Chinese basketball star Yao Ming tells Wine Spectator that he’s entering the wine business with a high-end namesake label produced in Napa.


Focusing first on Yao’s native Chinese market, last month, Yao Family Wines released the 2009 Yao Ming Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in Beijing, Guangzhou and Yao’s hometown of Shanghai. At $289 a bottle, the new entry will compete in the “ultra prestige” segment of China’s wine market, where the status labels of Bordeaux and Champagne reside.


A second wine, Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, will debut next year. The winery will also begin sales in the U.S. market next year, Yao said.


Yao Family produced about 5,000 cases of the Napa Valley Cabernet and fewer than 500 cases of the Family Reserve for the 2009 vintage, according to winemaker Tom Hinde. Hinde was previously general manager of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates, as well as president of Sonoma’s Flowers Vineyard and Winery. Yao is the principal shareholder in Yao Family Wines, while Hinde and four other investors hold minority stakes.