California Wine Bars Open in Hong Kong
on 14/06/11 at 8:10 amIndustry
Susan Darwin, a former accountant to wine legend Robert Mondavi, pulled off an admirable feat during the recent economic slump. She sold 22 small California wineries on taking a financial stake in a venture she hopes will tempt Chinese wine palates.
Known as California Vintage, the California-themed wine bar opened for business earlier this year along Wyndham Street in central Hong Kong. If all goes well, California Vintage would like to franchise its way into mainland China, where Shanghai is the most alluring market.
Darwin and the folks behind California Vintage are no strangers to exporting American concepts to Asia. The CEO of California Vintage is Michael Sadak, who founded BrandAmerica, which sold Asia on made-in-America ideas such as Black Angus steak houses and 24-Hour Fitness.
The boutique wineries kicked in more than a half million dollars, plus their wines, to effectively own one-third of California Vintage. One of those people is Linda Neal, who used to manage Napa Valley vineyards before turning all her attention to her own 4.5-acre parcel in Oakville. Her debut 2003 Tierra Rojo Cabernet Sauvignon — never sold commercially in the U.S. — has been a top seller at the wine bar for $35 a glass, Darwin said.
Opening a string of wine bars that can tell the story of California wine is one way the U.S. wine industry is trying to make its way into mainland China, seen as a huge sales market because of its due to sheer population and wealth growth. And yes, they do like wine, especially reds.
Consultant Wine Intelligence puts consumption by mainland Chinese at around 75 million cases a year. It estimates there are 23 million Chinese adults who can plunk down the money to buy imported wine.