CALIFORNIAN Michael Berolzheimer holds a BA and an MBA from Harvard and, still on the sunny side of 50 (he was born in 1939), is happily sensitive to the American consumers' desires for products as diverse as Duraflame fire logs (which he took from an idea of incense-cedar sawdust and wax to a $28-million business) and authentic Chinese table wine.
This is the story of the latter, going from zero to 3,000 cases sold in the United States in the last six months (in 16 states). The wine is called Spring Moon Imperial Cuvee, and you can buy it for a modest price ($7) in better wine shops, such as Wally's West, or have it served in such Chinese restaurants as the Mandarin in Beverly Hills or at the various Panda Inns.
Vineyards for the Heavenly Palace Winery in Tianjin, China, were started with cuttings of Riesling, Chardonnay, Muscat and other choice vinifera as early as 1960. The latest in wine-making equipment was also brought from Europe and the model winery built in 1985. Spring Moon wines are made in temperature-controlled stainless-steel fermenters, finished with state-of-the-art equipment, then handsomely packaged.
Enter San Franciscan Berolzheimer, venture capitalist, on a visit to China in 1986. He saw a bottle of wine produced in China, tasted it and liked it, and a light bulb went on over his head. He met Chinese Fred Chao, born in Tianjin, with business experience, who cautioned patience; China Swan Associates Inc. was born. Enter another San Franciscan, Michelle Chao Louie, a Chinese with the energy of a hummingbird, born and raised in Hong Kong and with a degree in fine arts from San Francisco State and experience in design and merchandising. Spring Moon became a dynamic working reality.