He’s the world’s biggest star from the the most populous country. And he’s been fighting to end the illegal wildlife trade for more than 12 years. NBA all-star and Olympian Yao Ming is not just a WildAid ambassador, he’s an integral part of WildAid’s family and the conservation community.
Hear him speak, and you immediately begin to understand why Yao has been able to help convince a country of 1.4 billion people to stop buying ivory and galvanize support for China’s domestic ban.
“We don’t need items to prove who we are; we should be more confident than that,” Yao told Culture Express in 2018. “When we reach into our pockets, there is a cost somewhere else.”
It’s been one year since the ban went into effect and ivory prices in China are at their lowest -- $734.5 per kilogram. That’s a drastic decline from $2,100 per kilogram in 2014. This downturn indicates less profit for traders and poachers, and fewer consumer purchases.
Elephants aren’t the only animal to benefit from Yao’s star power. Inspired by Jackie Chan’s public awareness campaign for tigers, Yao wanted to curb consumption for shark fin soup. So he joined WildAid in 2006 and showed consumers how shark fin soup is made.
A whopping 82 percent of respondents to a WildAid survey said they stopped consuming shark fin soup as a direct result of Yao’s awareness campaign and prices and sales of shark fins in China declined by 50 to 70 percent.
“Now it’s something almost shameful for young middle-class people to eat,” Yao told The Christian Science Monitor.
Over the years, WildAid’s relationship with Yao has taken some unexpected but welcome turns. In 2017, he combined his passion for conservation with his other passion - wine - and launched a special release of Yao Family Wines’ Napa Crest Red Wine.
Now Yao has released three wines with a commemorative WildAid label that might look familiar.
The photograph of Yao walking with a baby elephant was taken by Kristian Schmidt in 2012 at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi. The elephant, named Kinango, was orphaned after his mother was butchered for her ivory tusks.
“We all share this planet with each other and with these majestic animals,” Yao said. “We all have a responsibility to do something to save Africa’s elephants. We all have to do our part.”
Thank you for doing your part, Yao. Let’s cheers to another 12 years of working together to protect some of the world’s most magnificent creatures.
Want to do your part while enjoying a sumptuous glass of wine? Click here to purchase te WildAid Commemorative Wines. Proceeds will benefit threatened species like elephants, sharks, rhinos, and pangolins.
Winter 2019 Newsletter
Winters are sublime in Napa Valley - a time for rest and reflection. The vines have gone dormant for their long winter nap, and we look to the skies to see how much rain we'll get at this critical time. With the holidays behind us and the 2018 harvest working its magic in tank and barrel, we have time to think about the year to come.
We're excited about everything we have in store for you for 2019! We're kicking off Chinese New Year with a unique and delicious Wine & Dim Sum Tasting (which is already sold out!), and commemorating The Year of The Pig with a limited edition Napa Crest Red Wine. We're also proud of Yao's continuing work with WildAid, and we'll be launching our 2nd campaign to raise funds to help their fight to end the illegal wildlife trade.
Winter is a great time to come to Napa for a visit. Airfares and hotel rates are historically low, and the crowds are small. We're here to help you plan your winery adventure, so if you're looking for recommendations, call us at 707-968-5874.
All the best!
~Tom Hinde, President & Winemaker
Our Saint Helena tasting room returns to its winter hours through April 2019:
Monday: 10:00am - 5:00pm
Tuesday: 10:00am - 5:00pm
Wednesday: 10:00am - 5:00pm
Thursday: 10:00am - 5:00pm
Friday, Saturday and Sunday: 10:00am - 5:00pm
For more information or to book a reservation, Click Here.
Yao Family Wines celebrates The Year Of The Pig with our annual Chinese New Year Commemorative Wine Bottle. Custom designed exclusively for Yao Family Wines, this limited edition bottling of our 92-Point 2016 Napa Crest Red Wine makes the perfect new year's gift for friends and family. Only 200 bottles available. Click Here to order.
