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John Taylor
 
May 16, 2017 | John Taylor

Our Spring 2017 Newsletter!

Hello friends!

Spring is one of our all-time favorite seasons here in Napa Valley. It's the official start of the growing season, with bud break happening all over the valley. The weather is just how we like it up here: Clear, warm days, crisp, cool nights. A perfect time for the Roses and Sauvignon Blancs we release this time of year. We sincerely hope that if your travel plans bring you to Napa, you'll come and visit us and see for yourself how special this time of year is.

We are also immensely proud of our founder, Yao Ming, who was recently named to head up the Chinese Basketball Association. He will be responsible for all aspects of professional and Olympic basketball in China, and we think they couldn't have chosen a better person for the job!

Cheers!

          ~Tom Hinde, President & Winemaker

To order the 2016 Napa Crest Rose, Click Here.

Time Posted: May 16, 2017 at 1:53 PM
John Taylor
 
May 3, 2017 | John Taylor

The Difference You Need To Know Between Tannin And Acid

Working in the tasting room at Yao Family Wines in St. Helena, perhaps the second most common question we receive from both beginners and experts alike is, “what's the difference between tannin and acid?” (the first most common is, “How tall is Yao Ming?”). This is a critical question, as the two can be quite easily confused. Let’s shed a little more light on the subject.

First, let’s take a closer look at tannin. Tannin is a naturally-occurring phenolic compound, found in the skins, seeds and stems of a grape. It can also be added to a wine through aging in an oak barrel. Phenols typically add a flavor of astringency and bitterness to a wine, which may sound awful, but that same quality is what gives a wine balance, structure and complexity, allowing it to age longer. Best of all, tannins provide the antioxidants in wine that have all the health benefits. Although these phenolic compounds are found in all wines in various amounts, we usually associate tannins with red wines, as the juice has extended contact with the phenol-rich skins, stems and seeds during fermentation.

Tannin is often confused with "dryness" because tannin imparts a dry feeling in your mouth. Dry, however, is a wine term used to denote the level of sweetness in the wine. Again, it's the astringency that creates the feeling of your cheeks being sucked in and themoisture evaporating from your mouth. This is one of the most primary characteristics of tannin.

Acid, on the other hand, is what gives wine it’s refreshing, flavorful sensation. Acidity is apparent in all fruit, be it grapes, lemons or tomatoes (yes, tomatoes are a fruit). Grapes start out as being entirely acidic, and as they develop the acid turns into sugar. Harvesting grapes at a key balance point between sugar and acid is critical, as is allowing the sugar to convert to alcohol in the fermentation process so the acid is lively and predominant. Too little acid and the wine can seem flabby and lifeless. Too much acid and the wine will be harsh and undrinkable. Acid is also determined by the climate in which the grapes were grown as well as the soil type and physiology of the grape itself. Higher acidity denotes a wine from a cooler region, such as Northern France. Lower acid wines come from countries with warmer weather, such as parts of Australia.

The primary types of acid that are key to winemaking are tartaric, malic and citric. Perhaps the most important element of acid management in winemaking is Malolactic Fermentation. Also called malo, this is a secondary fermentation that converts the tangy and harsh malic acids into creamier and softer lactic acids. When you think of the buttery characteristics of a Chardonnay, for example, this is because the wine has undergone malo to create a rounder mouth feel.

Tasting the Difference Between Tannin and Acid:

Tannins taste bitter on the front-inside of your mouth and along the side of your tongue; Acid tastes tart and zesty on the front of your tongue and along the sides.
Acid makes your mouth feel wet; Tannin makes your tongue feel dry.
With tannins, you feel a lingering bitter/dry feeling in your mouth after you swallow; With acid, your tongue feels gravelly against the roof of your mouth. Acid can also activate the saliva glands underneath your tongue.

Here's a fun way to explore the difference between tannin and acid. Get yourself two bottles of red wine. The first should be a big, bold Napa Cabernet, and the second should be an Italian red like a Valpolicella or Chianti (avoid hearty italians like Super Tuscans and Sangiovese). Taste them side-by-side, trying the Italian wine first. You'll notice with the Chianti a certain kind of effervescence in the wine. This is the lively acid inherent in Chiantis. The Napa Cab, on the other hand, will probably suck all the moisture from your mouth. This is the tannin in action. 

So what did you think, tasting those side-by-side? Leave us a comment below and let us know!

