In November 2011, Yao Ming, global humanitarian and recently retired NBA star, announced the establishment of his new Napa Valley wine company: Yao Family Wines.
A bottle of Yao Ming Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Photo: Yao Family Wines)
He launched its first brand – the Yao Ming Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - in December 2011, which received critical acclaim from Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate and Steve Heimoff of the Wine Enthusiast. After awarding 95 points to the 2010 Yao Ming Family Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 90 points to the 2010 Yao Ming Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Mr Parker wrote:
"I am aware of all the arguments that major celebrities lending their names to wines is generally a formula for mediocrity, but that is not the case with Yao Ming. These are high-class wines. The two Cabernets are actually brilliant, and the Reserve bottling ranks alongside just about anything made in Napa."
Yao Ming himself, keeps it in perspective: "we are still very young, and we have so much still to learn," he said of his operation. But Yao Ming and his team are humble only to an extent: his wine prices pits against a world-class competitive set.
Former NBA all-star Yao Ming examines grapes with Yao Family Wines head of winemaking Tom Hinde. (Photo: Yao Family Wines)
Given his ambitions, Yao Ming was fortunate in hiring California veteran Tom Hinde as president and winemaker. Sourcing grapes from prestigious Napa Valley vineyards, Hinde takes a 'spice box' approach to constructing the flagship wines. But Yao Ming, who flies in from Shanghai for all the key decision making, very much directs the nuances of the style. "These wines are very much driven by what he values," says Hinde, "they are about harmony. You won't find overuse of oak or purposely high alcohol or over-extracted fruit. There is an elegance you might not find in other wines."
NBA Hall of Famer Yao Ming has been devoted to wildlife conservation and anti-poaching efforts for a decade, and his winery has raised more than $400,000 for charity. (Photo: Forbes)
Yao Ming continues to be an avid advocate of wildlife conservation and has raised more than USD400,000 in 2016, benefiting WildAid, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending illegal wildlife trade. To celebrate ten years of anti-poaching and wildlife preservation efforts, the Yao Family Estate had produced a limited-edition cabernet, with all 100% of the profits benefiting WildAid. So if you're going to drink very good wine anyway, why not save endangered animals at the same time?
Shop Yao Family Wines here.