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Kelly Carter
 
February 29, 2016 | Kelly Carter

Former NBA Star Yao Ming Opens Wine Tasting Room In St. Helena

The 7-foot-6 ex-Houston Rocket center caused quite the stir when he stopped by the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena for Premiere Napa Valley’s barrel tasting and auction, which raised $5 million for the Napa Valley Vintners… 

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Time Posted: Feb 29, 2016 at 1:25 PM
Jim boyce
 
February 29, 2016 | Jim boyce

Center stage | Former NBA star Yao Ming opens tasting room in Napa Valley

Former NBA star and current celebrity wine brand owner Yao Ming opened a tasting room today in St. Helena in Napa Valley.… 

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Time Posted: Feb 29, 2016 at 1:20 PM
Marty James
 
February 29, 2016 | Marty James

Yao Ming in St Helena: Basketball star turned vintner opens a new tasting room

It was during his years playing basketball as a 7-foot-6 center for the Houston Rockets of the NBA that Yao Ming, who is from Shanghai, China, became interested in wine...

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Time Posted: Feb 29, 2016 at 1:15 PM
By: Forbes
 
March 30, 2015 | By: Forbes

Yao Ming in Forbes

Yao Ming could have returned to China for a quiet retirement. Instead, the 7-foot 6-inch former NBA star has spoken out against various animal abuses—including his country’s illegal ivory trade… 

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Time Posted: Mar 30, 2015 at 6:15 PM
Great Wine News
 
April 13, 2014 | Great Wine News

Wine's New Big Man

Yao Ming set all types of records in the NBA. Not only was he a history maker, he took the nation of China along for the ride. Now retired from the game of basketball, Yao Ming takes to another court, that of the wine world and new fans are starting to cheer him on.

How does it feel to have Robert Parker rate your wine so highly?

We are extremely proud to receive such generous feedback from world-renowned wine critic, Robert Parker. These wines are made with great passion and dedication and it is exciting to be recognized for our efforts.

In sports you work the court, what kind of team player are you in the vineyard?

We have a great team at Yao Family Wines and just like in sports, success comes when all teammates are passionate and contribute. Our winemaker, Tom Hinde brings tremendous knowledge of the industry and his winemaking experience makes him a vital part of the team. I have a distinct style and taste preference that defines our wines and he helps translate that in the bottle. My knowledge of wine has increased tremendously and Tom has taught me a great deal about the winemaking process. I think it’s fair to say that we are both passionate and dedicated players.

When did you decide that wine would become your passion?

When I realized that I might not be able to play basketball much longer, I began to think about things I would enjoy when I was finished playing. I knew about Napa Valley wine because of my time in the US; while I was on the road with the Houston Rockets the players would go out to dinner together and I tasted some of the finest Napa Valley wine at dinners with my teammates. They have many great steakhouses in Houston, and we often enjoyed Cabernet Sauvignon with a big Texas steak. China was also discovering fine wine at that time, but mostly French wines, so I felt I could help introduce people to something new that would truly enhance their lives.

Do you see yourself opening a vineyard in China?

Napa Valley wines are the wines that I enjoy the most, and I wanted to bring a taste of that back home to China. I want to make wines I am proud of, and to share them with the Chinese people, but also share the culture of Napa Valley; the traditions of enjoying wine with food, and bringing family and friends together. Currently, our plan is to focus on making the best wines we can possibly make from Napa Valley, the place that inspired me.

How do you think you could change the wine world?

The Chinese are developing their taste for world-class wine, and while French wines have made a big impression, they are just starting to discover wines from California. Chinese wine drinkers are eager to learn about wine, and are thirsty for knowledge. To be in a position to help people in China learn more about Napa Valley is very exciting. For me, wine has been about discovery and enjoyment. Not only do Chinese consumers want to enjoy wine, but they want to understand it. I am the same way. I hope to spark an interest in Napa Valley and the lifestyle that accompanies it. To me, wine encourages people to slow down, come together and enjoy life.

Time Posted: Apr 13, 2014 at 6:22 PM
Calhoun & Company Communications
 

Wine Enthusiast Magazine Awards 2010 Yao Ming® Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Highest Ratings In April 2014 Buying Guide

ST. HELENA, Calif., March 12, 2014 – Following the stellar 90+ scores from world-renowned wine critic Robert Parker, Yao Family Wines has once again garnered top acclaim for their recently released wines. The April 2014 issue of Wine Enthusiast Magazinepublished stand-out scores for the 2010 Yao Family Wines: NAPA CREST Red Wine Blend (91 Points), Yao Ming® Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (95 Points) and Yao Ming® Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (98 Points, the highest score in the April 2014 Buying Guide).

Yao Ming recently commented, “Our goal from the beginning has been to produce wines that showcase the incredible quality of Napa Valley. I think we’ve done that with the 2010 vintage and done it well. To have the highly respected Wine Enthusiast Magazine validate our efforts means a great deal to us.”

