In 1999, the patriarch of Silver Heights, Gao Lin, had a premonition: one day, his home province of Ningxia would become a sought-after region for world-class wines. He began planting Cabernet Sauvignon vines sourced from France, and convinced his daughter, Gao Yuan (also known as Emma), to voyage abroad to Bordeaux and there to enroll in a Masters of Oenology program.
While in France, Emma had the opportunity to intern at several historic Bordeaux wineries, including the world-famous Château Calon-Ségur. She quickly became close friends with the chateau's winemaker, Thierry Courtade, whose family has been making wine at Calon-Ségur for three generations. Their friendship deepened into love, and they were married in 2003. In 2005, Emma returned home to China as one of the few Chinese women with a diplôme national d’oenologue, and Thierry and their daughter, also named Emma, followed soon after. The Younger Emma though still young is poised to become the third-generation owner of Silver Heights.
After returning, Emma first briefly worked for Torres China, one of the country's most prestigious wine importers. Her true passion, however, lay in winemaking, and she collaborated with her father and Thierry to begin making a very small amount of wine at her parents' farm on the then-outskirts of Yinchuan. One day, out of the blue, Emma presented an unlabelled magnum bottle of her 100% Cabernet Sauvignon to Alberto Fernandez, the managing partner of Torres China. He was blown away, and immediately proposed the following to her: she would make wine full-time, and Torres would distribute it. Thus, Silver Heights was finally born. And that first wine? It became Emma's Reserve, and has gone on to acclaim.
Since their first vintage in 2007 was met with astonished accolades by domestic and international wine experts, Gao Lin, Emma, and Thierry have continued to focus on making the highest quality wine possible and on developing the Ningxia terroir.
Gao Yuan and Gao Lin in Silver Heights' newly planted vineyards, circa 2012.
3 Generations of Gao's Family, Lin Gao, Emma Gao and Little Emma