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Wine That Connects People and Cultures

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George Zhang checks the progress in his Pinot Noir vineyard George Zhang checks the progress in his Pinot Noir vineyard

by Fiona Fang

A memorable wine is an orchestration of art and science, passion and hard work.

Shun Yi Cellars caught my attention recently, which started with the Founder's personal story of wine discovery that inspired his mission to craft quality wines showcasing premium Californian terroir to bridge cultures and share values.

Byron Kosuge Portrait PicmonkeyByron Kosuge

What does Shun Yi mean? Emperor "Shun", regarded for his wisdom and integrity, is said to have come from the city of Jinan, where founder George Zhang was born. Residents of Jinan are known as "Shun Yi" – descendants of Shun.

George developed a passion for wine while managing Credit Risk for a major bank in Napa, where he gained a solid understanding of operating wine businesses. He partnered with esteemed winemaker Byron Kosuge, a Davis native and enology graduate with 30 years of winemaking experience and known for his premium Pinot Noir finesse, to start Shun Yi in summer 2019. Shun Yi is already working on their second St Helena harvest, while preparing to launch their inaugural 2019 vintage in early 2021, a very small production of Santa Lucia Mountains Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Each bottle tells a personal story which may resonate with many. The wines are named, the Pinot Noir, "Chong Feng" 重逢 , to reunite, and the Chardonnay, "Xiang Si" 相思, a deep sentiment of thinking about loved ones. George's father was a scholar in California while George was still living in China, before his family emigrated. George still remembers the reunion with his father at the station, returning from his studies. Having lived in California for over half his life now, he still feels deep sentiment for loved ones in different corners of the world. The beauty of wine is sharing it as a gift of love even when apart, as we have experienced since the pandemic.

Shun Li PN bottle Picmonkey

A touch of tradition meets modern, the label art shows Chinese calligraphy against an elegant Chinese painting background, and a customized Shun Yi logo embossed at the metal capsule of every bottle.

What's Next?

Although Shun Yi is not officially on the market, they are actively sharing their winemaking journey on social media. I have seen how their wines are made from veraison, harvest, crush, to bottling; and celebrated with the winery after weathering the recent Napa fires.  

Shun Yi plans to partner with fine Chinese restaurants in the future. How does wine pair with Chinese food? "Chinese" cuisine encompasses a diversity of regional cuisines. George recently enjoyed a rich Peking Duck with luscious Pinot Noir, for instance. Pinot Noir, especially from cooler climates with lower tannins and bright acidity, pairs well with fattier pork and duck, or even fried foods. A crisp, less oaky Chardonnay pairs well with stir fries like fried rice, noodles, moo shu pork, or even dim sum. Try it for yourself!


Fiona Fang 100x150 MUG


Editor’s note:  Fiona Fang is a Wine MBA Candidate at Sonoma State University and worked as a Business Analyst for a boutique management consulting firm and several startups in Hong Kong before moving to California.

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