By Benjamin Cost
We already knew Yao had a soft touch around the basket and middling math skills, but who knew he wanted to be a sommelier? The former 9-time NBA All-Star intends to sell his own wine in China, proving once again that he is the most interesting man in the world.
Yao is doing his part to grow China’s ever-expanding wine culture in the form of the Yao Family Wines vintage, a Cabernet Sauvignon crafted out of grapes from six different Napa Valley vineyards (arguably the world’s most famous stretch of wine-land), while the wine itself is processed at Yao’s company winery.
So why the switch from full court press to grape press? Yao clarifies:
“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 first 1.5 liter bottle of the 2009 “Yao Ming” wine will be auctioned off at a Shanghai benefit for the Special Olympics (for which Yao serves as a global ambassador) and the Shanghai Special Care Foundation (with Which Yao is closely affiliated), at an asking bid of 60,000 RMB (around USD 9,428).
A noble move, but also one that’s telling of Yao’s struggle to to find a meaningful project after retiring from his sporting career, a predicament almost all former professional athletes can identify with. Since leaving the game for good this past July, Yao has bounced around from his commitment to the Shanghai Sharks, charity work, and most recently, being a business student at Jiaotong University.
The first bottles of “Yao Ming” wine will be reportedly be available in China, and will go for the hefty sum of 3,800 yuan ($600) a bottle.
We do have to say that we think Yao could’ve used something besides his own name to stick on his wines. It would, however, be totally appropriate if “Yao Ming” was on the label of his own baijiu, since Yao’s name sounds like a homonym for “kill” or “be deadly” in Chinese (要命).
Hopefully, the 2009 vintage (which was ironically also the last year Yao was a force to be reckoned with on the court) will be less bittersweet than the way Yao’s injury-plagued career ended. ZING!