Yao Ming Family Wines is no typical wine operation, and its offering are truly standout amongst the crowded Napa Valley wine market. Retired NBA star, Yao Ming, who played for the Houston Rockets for years founded the winery in California and introduced his first vintage in 2009. A small operation and one that is regarded for its delicate yet powerful Cabernet Sauvignon selections, Yao Ming Family Wines has made an impact domestically and internationally, and provides wine lovers with bottles that will keep you coming back again and again for more.
I recently was fortunate enough to try a selection of wines from Yao Ming Family Wines and I was not disappointed. In fact, I was absolutely taken with the complexity and flavor of each vintage – noticing subtle nuances that make them each different and unique. Grapes used in the various offerings from the winery are harvested from the most prestigious blocks of land throughout Napa, in various areas, to add to the special characteristics – a product of the varying elevations and climates. The grapes are hand-crushed and processed before being blended and stored in both stainless steel and French oak. When Yao Ming set out to enter the wine business, it was planned and not haphazard. He assembled the best team in the valley to help make a product that would get noticed.
Yao Ming’s wine is not his only passion. He dedicates much of his time and money to a foundation, The Yao Ming Foundation, which has assisted throughout different regions of China in the areas of education, natural disasters and more. But, wine is his passion and this is clear. For being such a young winery, the wines have won numerous awards and are often found in critic’s picks for the best in their category in major lists and publications.
Throughout my tasting I was able to experience the following: 2017 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 Family Reserve, 2017 Family Table, Yao Ming Port, Yao Ming Brut Sparkling and the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon. This was very exciting for me because I am a cab fanatic and someone who most often, if not always, chooses a cab over anything else. What I loved about each and every one of these Cabernet Sauvignons was that, although similar, the deepness, richness and notes varied on a fundamental levels making them all surprisingly different.
Throughout each cab, notes of vanilla, chocolate, dark fruit and smoke come though. The 2017 Family Reserve was my favorite for its heavy tannins and elegant yet weighty body. The sparkling brut is composed of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, blending beautifully for a buttery and crisp sparkling that is absolutely delicious served ice-cold in a flute.
The port, a rarity seen from this area, was exceptional – and traditional in taste, the perfect post-dinner treat. I view the offerings from Yao Ming Family Wines as more of a curated collection – one that speaks loudly to those who follow wine. Though known well by wine enthusiasts, the offerings are almost hidden gems to those who are fortunate enough to discover them.
What I also love about Yao Ming Family Wines is its Chinese influence. Yao Ming has been very strong in incorporating Chinese culture, beliefs and practices – many based on the Chinese calendar, to help guide the branding and messaging behind the wines. This is a very unique thing and something that adds to the story and lore behind the operation. For anyone seeking standout Cabernet Sauvignon, Yao Ming Family Wines does not fall short. Each wine rises to the occasion as soon as it hits your glass.