Attention runners everywhere! Yao Family Wines is hosting its 3rd Annual Napa Valley Marathon "Rest & Recover" Party on Sunday, March 3rd, directly following the end of the marathon at 10am. Join us for complementary high-protein bites, hydrating drinks, and for those looking to celebrate, wine specials all day! We'll also be providing complementary 15-minute recovery massages from a Certified Masage Therapist. As always, Marathon staffers and volunteers are welcome all day for complementary wine tastings. And yes, our winemaker, Tom Hinde, will be running the marathon again - come by and compare times!
For the second year, Yao Family Wines is honored to produce in conjunction with WildAid this limited edition bottling of our 2017 Napa Crest Sauvignon Blanc and 2015 Napa Crest Red Wine. These delicious wines will not only grace your table or cellar, but will help with WildAid's mission, as a portion of the sale proceeds go to help end the illegal wildlife trade. For over a decade, Yao Ming has worked diligently with WildAid to end the killing of sharks, elephants, rhinos and tigers. Now, you can help, too! Click Here to learn more.
Spring has come to Napa Valley. Though 2018 has seen its fair share of "April Showers," the vines are showing beautiful bud break, and the mustard flowers between the rows are in full bloom. It's a time when the valley wakes up from its long winter's nap and comes alive with wildflowers and rolling, green grass. Truly, Napa is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Spring is a time for Napa's crisp, floral, white wines. We are proud to be releasing our 2017 Napa Crest Sauvignon Blanc this month, just in time for warm Spring days and lingering sunsets. We hope you'll come and visit us here in St. Helena, and enjoy one of the many special events we have planned for you!
~Tom Hinde, President & Winemaker
Yao Family Wines is proud to partner with acclaimed San Francisco restaurant Koi Palace to create our Fresh Tastes of Spring Wine & Dim Sum Tasting Event. Koi Palace has created four, custom pieces of dim sum using fresh, seasonal ingredients, specifically to pair with four of our wines. Join us Saturday, April 28th at our St. Helena tasting room and experience how the subtlety of these exotic flavors are complimented by our hand-crafted Napa wines. Only sixty pairings available. Click Here to learn more and reserve your seating!
From our Oakville bench property in the south of Napa comes the third bottling of our acclaimed Napa Crest Sauvignon Blanc. Created in the Bordeaux style with 92% Sauvignon Blanc and 8% Semillon, the 2017 vintage shows classic Napa Valley providence with aromas of melon, fig and fresh pear. Let the Spring begin! Click Here to get yours.
Friday nights this spring mean wine and song at the Yao Family Wines tasting room! Join us for our evening concert series, featuring a variety of talented jazz performers from around the Bay Area. Relax with a glass of wine before dinner, or swing by afterwards for a drink with friends - we'll be open until 9pm. Our concert series stars Friday, May 11th, and continues May 24th, June 8t and June 22nd. Check the Events page on our website for updates.
Just in time for Fathers Day, we'll be releasing the 2015 vintage of the YAO MING Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Rated 94 Points by Robert Parker, our flagship Cabernet reflects all the pedigree of its Rutherford origin, and is sure to be a classic on your table and in your cellar. Founders Club Members will receive their allocation first on June 4th, followed by the general release two weeks later...you can also get your first taste of the remarkable 2015 vintage at our Second Annual Summer Barbecue, June 2nd at the tasting room...Mothers Day is May 13th, so we're inviting all moms to come by the tasting room and enjoy a well-deserved, complimentary glass of our 2016 YAO MING Napa Valley Brut Sparkling Wine. See you there!
Winter has come to Napa Valley. The days are shorter - and colder - and some welcome rain has finally arrived this month. The season has its own kind of beauty: thick, brown vines that have lost their leaves dominate the landscape, and a carpet of vivid, green grass lays atop the vineyards. Clouds hug the hillsides, and fog rolls across the valley floor. Napa is truly a unique place to visit any time of the year...and you can't beat the hotel prices in February!
The cold weather is a time for hearty reds. We invite you to go online and stock up on Cabernet and Red Blends for your winter nights, or better still, come visit us at our St. Helena tasting room - have a seat by the fire, enjoy a glass of Cabernet, and see all the beauty that winter in Napa as to offer.
