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.
UNCORK Great Wine News December issue!