Saturday, April 23, 2016

Did my karaoke or President Xi force sale of China's Chateau Junding for 15 cents?

China's food service conglomerate, COFCO, is selling their 55% share of Chateau Junding for 1 yuan (that's about 15 cents). 

Chateau Junding in Shandong Province.

This news evoked a flood of memories, some painful.  Chateau Junding was the very first winery I visited on my inaugural China wine trip in 2009.
Chateau Junding, with its restaruants, tasting rooms, gift and wine shops, golf club, golf course and underground cellars all sit on 400 hectares (almost 1000 acres).

Since I had never done any kind of business or journalism in China before, I didn't really know the protocol.
Night view of stone bridge leading to Chateau Junding winery, near Penglai, Shandong Province, China.
It took months of email introductions to finally get a dinner appointment with some Junding bureaucrat when I arrived to Beijing. 

But the guy must have liked the way I used chop sticks because a couple of days later I was flying to Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, to meet with head marketing director, Ms. Lin. In fact, she actually met me at the airport for the hour drive to Junding.

Chateau Junding winery, with Phoenix Lake in the background, seen from nearly 1000 acre estate vineyard, near Penglai, Shandong Province, China.

The place was huge. They gave me a golf cart to get around on the nearly 1000-acre Junding estate for 3 days of photography.
One of the roads to Junding's Golf Club.
Workers tend the expansive Junding golf course so clients can catch a perfect 18 holes before dinner and wine at Chateau Junding seen on the other side of Phoenix Lake.

Assistant winemaker taking sample in barrel cellar at Chateau Junding winery, near Penglai, Shandong Province, China.
This bottle  of wine, created for the opening of the Chateau Junding winery, lists for RMB27998 (US$4442). Asia, China, Shandong province.

The whole Chateau Junding concept was to attract luxury consumers and government officials to an opulent lifestyle, like the Cab Sauvignon retailing for a cool US$ 4,442 a bottle.The idea was that it should be given as an expensive business gift as everyone knew the price.

Dining in one of the many restaurants and private rooms at Junding winery near Penglai in the Shandong Province, China. This photograph was taken of an important regional wine director in 2009, at the height of spending on government officials.

One of the days during my visit, Junding hosted a handful of Chinese government officials and the head of the regional Winery Association. After a dinner enjoyed with some Oregon wine I had stuffed into my suitcase, we headed down to a huge entertainment center.  

Now these guys were hot on karaoke. And they just assumed I, being from the United States, knew all the English-language songs ever written. And worse, they thought I could sing. 

It was terrible. I couldn't even remember all the words to "Hey, Jude." Luckily, the marketing director knew the song and had a great voice.

Fortunately for me, the Chinese officials drank a lot of wine, a really lot of wine. We're talking bottles of wine each. At the end of the karaoke evening, I carried out some really important government wine people out to their black Buicks.

I got lost trying to find my way around all of the restaurants, private rooms and entertainment centers.

But current President Xi's straight-laced program of anti-corruption and austerity policies put screeching brakes to the karaoke and spending lots of yuan at the winery resort, especially for government officials. 

Now the expansive estate is visited more by busloads of curious Chinese tourists than actual clients.

Evening view of Chateau Junding winery, near Penglai, Shandong Province, China.

So the place is for sale.

Oh yes, there is one minor caveat to the Chateau Junding sale price: besides paying the 15 cents, the buyer must also pick up the tab for the debt on the property. For that bring an extra 392m yuan (a bit more than US$ 60,000,000) and controlling interest of the place is yours.

Farm vehicle in front of vineyard and buildings of Chateau Junding winery near Penglai in the Shandong Province, China.

They do have a great karaoke machine. So I keep wondering if it was really my bad karaoke or President Xi's policies forcing COFCO to sell Chateau Junding?

As government policies and winery sales swirl, workers still tend the vineyard.

Please respect that all images are copyrighted 
© Janis Miglavs 2015