Wine Enthusiast Magazine had this to say about Yao Family Wines, “Yao Ming® 2010 Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). …what’s undeniable, by any modern standard, is the wine’s excellence. A blend of fruit from Atlas Peak and Rutherford, the wine is a barrel selection from the winery’s regular 2010 output, and accounts for only about 20% of total production. The Cabernet Sauvignon is mixed with a little Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It’s delicious in blackberry, cassis liqueur, dark chocolate and oak flavors, and well structured in acids and tannins. The wine should develop in the bottle for at least 10 years.

Yao Ming® 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). This fabulous Cabernet has been blended with Merlot, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. It’s incredibly complex in both flavor and structure, offering waves of blackberries and cherries, currants, dark chocolate and toast that go on and on into a long, spicy finish. The grapes come from various sources, including St. Helena and Atlas Peak, showing winemaker Tom Hinde’s mastery of the art of blending.

NAPA CREST 2010 Red Wine Blend (Napa Valley). Coming from almost any other winery, this would be its lead wine. It’s absolutely delicious in cherries, blackberries, currants, anise and smoky oak, with strong but refined tannins and bright acidity. It will last in the bottle for up to six years, but try to give it some time in the decanter before pouring.”

The 2010 vintages from Yao Family Wines are now available on the Yao Family Wines website www.yaofamilywines.comand will be in wine shops and restaurants across the US later this year.

Time Posted: Mar 24, 2014 at 6:26 PM
Great Wine News
 
December 1, 2013 | Great Wine News

NBA Legend Maker to Wine Maker

How does it feel to have Robert Parker rate your wine so highly?

We are extremely proud to receive such generous feedback from world-renowned wine critic, Robert Parker. These wines are made with great passion and dedication and it is exciting to be recognized for our efforts.

In sports you work the court, what kind of team player are you in the vineyard?

We have a great team at Yao Family Wines and just like in sports, success comes when all teammates are passionate and contribute. Our winemaker, Tom Hinde brings tremendous knowledge of the industry and his winemaking experience makes him a vital part of the team.

I have a distinct style and taste preference that defines our wines and he helps translate that in the bottle. My knowledge of wine has increased tremendously and Tom has taught me a great deal about the winemaking process. I think it’s fair to say that we are both passionate and dedicated players.

When did you decide that wine would become your passion?

When I realized that I might not be able to play basketball much longer, I began to think about things I would enjoy when I was finished playing. I knew about Napa Valley wine because of my time in the US; while I was on the road with the Houston Rockets the players would go out to dinner together and I tasted some of the finest Napa Valley wine at dinners with my teammates.

They have many great steakhouses in Houston, and we often enjoyed Cabernet Sauvignon with a big Texas steak. China was also discovering fine wine at that time, but mostly French wines, so I felt I could help introduce people to something new that would truly enhance their lives.

Will you open a vineyard in China?

Napa Valley wines are the wines that I enjoy the most, and I wanted to bring a taste of that back home to China. I want to make wines I am proud of, and to share them with the Chinese people, but also share the culture of Napa Valley; the traditions of enjoying wine with food, and bringing family and friends together. Currently, our plan is to focus on making the best wines we can possibly make from Napa Valley, the place that inspired me.

How do you think you will change the wine world?

The Chinese are developing their taste for world-class wine, and while French wines have made a big impression, they are just starting to discover wines from California. Chinese wine drinkers are eager to learn about wine, and are thirsty for knowledge. To be in a position to help people in China learn more about Napa Valley is very exciting.

For me, wine has been about discovery and enjoyment. Not only do Chinese consumers want to enjoy wine, but they want to understand it. I am the same way. I hope to spark an interest in Napa Valley and the lifestyle that accompanies it. To me, wine encourages people to slow down, come together and enjoy life.

Time Posted: Dec 1, 2013 at 6:32 PM
Associated Press
 
November 21, 2013 | Associated Press

Yao Ming stays busy in retirement with college, winemaking and owning the Shanghai Sharks

Yao Ming wears a variety of different hats since hanging up his size 18 shoes and retiring from the NBA in 2011.

There’s the stressed out and probably overzealous Yao, owner of the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball League.

“I don’t want to talk about it because we just lost this morning,” Yao grumbles shaking his head in his hands.

There’s the 33-year old college sophomore Yao who feels out of place in a classroom full of students 12-15 years younger than he is. And there’s the chilled out and introspective Yao, owner of a Napa Valley wine company, Yao Family Wines.

The most successful Chinese player in NBA history certainly hasn’t used his retirement as a time to slow down — though he does like the wine business.

“This is a lifestyle,” he said in between sips of his $170 Yao Ming cabernet sauvignon. “It’s about friends chatting with each other, shared experiences and you need a (medium) to put everybody together. And red wine is something you can enjoy with your friends.”

“Then sometimes on a peaceful afternoon you can sit right next to your window and read a book, listen to some soft music and drink a glass of wine.”

Yao worked closely with winemaker Tom Hinde on the brand being sold in China and the United States. Yao was intimately involved because he didn’t want his name on something that wasn’t up to his standards. He knows that some will buy the wine simply because it bears his name, but he wanted it to have value for reasons apart from his fame.

