners since October. 

Credit: Veronica Padron Photography
Chef Spencer Ivankoe at a recent Chosen Family winemaker dinner at Cafe Rowan explaining the next course to guests.

The current six-course menu includes: albacore with grilled watermelon and black truffle, scallop with apple, wasabi and dill, summer peas with sesame, tahini and mint, croquette with morel mushrooms, sweet corn purée and truffles, ribeye with summer squash and various desserts — all paired with Chosen Family wines. 

"So many new friendships are made at these dinners," said Ivankoe. "People are talking again. It's a beautiful thing to watch and see. You can meet new people. I can't tell you how many people come into these dinners and say, 'hey, don't you live on my street, or haven't I seen you before?' I think getting to have those type of moments with these wines and in this setting has been really cool."

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Credit: Veronica Padron Photography
Dishes being prepared to go out to guests at a recent Chosen Family winemaker dinner at Cafe Rowan in SE Portland.

You can find Chosen Family Wines at Zupan's, and they are coming soon to New Seasons markets and various restaurants. Or you can simply order from Chosen Family's website or join their wine club at various levels.

Wine dinners:

Three-course dinners are $105 per person and run August 10, 11, 17, 18, 25, 25 and 31.

Six-course dinners are $155 per person and run July 20, 21, 27 and 28, as well as August 3 and 4.

Email info@caferowan.com for reservation information.

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