Yao Family Wines is a Napa Valley producer founded in 2011 by Yao Ming, the Chinese-born, five-time NBA All Star. Now retired from the Houston Rockets, Yao Ming is the majority owner in Yao Family Wines, which has entered the wine market with a luxury Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Napa Valley vineyards. Yao has said in interviews that he developed a taste for Cabernet Sauvignon while in the NBA, and that his new Napa venture eventually will own its own vineyards. Tom Hinde, formerly general manager of Kendall-Jackson and president of Flowers Vineyard, is the winemaker at Yao Family Wines and is a minority shareholder. The winery’s debut release is the 2009 Yao Ming Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which is 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Five thousand cases were made. There will also be a reserve bottling, consisting of about 500 cases.
Rutherford AVA is just north of the Oakville AVA in the heart of Napa Valley, and it is equally distinguished. It is home to Beaulieu Vineyard and inglenook, arguably Napa Valley’s most historically influential wineries. Inglenook started making in wine in the late 19th century, and Beaulieu Vineyards was producing by the first years of the 20th century. BV founder Georges de Latour is particularly esteemed for having recruited Andre Tchelistcheff, a renowned research oenologist, to move from France to Napa Valley in 1938 and run BV’s winemaking. The legendary Tchelistcheff brought European winemaking techniques to Napa Valley and vastly improved wine quality. Other Rutherford winemakers followed his lead. Today there are 5,000 vineyard acres in Rutherford and many acclaimed producers. The famous Silverado Trail with its exclusive, limited production wineries, runs partly through Rutherford AVA. Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignons are characterized by supple tannins, richness, notes of cherry and plum, depth and the ability to age for several decades. Besides Cabernet Sauvignon the AVA also grows Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel. It received its AVA designation in 1994.
One of the most widely grown grape varieties, it can be found in nearly every wine growing region. A cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a hardy vine that produces a full-bodied wine with high tannins and great aging potential.