Surprise: The Wines of Basketball’s Yao Ming

Yao MingBasketball great Yao Ming having his second career in the wine business? It was news to us, and we admit, it’s a bit too easy to have fun with this new-to-us wine from Yao Family Vineyards. Words like towering, slam-dunk and a tall order come all to easily when it comes to a fine value Napa Red, on sale for under $40 by the case, having earned a 94 point rating.

How did Ming get into wine? It began with his introduction to Texas steakhouses by teammate Dikembe Mutombo and growing love of how smooth and rich Napa Cabernet enhanced those meals.

As he explains,

Yao-Ming21“A shared bottle of wine reminds me of Chinese meals at home, which are served on what Americans call a ‘Lazy Susan.’ The food is placed in the middle of the table and shared. In the US, each person chooses their own meal, so the wine is what brings people together. It is shared and brings a common element to the meal.”

“High Class Wines.”
Ming’s first effort in Napa – working with industry veteran Tom Hinde – were high-end Napa Cabs. When Robert Parker tasted these two 2010 efforts, he reported, “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.”

Yao Family Napa Crest - Proprietary RedA few years later, Ming and Hinde introduced the Napa Crest label to offer stylish wines at solid (for Napa) value price points. The wine we’re offering this week is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (65%), Merlot (25%) and Petit Verdot from Yao Ming’s Estate vineyards in Oakville and St. Helena plus select plots further north and in the cooler southern part of the Valley. Long skin contact (19-34 days) and warm fermentations extracted plenty of color, richness and heft. About 16 months in 50% new/50% used French oak adds polish and spice.

This wine offers fabulous depth and texture, the delicious richness, and the smoothly tannic finish, all delivered without any apparent excess of effort or flash. Which is a perfect match for both Yao Ming’s basketball playing style … and his ambition in forming Yao Ming Family Wines back in 2011.

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