Time Posted: May 3, 2017 at 5:54 AM
Owen Bargreen
 
April 5, 2017 | Owen Bargreen

Getting Some Love From Wasington

Wasington State has become home to some of the finest wine country in the United States. Recently, it was revealed that "Cab is King" in Washington just as it is here in Napa: Cabernet is now the number one selling varietal in the state. 

So, we were thrilled recently when the noted Washington Wine Blog reviewd two of our Napa Valley Cabernets and added them to their noted, 90+ Point wines. Here's the review in its entirety:

                                                                     

Growing up I was a huge Seattle Supersonics fan I would go to nearly every home game during the glory years of Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton. The Houston Rockets, one of their main rivals, drafted a relatively untested center named Yao Ming in 2002 with the first pick in the NBA draft. Yao became an instant sensation and one of the best players in the league, until retiring after a series of injuries in 2011. That was the year that he launched Yao Family Wines.

Yao Family Wines sources from a host of great Napa Valley vineyards. The grapes are fermented and then aged up to 18 months in 100% French oak barrels. Only the best lots were used in the final blend. I was very impressed with their new release wines. Their flagship wine in particular, the 2014 Yao Family Wines Cabernet (WWB, 92) was dense and muscular, showing wonderful and generally intoxicating dark fruit flavors. This massive wine will cellar marvelously for 15 years or more. Here are the great new release wines by Yao Family Wines:

2014 Yao Family Wines Cabernet - The 2014 Yao Family Wines Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 3% Cab Franc and 2% Petite Verdot. It is a wonderful showing from this estate which brilliantly showcases this hot vintage. This excellent Cabernet wine opens with black olive aromas with creme de cassis, mocha, tar and hints of black plum. There are rich flavors of creme de cassis, anise, black cherry cough syrup, black raspberry and coffee grounds. This has a wonderful plush mouthfeel and shows gorgeous range of flavors and aromatics. Drink 2018-2030- 92

2014 Yao Family WInes 'Napa Crest' Red Wine - The 2014 Yao Family Wines 'Napa Crest' Red Wine, is a Cabernet dominant blend (63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 12% Petit Verdot) that shows beautifully without a decant. This wine begins with aromatics of red currant, red cherry, anise, dill and rose petals. There are flavors of anise, mocha, creme de cassis, black cherry and black raspberry. Drink 2017-2027- 90

Time Posted: Apr 5, 2017 at 6:29 AM
Tom Hinde
 
March 29, 2017 | Tom Hinde

What Does It Take To Create A Classic Napa Sauvignon Blanc?

Like many wineries around the Napa Valley, every spring, Yao Family Wines releases a Sauvignon Blanc. This year's release, the 2016 Napa Crest Sauvignon Blanc, has many of the distinct characteristics found in classic Napa SBs. It's crisp, with a vibrant acidity in the mid-pallet. There are aromas of melon and fig with ripe pear. Floral notes are haunting with citrus blossom and gardenias, wile the finish begs for another sip.

So how did we create this marvel of a wine? And why is Sauv Blanc such a popular varietal in Napa? It all starts in the vineyard. 

First, we must remember that Napa is somewhat modeled after the great vineyards of Bordeaux: The climate, the soil, the terroir is quite the same as its French counterpart. Sauvignon Blanc is one of the primary white varietals of the Bordeaux region, so it's only natural that we'd farm it here in the valley. 

Farming Sauvignon Blanc requires diligence. It is literally considered a "savage" vine, spreading vigorously during the growing season. Like other Bordeaux varietals, SB can have an abundance of pyrazines, the compound that creates the "bell pepper" smell. Since we strive for a layered fruit profile, we farm out pyrazine flavors by controlling the leafy quality of the vines. We grow our SB on a split canopy. This allows the vigor, shoots and leaves more room to spread in the trellis. Early in the season we begin shoot thinning, which allows the plant to form with room for grape development without cluster crowding and potential for late season disease pressure. Then, just before the final stages of ripening, we remove any clusters that are behind in development. Tis is known as "green-dropping," which ensures balanced crop ripeness.

Our vineyard is perfectly situated in the Oakville appellation, right on the Oakville Cross Road, in the heart of Napa Valley. We also grow a small amount of Semillon in St. Helena at the base of Spring Mountain. Semillon is also a white Bordeaux varietal, which blends elegantly with the Sauvignon Blanc. 

