Yao Ming, the majority owner of Yao Family Wines which is sourcing wines from Napa Valley grapes. photo from Yao Family Wines website

There’s a new player in Napa County this week: Yao Family Wines. Yup, that Yao. Billed as “Napa’s Tallest Winemaker” on the company’s official website, the Chinese basketball star Yao Ming is poised to capitalize on the Chinese wine boom.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal today, the former 7-foot-6-inch Houston Rockets center has been working on the venture since 2009.

The wine, made from cabernet sauvignon grapes harvested in 2009 from California’s Napa Valley, is priced at 1,775 yuan (US$289) a bottle. (The price includes a 27% import duty and a 17% sales tax.) A second wine, called Yao Family Reserve, will be released later this year, and its small 500-case production will be even pricier.

“I really like Napa Valley,” said the former center. “California represents vacation, casual [living], sunshine—everything related to a good quality of life.”

Yao Family Wines currently doesn’t own any vineyards in California, but is aiming to acquire land in the next few years.

The article says the wine market in China has doubled from 2005 to 2009.

French wines have received the most interest from Chinese connoseiurs, while Australian wineries have been working on making in-roads. Now maybe California will sip away at that.

Yao Ming Launches a California Winery for the Chinese Market 28 November,2011Rachel Dornhelm


Rachel Dornhelm

Rachel Dornhelm has worked as a reporter, editor and producer in public radio for the last twelve years. She got her start in New York City at WNYC and went on to work with the national business program Marketplace, WBUR’s “On Point” and KQED News in San Francisco. Her work has been honored by the LA Press Club and the SF-Peninsula Press Club.

Rachel has a BA with honors in anthropology from Rice University and did graduate work at NYU.

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