It’s hard enough to conquer one profession and become a superstar. But Chinese former-NBA all star Yao Ming, who stands at 7 feet, 6 inches, seems to be on course for rising to the top of a second world: wine. Yao launched Yao Family Wines in December 2011 and is now producing three wines, all made in Napa, California.
Napa Crest ($48), a blend of cabernet, merlot and petite verdot, is available to buy online and in stores. The Yao Ming Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($109) is available in select stores and to the mailing list. The limited-production Yao Ming Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($289) is highly allocated to mailing list members only.
Even Robert Parker has given his blessing to Yao’s wine: "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 Wines has also dedicated a portion of their profits to charity, raising over $400,000 for organizations including Special Olympics, Asia Society, Wine to Water, and Auction Napa Valley.
Yao Ming is not the first professional athlete to put his or her name on a wine label. The Great One, Wayne Gretzky produces wine from the Niagara Region in Canada. The list goes on – quarterbacks like Drew Bledsoe and Joe Montana, golf legend Greg Norman, and figure skater Peggy Fleming -- all produce or own wineries under their names.