At harvest, the SB is delivered to the winery cold in the morning and is placed in the press for whole cluster pressing of the fresh juice. The smells are exotic. The Semillon is lightly crushed to press for a little skin contact. We settle the fresh juice in tank, then inoculate with natural yeast that will produce a long, cold fermentation for maximum freshness. The SB is 100% stainless steel tank fermented, while the Semillon is fermented in neutral puncheons (large French oak barrels). The new wines are not malolactic fermented, in order to preserve all of the natural acidity. The Semillon is stirred in barrel to add a nice, rich texture for mid-pallet lift and mouth feel.

The final blend for 2016 is 92% Sauvignon Blanc and 8% Semillon. 

Our 2016 Napa Crest Sauvignon Blanc will be available at our St. Helena tasting room and online beginning April 3rd. We hope you'll come by and enjoy a glass with us soon! 

Cheers!

Owen Bargreen
 
March 23, 2017 | Owen Bargreen

International Wine Report Reviews The 2014 Napa Crest Red Wine

The 2014 Yao Family Wines 'Napa Crest' Red Wine, is a Cabernet dominant blend composed of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 12% Petit Verdot that shows beautifully from the second it is open. This wine begins with aromatics of red currants and red cherries woven together with anise, dill and rose petals. There are flavors of anise, mocha and crème de cassis wrapped in ripe black cherries and black raspberry. While this is appealing now, it should continue to evolve into the next decade. (Best 2017-2028) - March, 2017 (OB)

Time Posted: Mar 23, 2017 at 8:17 AM
Owen Bargreen
 
March 15, 2017 | Owen Bargreen

International Wine Report Reviews the 2014 YAO MING Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from Yao Family Wines is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 3% Cab Franc and 2% Petite Verdot. It is an excellent showing from this estate, which brilliantly showcases the ripeness of the warm vintage. This instantly opens with aromas of crème de cassis, black plums, black olive, mocha and tar. This is full-bodied with a plush texture yeilding a wonderful range of flavors including crème de cassiss, anise, black cherry syrup, black raspberry and coffee grounds lingering on the finsh. While this is delicious now, it should continue to evolve over the course of the next decade. (Best 2017-2030) - March, 2017 (OB)

John Taylor
 
March 8, 2017 | John Taylor

Five Things You Need To Know For Rosé Season

With the first buds of spring fast approaching, Rose season is just around the corner. Rosé is typically the first release of the year for most winemakers, due to its relatively quick winemaking process. If you've explored the joys or Rosé, then you're as excited as we are for this time of year. But If you're new to the world of this delicious, complex and versatile wine, we'd like to offer you five things you should know to make your Rose adventure a great one.

1. Rosé Isn't A Cheap Wine - It's Just Inexpensive To Make. With the possible exception of a Chateau D'Esclans, you just don't see any $100 Rosé. In fact, you're hard pressed to find a Rosé over $40. So is it a cheap wine? Not at all. It's simply inexpensive to make. In essence, Rosé is a by-product of making other wines. Rosé is the run-off juice created through one of three processes used in making both red and white wines. In this respect, you get two wines to sell for the cost of one.

The maceration method is most commonly used for Rosé. Maceration is when the grapes are pressed and sit in their skins. This istypically done in red wine production, where maceration usually lasts throughout the fermentation. For Rosé, the juice is separated from the skins before it gets too dark. For lighter varieties, it can last a day or longer. For darker varietals, like Merlot, the process sometimes only lasts a few hours.

The Vin Gris method is when red grapes are used to make a nearly-white wine. Vin Gris utilizes extremely short maceration times. This style is popular for light red varietals like Pinot Noir, Gamay or Cinsault. 

The Saignée method is actually a by-product of red winemaking. During the fermentation of a red wine, about 10% of the juice is bled off. This process leaves a higher ratio of skin contact on the remaining juice, making the resulting red wine richer and bolder. The leftover bled wine or “Saignée” is then fermented into Rosé. Wines made from the Saignée method are typically much darker and more dry than Maceration Method wines.

2. Rosé Can Be Both Dry And Sweet. Repeat after me: "White Zinfandel is not Rosé." Rosé has received a bad rap from other pink, sweet wines. The more you taste, however, the more you'll realize that some Rosés can be as dry as their red and white wine counterparts. It all depends on when the fermentation process is completed or suspended. Rosés that are allowed to complete their fermentation use up all the sugar in the process and are therefore dry. Rosés that are stopped during the fermentation process before all the sugar is converted to alcohol can be less dry. We tend to like a little sweeter Rosé for sipping by the pool, and a little dryer for eating with a meal. 

