Billionaire Opens Winery in Dramatic Fashion

Kieu Hoang christens Napa Valley winery with celebrity singers, fashion and cosmetics

by Paul Franson
A live video stream of the grand opening of Kieu Hoang Winery in the Napa Valley is broadcast to members of the wine club in Asia.
Napa, Calif.—Napa Valley has long enjoyed a reputation for low-key elegance, but some recent additions to the valley have introduced a more flamboyant style.

Jean-Charles Boisset transformed staid Raymond Vineyards into a must-see destination featuring a room where wines are served from Baccarat decanters under crystal chandeliers, a private room echoing a 19th-century bordello, amenities for visitors’ pets and the Biodynamic grapegrowing processes.

Now, Kieu Hoang has opened for business in the former Michael Mondavi family winery blending his KHKMY Fashion, KHKMY anti-aging cosmetics and RAAS Nutritional connections in a way the valley has never seen.

The grand opening Saturday featured celebrity singers and an actress called the “Angelina Jolie” of China, slinky blond models, over-the-top décor and food, and a most-unusual after-dinner presentation promoting Hoang’s cosmetics, fashions and nutritional products as much as his wine.

About the new winery owner
Hoang, who is worth almost $2 billion according to Forbes, was born in Vietnam, but spent his career here and is a U.S. citizen.

He is the CEO and owner of Rare Antibody Antigen Supply Inc. (RAAS), an Agoura Hills, Calif.-based blood plasma and derivatives business. RAAS owns 37% of Shanghai RAAS Blood Products, which is traded on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. Kieu Hoang is also a philanthropist, having pledged $1 million to the Fund-a-Need round at Auction Napa Valley in June.

The same month, he spent about $12 million to buy a winery and 20 acres (13 planted in vines) in Carneros from the Michael Mondavi Family as a home for his Kieu Hoang Winery, which had begun selling wine under the Kieu Hoang Winery brand in 2012. The inaugural vintage (2011) was produced mostly at The Ranch Winery, a custom-production facility in St. Helena.

Called Folio Winemaker’s Studio under Mondavi’s ownership, the Carneros winery had been a 100,000-case custom-crush winery that also made 15,000 cases of the Mondavi family’s wines: Isabel Mondavi, Emblem, Animo and ‘M’ by Michael Mondavi.

Kieu Hoang Winery also bought Guilliams Vineyards, a well-regarded family-operated property in the Spring Mountain District above St. Helena, Calif.

An exuberant affair
On Nov. 1, the winery held its grand opening—delayed from Sept. 2, just after the recent south Napa earthquake—with singers Leona Lewis and Isabelle Huang Ling as well as the well-known Chinese actress and winery spokesperson Li Bing Bing.

Hoang announced, “Now I have a new title: vintner!” and the moderator spoke in both Chinese and English; many of the attendees were Asian, some traveling all the way from China for the event.

The 300 guests watched the ribbon cutting while paparazzi and club members snapped photos of the celebrities and models.

After partaking in Hoang wines and appetizers in the remodeled tasting room, guests walked the purple carpet and enjoyed an elegant meal of lobster, crab and grass-fed beef prepared by Crustacean Restaurant Group of Beverly Hills served with Kieu Hoang Wines under purple-draped barrels in the winery’s chai.

It seemed that Chinese-speaking guests had red roses on their tables, English speakers white; white is considered unlucky in China.

Surrounded by models wearing clothes from his KHKMY fashion line, undoubtedly wearing cosmetics from his KHKMY anti-aging cosmetics, Hoang delighted in the spectacle, bringing on a doctor from his nutrition company to talk about the anti-aging and anti-cancer properties of his products and proclaiming that his wines inhibit the growth of cancer cells while the youthful 70-ish-year-old (he said that ages were reduced by parents during the Vietnam war to avoid military service) offered himself as a proof that his anti-aging products work.

During the process, he changed into a white suit before appearing with his wife and actress Li, while a giant image above him was streamed around the world to members of his wine club.

Kieu Hoang wines have been exported mainly to China and sold through affiliated pharmacies. More recently wines have sold on the Internet, primarily to members of its club, but Hoang intends to expand marketing (including domestically) as supply grows.

The wines have been made in a custom-crush facility until this year, and some of the wines now for sale are negociant wines, though that will naturally change over time. They include a number of Cabernets, a Chardonnay, Syrah and a red blend called People’s Wine intended for the Chinese market. Prices range up to $300 per bottle.

Not surprisingly, a lot of attention has gone into packaging, and some of the bottles have very unusual shapes including cones, pyramids and even a crooked bottle. They also have distinctive names such as Red, Green and Purple—though one is likely to change: Hidenkabudo 2012 Champagne California Appellation—if the Champagne Bureau hears of it!

Crossroads of business
So far about 10,000 cases of Kieu Hoang have been produced and sold in Asian markets, the winery says, for the equivalent of more than $50 per bottle before tax, tariffs and other charges.

Part of RAAS’ expansion into plant-based health products includes a cosmetics venture in Italy using grape byproducts. A fashion line also is in the works there. Another project in development involves the use of grape byproducts from wine production to manufacture health products.

Kieu Hoang Winery continues to produce wine for other clients. It was badly shaken during the Aug. 24 earthquake, with many barrels displaced, but has since recovered. 

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