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George Zhang, the Dream Catcher and Creator of ShunYi Cellars

By Adelina, 12-28-2019
中文版

Young, ambitious, professional, and passionate, George Zhang, the creator, and owner of ShunYi Cellars, an Alternating Proprietorship winery, represents a new breed of wine entrepreneurs in the U.S. George does not own vineyards or winery facilities. Instead, he buys grapes from vineyard farmers and rents facilities to produce wines under his own labels. While working as a credit risk manager at a major commercial bank in Silicon Valley, George has cultivated a network of relationships in the wine industry, especially in the Napa and Sonoma area. In the Summer of 2019, George decided to launch ShunYi Cellars. The inaugural vintage (2019) will be bottled in the summer of 2020 and released to the market in early 2021 with two labels, 相思 ("xiangsi"), a Chardonnay, and 重逢 ("chongfeng"), a Pinot Noir.

Courtesy: George Zhang

According to George, Shun has a special meaning for him. Dating back to approximately 2200 B.C., the Chinese Emperor Shun was known for being wise and virtuous. Shun was appointed as emperor by Emperor Yao over his sons. The wise Emperor Shun showed not only his respect for nature but also reformed the bureaucratic systems in ancient China. The legendary good deeds of Emperor Shun have been passed on by the Chinese in their lore for thousands of years. Emperor Shun is believed to have grown up in George's hometown, Jinan, Shandong Province, China. To this date, the residents of Jinan, including George, are proud to be called "Yi" (裔) -- the descendants of the wise Emperor Shun.


George immigrated to the U.S. in 2000. While busy adjusting to the U.S. culture and attending schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, George never forgot the town where he grew up. He has many fond memories of his old friends and relatives in China. Therefore, his first wine label is called 相思, meaning "yearning for" or "missing someone." His second wine label is called 重逢, meaning "reunite." This label denotes the time when his father left home for a year as a visiting scholar to the U.S. back in the early 1990s and came back to China to reunite with him and his mother. He will never forget how happy he was when he met his father at the train station in Beijing after that one-year separation.


Everyone has his or her own appreciation when it comes to wine. Being a wine enthusiast, George likes wine for its variety and individuality. Wine is also a messenger of sorts -- opening the door to inspiration and connectivity. He wishes to turn his passion into a business not just for the monetary reward but more for how wine can transcend culture by bringing people together. For example, most Chinese prefer Baijiu (a strong, clear distilled liquid made from grains) over wine. One of his goals is to introduce excellent Californian wines to the Chinese people. His other dream is to bridge a connection between the East and the West through wines. Because he believes that many friendships start around the drinking of wine.

Courtesy: George Zhang

George feels fortunate to bring Byron Kosuge onboard as ShunYi Cellars' winemaker. According to George, Mr. Kosuge is not only knowledgeable (30 years of wine making experience) but also very humble and dedicated. With Mr. Kosuge's recommendation, they sourced fruits from Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) in Monterey County for ShunYi Cellars' inaugural vintage. SLH is a perfect region to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes because of its unique maritime climate of ample sunshine during the day and coastal fog in the evening. 

 

Currently, George is working on his marketing strategy to promote his upcoming two labels. From designing wine labels, applying for permits, to social media promotion, he puts a lot of thought into each step. During the process, he wants to incorporate Chinese cultural elements that carry many universal values shared by other cultures. George thinks that the U.S., especially Silicon Valley, provides a perfect environment for entrepreneurship. It is the cradle for brewing new ideas, making new products, and fulfilling dreams. He is glad to be in this place at this time.


Looking ahead, George wants to build a tasting room in the San Francisco Bay Area that will offer wine tastings paired with Chinese cuisine. He has also decided on the name of his third label, 攀登 ("pandeng"), which means "climbing." This label signifies the hard work involved in facing challenges followed by the enjoyment felt after accomplishing the achievement. Eventually, he hopes his wines will be distributed worldwide, especially in his hometown in China.

Courtesy: George Zhang

George follows in the footsteps of his ancestor Emperor Shun by diligently and wisely making his dream come true. We sincerely wish him great success and don't forget to look for the wines from ShunYi Cellars in the near future.

ShunYi Cellars' Instagram: @shunyicellars