 

3. Don't Know Which Wine To Pair With Your Meal? Get A Rosé. Rosé is the ultimate food wine, mostly because it is typically lower in alcohol and higher in acidity. In effect, Rosés have the flavor characteristics of both red and white wines. Rosés have both floral and herbacious notes, and often have both tropical fruit and dark fruit flavors as well. They're both subtle and complex, making them a perfect pairing for almost any dish. So get adventurous: Take that Summer Sipper off the porch and into the dinning room!

 

4. Rosé Can Be Made From Almost Any Grape. Nearly every wine grape you can imagine has been used to make Rosé. Some of the most popular varietals include Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre (The Holy Trinity of Rosé blends in France), Pinot Noir, Cinsault, Carignan and Sangiovese. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are especially popular in Napa Valley. So which to choose? A good rule of thumb is this: If you like the flavor profile of a certain varietal, seek that varietal out in your Rosé. In other words, if you like the way Cabernet tastes, drink a Rosé of Cabernet.

5. To Chill Or Not To Chill? If Rosé is kind of a red wine and kind of a white wine, then should it be served chilled or at room temperature? Generally, when you lower the temperature of a wine, it reduces the biting effect of the alcohol, making it "easier" to drink. This is why Rosé is such a sought-after spring & summer wine: A wine with a lower alcohol profile that's also chilled goes down fast, smooth and refreshing.

On the other hand, colder temperatures can mask the subtleties of flavor in a wine. You may be short-changing your experience if you drink a Rose of Cabernet, Merlot or even Pinot Noir at too cold a temperature. We recommend you drink your Rosé at around 60-65 degrees. 

Time Posted: Mar 8, 2017 at 10:14 AM
Tom Hinde
 
February 24, 2017 | Tom Hinde

The Mustard Flowers of Napa Valley

Springtime is coming! It’s late February in the vineyards. To the naked eye, it appears nothing at all is happening on the vines. None the less, it’s a very important and beautiful time of year in Napa Valley. This winter, we had an unprecedented amount of rain: One of the wettest winters on record. We dearly needed the rain because of the drought that California suffered these past few years. However, the rains have limited the amount of work we can do in the vineyard, so we have to catch up on our pruning. In the vineyards, it is pruning season.

Right now, the vines are dormant, so at this time of year we prune away the wood from the 2016 growing season and set the vine architecture for the 2017 spring bud break.  And in the vineyards, we have the annual sea of yellow: The mustard flowers of Napa Valley. At this time of year, there is a magnificent patchwork of brilliant yellow throughout the Valley. For first time visitors and locals alike, the fields of bright yellow are truly a sight to behold.

The arrival of the mustard flowers means that warm weather is coming. This will cause the first buds of Spring to peak out, creating one of the most beautiful times in the Valley. Of course, we are a little bit of concerned about getting all of our pruning completed, but we always enjoy the magnificent sea of yellow as this time of year. We harvest from seven different vineyards. We start our pruning with the driest of them, and work our way to the vineyards that are the now wettest. We will prune in Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and finish up in Yountville.

When we prune, we strive for roughly eight fruiting sites per side of the vine, so we end up with a total of sixteen, two-bud sites per vine, which will produced 32 shoots. If this sounds like science, it is, as we are looking to predict how much fruit can each vine can ripen. We aim for 18-20 clusters per vine. If we can get 32 good bud positions during pruning, we’ve achieved our goal..

When visitors come to Napa at this time of year, they can sometimes be a bit disappointed when they see dormant vines, which look a little like trees from a Tim Burton movie! But the fields are green and the mustard flowers are spectacular, so it is still a beautiful time of year to visit Napa. In some ways, it’s the best time of year to come to Napa. In the wineries, things are a bit slower so we have more time to spend with visitors who stop by. Restaurant reservations are easier to come by and hotel rates are less expensive than during harvest. Late winter is still a great time of year to visit Napa.

The mustard in Napa and in other wine growing regions was originally planted as a cover crop. Mustard is very rich in nitrogen, so it’s a natural fertilizer. Once the mustard grows and flowers, we till the plants into the soil to replace some of the nitrogen the vines used during the previous year’s growth cycle. The seeds are tilled right into the soil, so they are set to come back again the following year. We’ve planted so much that the flowers have really taken over the valley. But they’re beautiful, and provide sustainable and organic nourishment for the soil. It’s a tradition that’s been a part of wine culture for centuries. Like so many things in Napa Valley, the symbiotic relationship between mustard and grapevines has its origins in France. Dijon Mustard comes from the town of Dijon, in the Burgundy region, and these are the same mustard plants that line our vineyards.

