From Napa To China (And Back): Yao Ming’s $625 Wine Hits The US

How Will Yao’s Cabernet Fare In The US?

Budding winemaker Yao Ming

Former NBA superstar and budding winemaker Yao Ming, whose eponymous Napa Valley wine label made its debut in China at the beginning of this year, is set to take on the US market. According to the drinks business, the basketballer’s Yao Family Wines plans to distribute a limited supply of its Yao Ming 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Yao Ming 2009 Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon to “select wine shops and restaurants across the US.”

Though Yao is better known in the US for rebounds rather than reds, don’t expect his wines to come cheap; his Napa Valley cab is expected to retail at US$170, while his Family Reserve comes with a hefty $625 price tag.

Sourced from six Napa Valley vineyards, Yao’s wines are aged in new French oak barrels, for two years in the case of his Family Reserve Cabernet. Labels feature an illustration of the Napa Valley, as well as a traditional red chop depiction of Yao’s surname. Yao’s foray into the US wine market will be handled by distributor Regal Wine Company and a handful of wholesalers outside of California.

Yao Ming's Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon will retail for $170

Over the past year, Yao’s high-priced wines have enjoyed a positive response in China and elsewhere. In this June’s issue of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, California wine critic gave Yao’s Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 95 points and rated the Family Reserve a 97. Wrote Heimoff, Yao’s Family Reserve “bursts with upfront, delicious blackberry, crème de cassis and dark chocolate flavors that are wildly sweet on the midpalate, but then finish thoroughly dry.” As Heimoff added, the 2009 Family Reserve “immediately establishes itself among the elite Cabernets of Napa Valley.”

In China, Yao Family Wines made their first appearance at a charity auction for the Special Olympics East Asia last November in Shanghai, with the inaugural bottle selling for 150,000 yuan (US$23,499).


Market Analysis, Retail