If the Chinese characters on your bottle of very fine wine recall bygone basketball games, here’s to Yao Ming. Luxury wine brand Yao Family Wines, founded by Yao Ming, retired basketball star with the Houston Rockets and a global humanitarian, is now crowdfunding on Crowdfunder, with a $3 million goal. Yao Family Wines develops, produces, markets and sells Napa Valley wine brands in China and the United States, the two largest growing markets for wine.
Every empty bottle is a permanent memory – a night to remember with family and Friends. We are all eating different meals but sharing from the same bottle. That’s why I fell in love with wine. It reminded me of the family-style meals in China.
Funds raised will go toward a tasting room in Napa, a tasting salon in Shanghai, a direct to consumer platform in China and marketing initiatives to increase awareness and demand in China and in the United States, according to Yao Family Wines’ profile on Crowdfunder. The company has already sold 10,169 cases of wine.
As of this writing, Yao Family Wines’ campaign has raised $1,545,000 of its $3 million goal–a figure that Jay Behmke, a managing director at Yao Family Wines, says that he is willing to up to $5 million should there be strong demand, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. Investor rewards include exclusive events, private dinners and wine tastings. The minimum reservation is $5,000, and the pre-money evaluation is $15,000,000. (Note that these cited numbers include non-binding reservations before investors are verified, signed, or closed, according to the Crowdfunder campaign.) The campaign closes on March 31, after opening on March 2 of this year.
Since Yao Family Wines was founded in November 2011, company highlights include signing an exclusive distribution agreement with Pernod Ricard China, the largest global drinks company in China, and receiving high marks from the likes of Robert Parker, a leading U.S. wine critic, and Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Upon Parker’s first review of Yao Family Wines in October 2013, he awarded Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon a score of 95. Wine Enthusiast Magazine honored all three Yao Family Wines with scores of more than 90.
In addition to Yao Ming, the company’s founder and proprietor, the Yao Family Wines team includes Tom Hinde, President and Director of Winemaking; Jay Behmke, Managing Director; David Sayre, Chief Operating Officer; Bill Sanders, Chief Marketing Officer; and Billy Kuenzinger and Bill Duffy as members of the Board of Directors.
Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal notes that,
Yao Family Wines, the biggest seller of high-end Californian wine in China by value, is shifting its focus from Chinese banquet tables to U.S. steak houses. Now 15% of the winery’s revenues come from the U.S., compared to almost zero at the beginning in late 2011.
In January of this year, Yao Family Wines passed the $8 million mark in its wine sales.
Yao may not have grown up in the Napa Valley where Yao Family Wines sources the grapes for its Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. But it’s worth noting his career with the Houston Rockets to gauge his success and agility in new territory. Ming was the first international player to be selected as first overall draft pick without having previously played U.S. college basketball. As Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate noted in 2013,
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.
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