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The Shanghai authorities who encouraged the match had gone back several generations to ensure that size was embedded in the bloodline.
The result was Yao, a baby behemoth who just kept getting bigger. Let’s start with his mother being 6’3, his father being 6’7.
This week, the winery will release the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon in Beijing, Guangzhou and Yao's hometown of Shanghai. "China is the priority market" for the wine, according to Con Constandis, president and managing director for Pernod Ricard China, which is importing the wines into the People's Republic.
A Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon will debut next year. "California as a wine region enjoys quite high awareness among the Chinese consumers, and, in particular, premium Napa Valley wines have a pretty good image and are gradually becoming well-accepted by sophisticated wine lovers in China." According to company officials, the Yao Ming Napa Valley Cabernet will be sold at 9 a bottle, in the "ultra prestige" segment of the market, where the status labels of Bordeaux and Champagne reside.
According to data from China customs, France owned 47 percent of the market for imported bottled wine in 2010. "California has a good reputation in China for its lifestyle, as a great place to vacation and for fun.
I not only want to share [the wines] with Chinese people, but also share the culture and beauty of Napa Valley." To that end, Yao hired winemaker Tom Hinde to oversee production.
I guess only the Chinese officials who did the genealogical inquiries will know….
Hinde previously worked as general manager of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates, as well as president of Sonoma’s Flowers Vineyard and Winery.
(Yao is the principal shareholder in the project, while Hinde and four other investors have minority stakes.) The winery currently sources grapes from several Napa Valley vineyards, including Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, Tourmaline Vineyard and Broken Rock Vineyard.
When China's new wealthy class began to drink imported wines, classic French regions like Bordeaux, Champagne and, more recently, Burgundy, were their early acquisitions. Yao has observed the vigorous growth of Chinese wine culture in recent years and sees potential for a greater awareness of California among drinkers.
Napa producers have worked to gain a foothold in China in recent years, but it can be a daunting market to enter. "While French wines have made quite an impression already, people are starting to discover California wines," he said.
"We have farming input with these ranches, so we’re not simply buying these grapes," said Hinde.