Stanley Cheng Kin-sui has good reason to pull a cork and raise a glass of his Hestan Vineyards debut, a 2002 cabernet sauvignon. Released in 2005, it became a red-hot collectors' item, having bagged a 95-point rating from wine aficionado Robert Parker. 'When we bought this land [in 1996], there was the lake, star thistle and weeds,' says Cheng, looking out over his private Napa Valley playground from the vista tower that rises above his state-of-the-art Tuscan-style stone-and-stucco chateau, which, all being well, he will move into next month. 'We had this huge piece of canvas,' he continues. 'We could express our creativity and do what we liked. It was very exciting.' Hong Kong-raised Cheng - who made his fortune from cookware - has taken seven years to create an Italian-inspired masterpiece: 51 hectares of prime Californian real estate that includes a lake, several vineyards and, as an example of his attention to detail, a sprinkling of replanted 100-year-old olive trees, brought in to give the setting the refinement, history and beauty he was looking for. Laid out below us is a snapshot of his passions - golf, skeet shooting, model aircraft - and his magnificent obsession: wine. 'The first thing we did was plant a vineyard. Then we kept planting more.' CHENG WAS ONE of seven children and the third of four sons born to a father who escaped from the mainland to Hong Kong in 1947. Having established Meyer Manufacturing, Cheng senior made spring-loaded hinges, battery-operated torches and, later, aluminium cigarette cases and ashtrays. Growing up, Cheng remembers living on Forfar Road, Kowloon, then 'a quiet, residential street - old-world and beautiful. There were two three-storey houses across from each other. We lived in one; a Caucasian family in the other.' His father ran his business from an industrial plant 'about five minutes from the old airport'. In 1965, the year Cheng left for the United States to study business, his father broke ground on a manufacturing facility in Kwun Tong. 'It was a new area,' says Cheng. 'We were one of the first buildings to go up.' The factory opened in 1967, at the height of China's Cultural Revolution. 'The world didn't realise how bad things were. There was a mass exodus out of Hong Kong.' The upheaval prompted Cheng to think globally for future growth. Armed with degrees in business and chemical engineering, he joined his father's business in 1971 and launched the division that would blossom into the Meyer Corporation, now the largest cookware manufacturer in the US and the second largest in the world. Although he did not invent the original nonstick surface, Teflon - deemed miraculous in its day, but cheap and nondurable - he did invent and develop the tougher-than-steel Circulon and Anolon lines of cookware, which revolutionised nonstick surfaces. When his father died in 1985, at age 70 (his mother, now 93, lives in Beacon Hill), father and son were building an aluminium rolling mill on the Tai Po Industrial Estate - now run by Cheng's younger brother. The company also has a manufacturing plant in Thailand, where there is a second rolling mill, a research and manufacturing facility in Milan, Italy, and a factory in Zhongshan, in Guangdong province. 'Hong Kong is a wonderful financial centre, so our banking facilities are ... mostly in Hong Kong,' says Cheng, president and chief executive of a company that had worldwide sales in 2005 of about US$450 million. 'I don't know if we have a real world headquarters,' he muses. 'We're a multinational.' Anolon, Circulon, BonJour, KitchenAid, Farberware, Meyer, Prestige and NapaStyle are just some of the brands that glint and shine in pristine splendour in the showroom of Meyer's 17,200 sq metre US headquarters. The facility in Vallejo, California, less than 30 minutes' drive in Cheng's Porsche Turbo from his new home, opened in 1996. It is surrounded by nearly a hectare of chardonnay grapes, a drought-tolerant alternative to grass and a visually appealing alternative to landscaping. When Cheng moved his family from Hong Kong to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1992, he set aside some of his energy to create a lifestyle that would be closer to the ultimate American fantasy rather than a run-of-the-mill American dream. His home, until he moves permanently to Napa, is in elite Hillsborough, south of San Francisco, consistently ranked the top-earning - read most-expensive - town in the US. He declines to put a price on his 1,250 sq metre house. 'For high-end homes the market value is strictly a function of what the buyer is willing to pay,' he says. Sitting in his light-drenched office, a lengthy stroll past works of art and offices from the showroom, the man who will soon turn 60 but looks 50 is relaxed, humorous, generous with his time and candid. On a wall is a framed Humanitarian of the Year award, which he received in 2002 from the American Housewares Industry for his personal commitment to philanthropy. His computer's screensaver shows two stunning women. They look like movie stars. One is his daughter, Stephanie, 18, a first-year student at Yale University. The other is his wife, Helen, who was a dental hygienist when the pair met at a party in Hong Kong in 1979. In jest, Cheng describes his wife as 'a housewife and a professional shopper' but, among other things, she is also the family wine-buyer. With a virgin 10,000-bottle cellar awaiting her in their Napa Valley mansion, she has been asked to 'please go slow'. The couple's eldest son, Vincent, 25, worked in Hong Kong and Shanghai before joining Meyer's marketing department. His younger brother, Christopher, 22, is involved in a solar business Cheng is about to launch. '[It's] a very exciting feel-good business,' he says. 