~Tom Hinde, President & Winemaker
Yao Family Wines is proud to partner with acclaimed San Francisco restaurant Koi Palace to celebrate the Year of The Dog with a day of dim sum and wine pairings. Koi Palace has created four, custom pieces of dim sum specifically to pair with four of our wines. On February 10th from 10am to 5pm, Come to our St. Helena tasting room and experience how the subtlety of these exotic flavors are complimented by our hand-crafted Napa wines. Only fifty pairings available. Click Here to purchase your tickets.
Celebrate The Year of The Dog with this limited edition, commemorative bottling of our 2014 Napa Crest Red Wine (rated 92 Points, Wine Enthusiast). Featuring a label custom designed for Yao Family Wines, this bottle makes a thoughtful gift or a delicious addition to your Chinese New Year celebration. Only 100 bottles created. Not available in stores. Click Here to get yours.
Yao Family Wines is proud to announce that the first wine in our new Appellation Series, the 2015 YAO MING Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, has been awarded 94 Points by Robert Parker. Your chance to add this extraordinary wine to your cellar is running out, as we have only 12 cases remaining before it goes permanently into our Library (accessible only to Founders Club members). Click here to order - less than ten cases remaining!
Yao Family Wines is once again teaming up with WildAid to spread the love for Valentines Day. All through February, purchase a bottle of our Napa Crest Rose and we'll donate $5 to help WildAid save endangered wildlife. Post a picture of your bottle on any of your social channels and we'll donate $5 more...we'll be having a Post-Run Party for The Napa Valley Marathonon March 4th, as winemaker Tom Hinde himself will be running the race...We've created another one-of-a-kind wine for the upcoming Premiere Napa Valley auction on February 24th. If you're a member of the trade looking for something really special, check out the Napa Valley Vintner's site for more details. We'll be holding a special reception for members of the trade February 23rd at our Tasting Room.
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!
~Tom Hinde, President & Winemaker
To order the 2016 Napa Crest Rose, Click Here.
The year 2016 has been a gratifying one for retired basketball legend Yao Ming. Despite a career cut short by injuries, the 36-year-old former Houston Rockets center—and eight-time All-Star—was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in September. It is also the year the Shanghai native’s California winery, Yao Family Wines, put itself squarely on the map of Napa Valley by opening a chic visitor’s center in the wine-tourist mecca of St. Helena.
Bankrolled in part by $2 million raised on CrowdFunder, Yao’s tasting room provides new public visibility for his small-production, luxury-priced Cabernet Sauvignon blends, which are already a hit with the wine press. International market-maker Robert Parker, of The Wine Advocate, wrote, “I am aware of all the arguments that major celebrities lending their names to wines is generally a formula for mediocrity, but… the two Cabernets are actually brilliant, and the Reserve bottling ranks alongside just about anything made in Napa.” Parker gave the 2012 Reserve an all-star ranking of 96 points.
Yao himself, reached on a fall afternoon in the midst of harvest, keeps it in perspective: “We are still very young, and we have so much still to learn,” he said of his operation, which produced its first wine from the 2009 vintage.
But Yao and his team are humble only to an extent: The current 2012 Yao Ming Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $225 a bottle from the winery (Sherry-Lehmann in New York City offers the 2010 Reserve at $645). The nonreserve 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $100. The prices of these flagship wines–there is also a less expensive Napa Crest line–pits them against a world-class competitive set. (In the U.S., for example, $225 would be more than enough to buy a bottle of 2012 Sassicaia from Tuscany, and with a little shopping two bottles of 2012 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou from Bordeaux.)
Given his ambitions, Yao was fortunate in hiring California veteran Tom Hinde as president and winemaker. Hinde had previously made wine at the top-notch Flowers, in Sonoma County, and for various high-end Jackson Family Wines projects. Yao knew exactly what kind of wine he wanted to make–the kind of rich-but-balanced luxury reds he’d come to enjoy in Houston steakhouses. “That’s how my drinking history started,” he explains. “Wait,” he adds, laughing, “does that sound bad? My ‘drinking history’ ” And Hinde had the on-the-ground knowledge to source the grapes for just such a wine: a little from here, a little from there.