Yao developed a taste for red wine enjoying big Texas steaks with his teammates while playing for the Houston Rockets, and he started learning more about it from teammate Dikembe Mutombo. He released the Yao Ming cabernet and the $625 Yao Ming Family reserve, also a cabernet sauvignon, in 2011. This year, he’s launched a more reasonably priced wine with his $48 Napa Crest, a Bordeaux-style red blend.

Wine consumers in China haven’t yet warmed up to white wine, so Yao only makes red for now.

On a recent Friday afternoon at a posh restaurant in downtown Houston, Yao nibbled on a Caesar salad and admitted he was playing hooky from classes at the prestigious Shanghai Jiao Tong University for a trip to the United States to promote his wine. He received permission from his professors to miss a week, but he’s still responsible for homework that will be due as soon as he returns.

Yao is about two years away from graduating with a degree in economics and management. Becoming an undergrad as a 30-something multimillionaire may seem odd to some, but it’s part of a promise he made years ago. When he signed his first basketball contract with the Sharks at age 17, he guaranteed his parents he’d return to school when his basketball career was done.

The university is about an hour drive from his home, so he looked into staying on campus during the week to avoid the commute. But the on-campus housing didn’t have any beds large enough to accommodate his 7-foot-6 frame. So he leaves at 6 a.m. each morning with a sack lunch made by his wife and tries to blend in with the masses.

He causes a stir at the start of each term before his classmates settle down and treat him like any other student. Already feeling uncomfortable because of his age, Yao said he had an awkward moment recently when one of his professors turned out to be a high school classmate.

On top of school and his business dealings, the eight-time NBA All-Star is a doting father to his 3 ½ year old daughter Yao Qinlei, who goes by her American name of Amy.

She was born in Houston but lives in Shanghai, where she attends a bilingual kindergarten program. Yao said he and his wife Ye Li, also a former basketball star, only speak Shanghainese and Mandarin to her. So he found it interesting when he overheard her speaking only English to her dolls during playtime recently.

As the child of Chinese basketball royalty, the obvious question about Amy is if she’ll follow in the footsteps of her famous parents.

“It’s too young to know what she likes,” Yao said. “But I believe that she needs to play some sports as a character education. I believe that team sports teach you communication, leadership, teamwork and physical health, obviously, and also how you face frustration from when you lose.”

Yao is still learning to deal with that kind of frustration as owner of the Sharks. He bought the team in 2009 and said it’s difficult to let his employees handle things and not step in and try to fix all the problems. Though he loves basketball, he was blunt when asked if he enjoyed ownership.

“Not so much,” he said. “It’s painful. But if one day we could go all the way that will make everything worth it.”

Yao has also considered coaching, but feels like he’s too young to do it now.

“Maybe when I’m 50 or something,” he said with a laugh.

If he ever decides to lead a team, he’d like to do it here instead of in China because he feels like his time in the NBA make him more suited for coaching in the U.S.

Yao maintains a close relationship with the Rockets, who selected him with the first pick in the 2002 draft. He tries to attend a few games a year and sat courtside with team President Tad Brown at a recent game. He’s developed a friendship with Houston point guard Jeremy Lin, the NBA’s first American-born player of Taiwanese descent.

Lin said that Yao’s parents, who now live in Houston, have reached out to his parents and that their mothers chat from time to time.

“He’s a legend,” Lin said. “Personally he’s helped me so much. We understand what it’s like to have the pressure that we have and be in the situation that we’re in.”

Time Posted: Nov 21, 2013 at 6:35 PM
Mark Berman, Fox 26 Houston
 
November 16, 2013 | Mark Berman, Fox 26 Houston

Yao Ming launches 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

A select group of customers at Spec’s downtown liquor store witnessed the launch of Yao Ming’s 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at Spec’s. With the former Rockets star autographing bottles from the Yao Ming family of wines. Selling for $100 per bottle, Yao’s Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, is one of three labels being produced under Yao’s banner.

Time Posted: Nov 16, 2013 at 6:39 PM
Livia Xin, The Drinks Business
 
November 14, 2013 | Livia Xin, The Drinks Business

Robert Parker Calls Yao Ming’s 2010 Cabernet ‘Brilliant’

Robert Parker reviewed Yao Family Wines for the first time in the October edition of The Wine Advocate and gave the wine high praise saying it was, “impressive to see what the big man is doing in the wine game”.

He reviewed three of Yao’s 2010 vintage wines and scored 95 to the 2010 Yao Ming Family Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

He wrote: “The 2010 Yao Ming Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon possesses an opaque blue/purple colour as well as a gorgeous bouquet of spring flowers, red and black fruits and subtle toasty oak.

“Full-bodied and impeccably made with beautiful texture, length and richness, it can be drunk now, but will stand the test of time for 15 or more years.

The former NBA player recently announced that he would lower his wine’s price and target China’s growing middle class wine drinkers.

Parker added: “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.”

Time Posted: Nov 14, 2013 at 6:43 PM