'We're going to manufacture solar-grade silicon. There is a seriously short supply in the world today.' THE NAPA VALLEY, North America's premium wine-growing region, is home to almost 400 wineries. Attracting 2 million visitors a year, it is right up there with Disneyland as a tourist attraction. During the summer, traffic on Highway 29, the main road running through the valley, is often bumper-to-bumper. Stretch limousines abound. Crowds throng into the wineries, at times elbowing their way to the tasting counter, especially at such 'name' places as the Robert Mondavi Winery, the most visited, and Rubicon Estate, owned by Francis Ford Coppola of The Godfather fame, who woos visitors with movie memorabilia and charges an entry fee of US$25. The notion of driving to the country to wander the vineyards, quietly sip on delectable vintages and linger over a meal is more fantasy than reality. When Cheng decided to buy land, create a vineyard and build a home in the Napa area, he looked, not surprisingly, off the beaten track - to the more remote southeastern side of the valley. Gordon Valley Road, on which Hestan Vineyards stands, winds gently through rolling hills that, except briefly when winter rains turn the world green, glow lion's-mane golden in the morning and evening light. The hills were an important asset. 'I knew they'd be good for drainage so the grapes wouldn't get too much water,' says Cheng, as he parks one of the fleet of golf carts he uses to get around the estate and inspects a cluster of cabernet sauvignon grapes. 'The spacing between these vines is super-tight - as tight as it gets in the world,' he adds. 'We're stressing them to the max. This makes for full-bodied, super-intense wines.' Although Cheng has long had a passion for wine, he intended to do no more than grow grapes on his property. 'Having a winery means a lot of commercial activity and this is a residence, not a business,' he declares. 'Having a vineyard is one thing. It's beautiful. I wanted privacy and beauty. I love the Napa wine country lifestyle.' Initially, the vineyard's grapes were sold on the open market, but an outing to Napa County's French Laundry in 2001 changed that. At California's only Michelin three-star restaurant, with a wine list to match, Helen and Stanley - Hestan is derived from their names - ordered a cabernet sauvignon and 'fell in love at first sip'. The wine they enjoyed that evening was a ripe, plush, concentrated red, made by cult Californian uber-luxury producer Merus. They contacted Merus winemaker Mark Herold and asked him to create something with their grapes. The relationship spawned the 95-point 'full-bodied, opulent, pure, expansive and layered' drop that put Hestan Vineyards on the map. 'Few wines make it into this top category [between 90 and 100 points] because there are not many great wines,' says Parker. Hestan's 'impeccably balanced', 'elegant' chardonnay, produced at so-called custom-crush facilities (specialist offsite wineries), as are all its wines, was awarded 94 points by Wine Spectator magazine. Cheng hired a second Napa Valley winemaker, Jeff Gaffner, known for producing cult, elegant wines. 'To his credit,' says Gaffner, 'Stanley is a maverick and a pioneer. He likes fine things and he has done something unique. In planting the different Bordeaux varietals [cabernet sauvignon, malbec, cabernet franc, petit verdot and merlot] on the same campus, he has created the equivalent of a giant spice cabinet.' And while the American way is about instant gratification, says Gaffner, 'how Stanley is doing things is very European. I don't know if it's cultural, but he knows the concept of patience, which is what makes and sustains great vineyards. The top of the top - the best wines in the world - that's what we're making. That's what Stanley is getting accolades for.' Small quantities of superlative quality, bottled for elegance with printing in 24-carat gold fired onto the glass and sold at America's most prestigious restaurants: that is where Cheng has set his sights. And it is an aesthetic he takes home with him. At the new, three-storey mansion, a gorgeous old French tapestry depicting the building of the Palace of Versailles will grace the lofty entrance hallway, which boasts a sweeping staircase. The infinity pool is designed so that when you sit on the edge, the water 'meets' the lake a few hundred metres away. The skeet range is Olympic in scale and a work of art. A semicircular trellis border of woven wisteria, planted seven years ago, looks like it's been there forever - which is the impression Cheng has worked to create. Mission figs hang ripe from old trees. A beautifully carved marble fireplace in the expansive living room came from what was once a prominent San Francisco family home. Imported and commissioned sculptural details surprise and delight at every turn. The whole house is computerised. Motion sensors turn on lights. 'The drapery is programmed to open at a certain time so you can awaken to gentle light and not an alarm clock,' Cheng explains with more than a little delight. A sea of glinting solar panels powers the house from a discreet location up a hill. There are two golf greens. 'If you use your imagination, you can play seven holes,' he says, laughing. A former barn, turned into a 560 sq metre gymnasium, also houses a private cinema. Then there is the packed model-aircraft hangar and the launch pad for aerobatic planes. 'It's a childhood hobby I never outgrew,' says Cheng - and the reason he is a silent partner in a model-aircraft factory near Zhuhai. His 'job' is to test the planes, which he does every second weekend. CHENG WRITES DOWN the Chinese characters for the name 'Meyer' on a piece of paper. The first symbol has a double meaning, he says, and can read as 'beautiful' or 'America'. The second says 'Asia'. 'So Meyer can mean 'Beautiful Asia' or 'America and Asia'. The noble goal for us at the time of forming Meyer Corporation was to become a bridge between America and Asia.' Business wise, he has gone far beyond, and along the way he has retained the capacity to dream and the courage to act upon his visions.