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
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)
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)
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).
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.
September 24, 2016
For some people in the wine biz, the pursuit of a perfect bottle is a lifelong work. When you’re an athlete, it’s more like a second career.
But you have to wonder—just because you can score a touchdown, stick a landing, ace your opponent, or hit a three pointer at the buzzer does not necessarily mean you can do much else. Here, Vivino looks at the top seven athlete-owned wineries to find out if their wine game is as good as their glory days.
Imagine being really tall, like, you know, 7 foot 6 inches. Then imagine being the only Chinese dude in the entire NBA. Fish out of water? No, because Ming not only excelled at hoops—like being an 8-time All Star, and 3-Time All-NBA Team player—but was also one of basketball’s best ambassadors.
Ming played for the Houston Rockets averaging 19 points per game, but decided to attempt a three pointer at the buzzer by starting a Napa winery. Are the wines are a slam-dunk?
Well, Yao’s wines are restrained and sensitive, like they have been crafted by a gentle giant with a good soul. “After several vintages I think people know we make very high quality wines and I am happy we have been accepted in both China and the U.S.,” Ming tells Vivino.
From Yao Ming to Sting, hundreds of celebrities have decamped to California and Europe to try their hands at winemaking. But just because a famous guy is willing to emboss his name on a bottle, it doesn’t mean the stuff inside is any good.
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.
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.”
We are pleased to report that Robert Parker reviewed Yao Family Wines for the first time in the October edition of The Wine Advocate. Here is his review of all of our 2010 vintage wines:
88 – Yao Family Wines 2010 Napa Crest Proprietary Red
90 – Yao Family Wines 2010 Yao Ming Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
95 – Yao Family Wines 2010 Yao Ming Family Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
The influx of well-known internationals to Napa Valley to produce wine is symbolic in Yao Ming’s efforts. The world-famous Chinese basketball player is making Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, and reading his back label message there is a humility and candor that I found refreshing for such a bigger than life personality. I tasted three Yao Family Wines cuvees.
The least expensive offering is the 2010 Napa Crest Proprietary Red. Made from three Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot), it is a tasty, medium-bodied, richly fruity effort with a healthy dark ruby color, good spice, lots of black currant and incense notes, an attractive roundness, and a sensual, seductive personality. Drink it over the next 5-6 years.
The opaque ruby/purple-colored 2010 Yao Ming Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits attractive aromas of blueberry and blackberry liqueur, licorice and graphite. Seamlessly put together with ripe tannin, nicely integrated wood, acidity and alcohol, a rich, medium to full-bodied mouthfeel, no hard edges and a long finish, this is an impressive wine that should drink well for 10-15+ years.
The 2010 Yao Ming Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon possesses an opaque blue/purple color 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.
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.
The Wine Advocate, Issue #209, October 31, 2013, Page 71.