At the winery, we are really excited to be bottling two wines: Our next vintage of Sauvignon Blanc (a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon) and our first ever Napa Valley Rose! Our premiere rose is a blend of Oakville Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is spectacular.  We’re only producing 180 cases, so it’s a small but exciting offering.

All of the 2016 wines have been put to barrel, and most have finished their malolactic fermentation. They will all be done with fermentation by March. Our 2016 white wines are finished, but we continue to monitor the amount of malic acid in our red wines, as the malic acid converts to finish the natural process. Once the malic acid is consumed, we know fermentation is done.

So although the vines look like they’re sleeping, there is still much happening in Napa Valley in February.  Please come by and visit us at our new St Helena tasting room sometime soon. We would love to enjoy the beautiful mustard flowers of Napa Valley with you.

Cheers!

Tom Hinde   

 

Time Posted: Feb 24, 2017 at 12:23 PM
John Taylor
 
February 9, 2017 | John Taylor

Wine Business Insiders Give Their Top Tips For An Enjoyable Tasting Experience

Traveling to Napa, or indeed any of the world’s great wine regions, can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There is truly nothing like a day tasting world-class Napa Valley Cabernet, taking in an evening with a culinary masterpiece, and a night in a vineyard under the stars. But for wine tasting newcomers, a trip to winery or tasting room can be a bit intimidating: So many varietals, vintages, glasses and tasting methods…it can be overwhelming to first time visitors.

For most people, a trip to wine country may indeed be a once-in a lifetime experience, so making the best of it is critical. So we spoke to some of our favorite, most knowledgeable wine-industry insiders to get their expert advice on how to make the most of your next wine tasting adventure!

AnnaBelle Walter, Wine Industry Marketing Executive: Do your research! I'd say poll the group and determine your main goal. Is it visiting a property steeped in history, or one with state-of-the-art technology? Want to enjoy sweeping views from a panoramic deck, or do you and your friends prefer to explore subterranean caves? Do your research (also on price point and wine style), and choose 2-3 wineries per day max that fit your parameters to get the most out of the experience.

Becky Tyner Sandoval, Small Lots Big Wines: Keep hydrated!

Regina FellBoisset Family Estates: Take your time. Don’t slug it down: Taste it and savor it. Swirl, sniff, sip and savor.Customers at Yao Family Wines Tasting Room

Anna Eagan, Tasting Room Associate: If your host has served you, entertained you, helped you in any way and provided you with a pleasant experience, it is appropriate and encouraged to tip them. They may even have some special tidbits of their own to share with you!

Terra Jane Albee, White Rock Vineyards: Don’t be intimidated. Ask questions, pay attention. Don’t take it too seriously. Enjoy!

Buddy Bowles, Bremer Family Estates: Your Host is there to provide a memorable experience; help by being courteous when he or she is explaining their wines. (You’re not at) a bar, but a wine tasting of some of the best wines you may ever taste. As Maya Angelou said, "I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Francesca Cunningham, Winery Social Media Expert: What’s that metal container on the bar? It’s a spittoon! It's ok to spit, especially if you are the driver. It will make your day longer and your morning less painful.

Sheila Thomas, Yao Family Wines Tasting Room Coordinator:  Call ahead, even if it's not a "By Appointment Only" Tasting Room. The gesture will be appreciated and will mean you get a host who's expecting you, and usually better service.

Most of all, just have fun! The benefit of wine tasting is that it allows you to discover your own personal palette. You’re there to try new things. Over time, you’ll become an expert too!

The staff at Yao Family Wines is happy to help you plan your next trip and give you recommendations on wineries, restaurants and experiences. Call us anytime at 707-968-5874.

Time Posted: Feb 9, 2017 at 2:43 PM
Stacy Briscoe
 
February 2, 2017 | Stacy Briscoe

2014 YAO MING Napa Valley Cabernet Review

It may seem trite to some big name bloggers to feature a “celebrity” winemaker. And, indeed, there are those celebrities with so much cash to spend that they’ll simply slap their name on a label of pretty much any product. So, it would stand to reason that a celebrity-named wine would taste as artificial as Hollywood looks. Well, Yao Ming isn’t from Hollywood and if you know anything about him, you know that he’s actually a gentle-spoken, if not shy, individual. The Yao Family Wines 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon speaks, not of Yao’s social status — but of a young wine-personality on the brink of great ideas.

