Retired NBA star Yao Ming has raised his stature even more in Napa Valley with the opening of a tasting room for his luxury wine brands.
The hospitality center for Yao Family Wines’ Yao Ming and Napa Crest labels opened at 929 Main St. in St. Helena. It’s just south of the Gott’s Roadside landmark restaurant and within walking distance of St. Helena’s shops and restaurants.
“We look forward to welcoming fans of our wines, and introducing ourselves to new friends as well,” said Yao, 35. “Our hospitality center is warm and welcoming, and allows us to share our wines with visitors from all over the world.”
The venue has a marble-topped oval bar and lounges for groups and private guided tastings. Photographs and images from Ming’s basketball career and humanitarian efforts line the walls. The tasting center has a private club lounge and outdoor patios shaded by olive trees for Collectors Circle club members.
Born in Shanghai, Yao was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2002 and retired in 2011 after eight times as an NBA All-Star. Early last month, he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
There are three tasting menus. For $35, the Access Tasting includes two Napa Crest wines and the Yao Ming Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. The Reserve Tasting ($50) includes a Napa Crest red blend, Yao Ming cab, Yao Ming Family Reserve cab and a cheese plate. For $80, there’s the Library Tasting, which includes the 2010, 2011 and 2012 limited Yao Ming Family Reserve cabs and a cheese plate.
Yao Family Wines (yaofamilywines.com, 707-968-5874) launched in 2011 with a 2009 vintage. Yao on Feb. 19 hosted preview event for trade representatives and notables at the new tasting room and celebrated his first barrel lot at the Napa Valley Vintners’ Premiere Napa Valley barrel auction.