Yao Ming launches winery

The former NBA All-Star hopes to make his pricey cabernet sauvignon a slam dunk with wealthy oenophiles in China.

By Kim Peterson Dec 2, 2011 1:42PM
Former Houston Rockets player Yao Ming is the latest celebrity to jump into wine, launching a Napa Valley winery focused on the Chinese market.

The retired basketball star has so far produced just one wine, a $289 bottle of cabernet sauvignon limited to 5,000 cases. A second wine, expected at only 500 cases later this year, will cost even more.

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The price says much about the growing interest in wine in China. The country's new wealthy class views fine wine as a status symbol, and some people even attend classes that teach them how to look sophisticated while drinking wine. The preferred label? Château Lafite Rothschild, according to one source.

Wealthy Chinese adore classic French wines from Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy, Wine Spectator reports, but have largely ignored California's Napa Valley. Ming wants to change that and is targeting his wine to "ultra prestige" drinkers.

"Our goal is to make world-class Napa Valley wines," he told Wine Spectator. Ming's winery doesn't own any vineyards yet and is buying the grapes from several in Napa Valley. Ming is the principal owner in the winery, The Wall Street Journal reports. He won't say how much he has put into the venture, but experts tell the Journal that it can take as much as $5 million to get a winery to full production.

Ming joins a long list of celebrities who own wineries and vineyards. In 2009, Sting began selling red wine made at his Tuscany estate, and now two of his wines -- Sister Moon and Casino delle Vie -- are available in the United States. Soccer star David Beckham reportedly shelled out seven figures for a California winery to give to his wife.

Actors Jason Priestley and Dan Aykroyd own wineries in Canada. Rapper Lil Jon started a wine label in 2008. Even former NFL coach Mike Ditka has his own label. Paul Newman's Newman's Own label has a cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot and pinot noir.

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4Comments
Dec 2, 2011 4:49PM
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Good luck with this business venture, Yao!Smile
Dec 2, 2011 4:31PM
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289.00 a bottle for Jock wine from Nappa??? Good luck with that one Yao...
Dec 2, 2011 5:12PM
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Good for you Yao... To bad so many haters out there, but it's the American dream to own your own business and to do well. Until now, that President Obama has declared war on the American Dream, and made anyone that has achieved it to be Bad People...  So Sad...
Dec 2, 2011 5:32PM
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People boggle my mind somtimes.  Look Yao owns a winery great he created jobs in America even better eventually more when he owns his own vineyard from Napa valley.  He wants to make a world class wine which means known all over the world which means sell it all over the world.  Pretty sure China will buy some.  Wow what a concept sell something to China.  As long as the jobs are in America I say Go for it Yao. Too many Haters.

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