About the Wine: If there’s one other thing I know about Yao Ming is that he fell in love with big bold Napa Cabs while he was eating big bold, Texas meals. So it’s no surprise that he would station his winery and tasting room in the heart of Napa Valley and source his grapes from the region best known for the rustic red wine.

No, Yao Ming is not the winemaker, Director of Winemaking, Tom Hinde, is responsible for blending the Bordeaux varietals used in the Yao Ming Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. And, no, Yao Ming is not a grape grower or vineyard owner, instead Yao Family Wines sources its fruit from various vineyards across the valley, including Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard (Vaca Mountains) Tourmaline Vineyard (Coombsville), Circle S Vineyard (Atlas Peak, Broken Rock Vineyard (Soda Canyon), Silverado Hill Vineyard (Yountville), and Wollack Vineyard (St. Helena). An eclectic mix of some of the most popular and the up-and-coming regions of Napa Valley.

The 2014 Yao Ming Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 3% Cab Franc and 2% Petite Verdot. Fruit is hand picked, hand sorted, and de-stemmed prior to cold soaking in stainless steel for 5 to 7 days. Skin contact is maintained anywhere between 19 and 34 days before gentle basket pressing and primary malolactic fermentation in barrels. The wine then aged 18 months in French oak (65% new).

14.6% ABV

Flavor Profile: Pop open the bottle and take a whiff — some call this scent skunk, to me it smells like opening a cardboard box. Either way, what you have here is a bit of reduction (your first clue to my conclusion of this wine), so you’ll want to keep that bottle open to air for at least 30 minutes and pour your glass at least 5 minutes before enjoying. (No real need to decant unless you’re super excited about drinking the whole lot.)

The wine is unfiltered and unfined, so don’t be surprised if it looks a little rusty and dusty in the glass. And even with the aforementioned “airing,” you’ll want to swirly-twirly that glass before sticking your nose it and definitely before taking that first sip. Once past these initial steps, I found the nose to be abundant with dried fruit — like a dried fruit salad. The second layer is that of dried herbs — akin to those you’d find in your pantry. The third layer (really get some air in here and stick your nose at the top of the glass with room between schnoz and wine) is almost a bit perfumey, but more like dried flowers — like the faintest whisper of potpourri.

The initial palate is simultaneously juicy, yet dry. It’s as if all those dried fruits sensed on the nose sat in a water bath for a couple of hours, plumping back up — yet, when you chew them, they are still what they are, dried fruit. The tannins are strong — this is a teeth-stainer for sure — and lend to an almost chalky-tacky mid to final palate. The aftertaste circles back to that dried fruit, this time it is distinctly raisin. If you play with your breath post-swallow (exhaling as you keep your mouth shut, sans-wine), you’ll get the most minute essence of chocolate.

My conclusion is this — almost all the components are there: The potential for strong fruit flavors — check; Herbaceous earthiness — check; Tannins — double check. The wine is fine as it is — I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it. But I would just love for those fruits to open up a bit more, meld with the secondary earth components, let those tannins mellow just a bit, and find a bit of acid. I think the wine, like Yao’s wine-producing career, is quite young and full of potential. I’m curious what his inaugural 2010 vintage tastes like because I think the wine only needs a few more years on it to really round out the palate.

Food Pairing: Like I said, I did enjoy my Yao Ming Cabernet. (Honestly, I mostly had fun sussing it out — the compilation of flavors and textures just tickled the wine-sleuth in me.) So, as customary I did my best to pair my wine with a meal and, knowing Yao’s passion for Texas grub, I paired my 2014 Yao Ming Cabernet Sauvignon with barbecue chicken (complete with BBQ sauce), grilled baked potato, and a blend of broccoli and sautéed onion topped with blue cheese on the side.

If you’re going to drink Yao Ming’s wine now, this is the way to do it. The blue cheese with it’s creamy texture and funky aromas calmed the tannins and opened up the berries — I could actually taste blueberry, blackberry, a bit of plum. The spices in the sauce brought forth a bit of needed heat on the palate, but it also got that buried acidity in the wine to come out and play as well. And because everything from the chicken to the potato was cooked on the grill over wood chips, I was able to even find some of that oak aging mentioned in the winemaking.

This is a food wine for sure.

More Info: I received the 2014 Yao Ming Cabernet Sauvignon as a sample for review. (Many thanks!) For more information about Yao Ming (as a wine producer) and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Yao Family Wines website.

You can follow Stacy Briscoe at www.briscoebites.com. Twitter: @SLBriscoe.

Time Posted: Feb 2, 2017 at 10:45 PM