Detroit Pistons legend Isiah Thomas had plenty to celebrate and load of champagne to toast with Wednesday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The NBA All-Star was in Metro Detroit this week to attend the Detroit Pistons game against the Los Angeles Lakers, and to showcase Cheurlin Thomas Champagne, the newest product brought to the United States by his ISIAH Imports. He also shared his Palace memories at a special halftime ceremony.
Thomas said he got into the bubbly business because it “looked like a fun thing to get involved in.”
“I had just exited the popcorn business and I was looking for the next venture and champagne came across my desk,” Thomas said at a pre-game media event.
Thomas said he traveled to France to meet with the Cheurlin family, which has been growing grapes and making champagne in the French Aube since 1788.
“They have 100-plus acres of land in France. They wanted to get their product into the United States,” Thomas said. “I tasted the product, met the family and it was kind of love at first sight. It was like anything else ... when you tasted something good or you buy a nice jacket or coat or whatever, you want to share it with your friends. And I just said I want to share this product with all the people that I know.”
Thomas, who is the Pistons’ all-time leader in points, assists, steals and games played, debuted four labels in the Cheurlin Thomas Champagne collection at the Democratic National Convention in July. This includes Brut Spéciale and Rosé de Saignée, and a higher-end “black label” collection, including Célébrité and Le Champion, which are aged for a minimum of 18 months.
“The last two or three days, Cheurlin Champagne has been the hottest champagne in Detroit,” he said, adding the first few months of this business has been “a great start.”
Thomas made appearances around Detroit on Tuesday at Papa’s Joe’s in Birmingham and House of Pure Vin in Detroit to promote the brand, sign bottles and meet fans. The latter, at 1433 Woodward, sells the brand for $54.99-$86.99.
That price point was important to the Chicago native. In the United States there are sparkling wine brands that are labeled “champagne” or “California champagne,” but in most countries, the wine has to be from France and meet other criteria in order to be labeled “champagne.” Thomas said he wanted to be able to offer real champagne to people at an approachable price.
“I wanted to give the average male or female who had a great week that celebratory moment without costing you your rent money,” he said. “We’re trying to clear out the clutter, give people real champagne, let them experience it, and I believe that once people have the experience of tasting real champagne at a price point they can afford, they’ll come back.”
The brand will be featured at The Palace of Auburn Hills throughout the rest of the Detroit Pistons season, and well as Madison Square Garden in New York City and the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago.
“We look to expand using our NBA platform,” Thomas said. “We’ve only been here four or five months, so it’s been a great start and, of course, Detroit has been the best market so far. The last two days, the amount of champagne that’s been sold here has been staggering.”