Chinese basketball star-turned-wine producer Yao Ming is using crowdfunding to try to raise US$3m to help build a visitor centre for his wines in California's Napa Valley.

Yao Ming, at 7ft 6ins (2.29m) the tallest player in the NBA until his retirement in 2010, also wants to build a tasting room in Shanghai, Mainland China, to showcase his wines, bottled under the Yao Family Wines banner.

Investors who pledge money to the Crowdfunder campaign can earn a number of perks, including access to the grand opening of the Yao Family Wines Napa Valley Tasting Room, or an invitation to the Shanghai opening of his new tasting room, including two business class air tickets and a luxury hotel suite.

According to Yao’s Crowdfunder page, which values Yao Family Wines at $15m, $1.76m of the $3m target has been raised in the first four days of the campaign, which began on Monday. Yao himself is named as the biggest investor to date.

The former Houston Rockets star – who was already 5ft 5ins (1.65m) tall at the age of 10 – launched Yao Family Wines in 2011, with a strong focus on the Chinese market.

Using grapes grown all along the Napa Valley, Yao Family Wines produces three ranges: Yao Ming Family Reserve, Yao Ming Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and Napa Crest.

Written by Richard Woodard