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Chinese basketball star Yao Ming scores in wine business

Reporter: Mark Niu 丨 CCTV.com

05-05-2016 11:38 BJT

China’s Yao Ming is literally the biggest sports star and celebrity in the country, and a surefire basketball Hall of Famer. But aside from shooting hoops, he also has a lot of other interests, including wine.

In the heart of Napa Valley, the Yao Family Wines Hospitality Center, built with two-million dollars in crowdfunding, is open for tasting.

A Yao-sized bottle and red decor-perhaps symbolic of good fortune and the colors he wore playing center for the Houston Rockets. Yao’s wines range in price from U.S.$22 up to U.S.$225 for the 2012 Yao Ming Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. That vintage received 96 out of a possible 100 points from famed wine critic Robert Parker.

“This 2012 reserve is incredible,” said Kevin Marfell, visitor.

Yao’s father, and later his Rocket teammates, helped develop his interest in wine, an interest that kept growing.

Yao Ming first visited Napa Valley as his basketball career was winding down. He fell in love with the peace and beauty here and realized this could be a post-NBA business opportunity.

Veteran winemaker Tom Hinde met with Yao eight years ago and was pleased to discover the sports celebrity wanted to do more than just slap his name on a wine label. He wanted to be there for the harvesting and blending sessions.

“You know I come up to his armpit. I’m six foot tall, but he's 7'6, and so once we can align and talk he’s a genuine person and his project intention was genuine. So it was his seriousness and his passion that lent my interest to working with him. We work to make all components in harmony. We want something that reflects the purity of central Napa and the balance that Yao Ming provides in our crafting the wines together,” said Thomas Hinde, president Yao Family Wines.
A balanced taste, reflecting a man of many interests: a world class athlete, a winemaker and a conservationist dedicated to saving elephants and sharks.

“Actually his efforts have cut shark fin soup consumption by 70 percent. Oh wow,” said Natsot Full host.

“Well, we learned a little bit about his humanitarian efforts in conserving wildlife in Africa and that’s really cool,” said Katherine Hupfer, visitor.

“Yao Ming is devoted most of his life to basketball. So we will attract basketball fans, but when you come in, it's not a shrine to basketball. It’s again, a complete balance of Yao's life,” said Thomas Hinde, president Yao Family Wines.

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