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Yao Ming Launches a California Winery for the Chinese Market

| November 28, 2011
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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.

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About the Author ()

Rachel Dornhelm got her start in radio at WHYY. After anthropology graduate school, Rachel lived in Uzbekistan working with youth near the drying Aral Sea. Rachel returned to radio full-time in 2001. Her work has appeared on WNYC, WBUR, Marketplace, NPR news magazines and KQED. Reach Rachel Dornhelm at rdornhelm@kqed.org.

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