Buying grapes from six vineyards with differing characteristics, from the San Francisco Bay-cooled south to volcanic hillsides to the warm northern part of the valley, Hinde takes a “ spice box” approach to constructing the flagship wines. In the end they are, he says, classic Napa Valley Cabernets. But Yao, who flies in from Shanghai for all the key decision making, very much directs the nuances of the style. While basketball fans may remember the 7’6″ center crashing the boards, away from the court he is apparently a man who appreciates delicacy.
“These wines are very much driven by what he values,” Hinde says. “They are all about harmony. You won’t find overuse of oak or purposely high alcohol or overextracted fruit. There is an elegance you might not find in other wines.”
It is a style the Yao family team hopes will continue to find favor in China and in Asia generally, where the company sells about 30% of its production. This is no small feat given that the premium wine market in China has slackened along with the economy. Tariffs, VAT and generally higher markups at wholesale and retail essentially double U.S. retail prices for wine inside China, meaning that Yao Family’s entry-level Napa Crest Red, $48 at the St. Helena tasting room, climbs to about $80 in China. The Yao Ming Napa Cabernet, at $250, and the Reserve, at $450, are very much high-end luxury products.
Still, Hinde believes that Yao Family is selling more fine wine in China than any other Napa producer, though like all American wineries it faces a market long dominated by French labels. “Obviously,” says Yao Ming, “Bordeaux is more famous than Napa Valley in China. But we are catching up.”
If so, Yao himself may be a big factor. A major celebrity in China–it was Yao, after all, who carried the 2008 Olympic torch into Tiananmen Square–he is, as Hinde puts it, “a huge door-opener. He gives us the ability to start those conversations and get people to taste the wines.”
So, of course, does the new Napa Valley tasting room, where about a third of the visitors so far have come from the burgeoning numbers of Chinese tourists. “We run into my countrymen a lot in our tasting room,” Yao says proudly. And more, many more, are likely to come. For Yao Ming the good news in 2016 was just a beginning.
Wine for wildlife:
NBA Hall of Famer Yao Ming, who has been making wine under the Yao Family Wines label for several years now, opened a St. Helena tasting room last spring. Now he’s using that wine for wildlife conservation efforts.
September 12, 2016
SPECIAL YAO MING WINE - Last week, legendary basketball player Yao Ming was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, where The Republican newspaper and Masslive.com are based, for those of you from out of state reading this column.
To commemorate the event, Yao Family Wines in California created a limited edition "Hall of Fame Bottling" of its 2014 Napa Crest Red Wine. Only 1,000 bottles were created, according to the winery.
The first bottle (number 1 or 1,000) was recently auctioned online. All the proceeds from the auction benefited the Basketball Hall of Fame.
So how much did Bottle Number 1 sell for? When the bidding was finally closed earlier this month, the winner paid $1,100.
Pretty impressive, just like Yao's career.
NBA Hall of Famer Yao Ming has a winery that’s better than you think, and a new tasting room where you can judge for yourself
Yes, as in Yao Ming, former Houston Rockets NBA star turned winery owner. Yao recently debuted a hospitality center in the former Bello Winery space, spanning three private tasting rooms for sit-down adventures, an outdoor patio area, and general tasting space at a big oval quartz bar glowing with LED underlighting.
NBA to Napa:
Professional sport celebrities, from Joe Montana to Mario Andretti, can’t seem to resist the allure of the wine business. And that includes former NBA sensation Yao Ming, who launched Yao Family Wines when he retired from the Houston Rockets in 2011. Last month, he opened the doors to his new St. Helena wine tasting room, where visitors can sip the Yao Ming and Napa Crest cabernet sauvignons and red blends at a marble-topped bar, in the cozy lounge or on the patio. Psst: The tasting room is next to Gott’s Roadside burger stand. Details: Open daily, tastings $35 and up. 929 Main Street, St. Helena; www.yaofamilywines.com