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Yao Ming, From Playmaker to Winemaker

Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets
ChinaFotoPress | Getty Images
Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets

From the basketball court to the tasting room? That's the latest move from recently retired NBA star Yao Ming, who has started his own Napa Valley wine company: Yao Family Wines. This isn't the first venture into the business world for 31-year-old Ming, who also owns the pro basketball team Shanghai Sharks.

Under the brand name Yao Ming, Yao Family Wines has released its first wine — a 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon — which will be immediately available for distribution in China. Capitalizing on the regions' wine boom, Ming's label intends to cater to the top tier of the Chinese market. The first 5,000-case production is priced at 1,775 yuan (US $289) per bottle.

"I believe that wine can bring people together, and make our lives more enjoyable," Ming said in a statement. "Basketball gave me the opportunity to live in the United States and discover many wonderful things in America. Now I look forward to bringing great wines from California back to the Chinese people."

The wine, which is sourced from several Napa Valley vineyards, is created with attention to detail and old-world techniques. The label, designed by renowned label maker Chuck House, combines a scenic sketch of Napa Valley with the Chinese character for "Yao," fusing the two cultures.

The label will be exclusively imported by Pernod Ricard China. In a statement, managing director Con Constandis said, "Though we are a global company, we have strong local roots in China, which makes this strategic partnership with a man like Yao Ming as special as the quality wines themselves."

Yao Family Wines will be available in the U.S. in 2012.