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Yao Ming crowdfunds new tasting rooms

Former NBA star turned Napa winery owner, Yao Ming, has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise US$3 million to expand his US and Chinese operations.

The money will be used to build a visitor centre in Napa Valley and a branded tasting room in the former Houston Rockets player’s hometown of Shanghai.

The move comes as the US market is becoming more important to Yao Ming Family Wines, with 15% of the winery’s revenues now coming from America, a share which has risen from zero since the launch of Ming’s wines in 2011 following his retirement from professional basketball.

Having always focused on China where the wine sells for $85 a bottle – the winery claims it has sold the most premium Napa Valley wine in China than “any other” Californian estate – there is now a focus on US steak houses as well.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The company said it has managed to grow its sales in a tough environment, without giving more details.”

The wine has been available in the US since late 2012 and quickly garnered high praise from Robert Parker who gave the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon 95-points and declared the wines “brilliant”.

The CrowdFunder campaign requires a minimum $5,000 investment and is only open to US citizens and permanent residents due to US investment security laws.

Nonetheless, it has been reported that US$1.5m has already been raised with two investors putting in $250,000 each. WSJ also reported that, depending on the size of the investment, funders will be able to enjoy a number of “perks” such as exclusive events and private dinners at the winery.

The estate is said to be in good financial shape and managing director, Jay Behmke, told WSJ that the winery has been “cash flow positive” since its launch. Currently valued at $15m, after this campaign the winery will not be looking for further funds for at least another decade according to Behmke.

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