Despite fears that bidding might decrease at the Napa Valley Vintners 17th annual Premiere Napa Valley wine futures auction, the event raised $3.04 million on 211 lots—not much less than last year’s record-breaking total of $3.1 million.
The midwinter trade event—held at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena over the weekend (February 23–24)—attracted more than 1,000 restaurateurs, merchants, distributors, importers, winemakers and members of the wine media to taste and bid on special barrel lots crafted specifically for the occasion.
The majority of the 2011 vintage wines highlighted Napa’s prowess with Cabernet Sauvignon, but red blends, as well as Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling wines were also on hand this year. Because 2011 was a cooler-than-average year, many winemakers feared the final product might lack Napa Valley’s trademark lushness. But the buzz in the barrel tasting room was surprisingly positive.
“With the 2011s on a whole, you see incredible style and finesse,” said Master Sommelier Larry Stone. “Although the growing season was relatively cool, when you taste these wines, you realize that Napa Valley has come so far that its winemakers know how to deal with cold weather or warm weather and the result is great wines.”
Predictably, the auction’s biggest bidders were retailers, including Total Wine & More, Cliffewood Wine Syndicate, The Wine House, Gary’s Wine & Marketplace and Beverage Warehouse, as well as Nakagawa Wine Company in Japan.
The top-earning lots were largely from the usual suspects, like Shafer Vineyards, Duckhorn Vineyards, Silver Oak Cellars and Rombauer Vineyards, but the highest bid of the day—$75,000—came from Robert Trone of Total Wine & More, in Potomac, Maryland, for 10 cases of a 2011 blend of Boswell estate Clone 4 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Bevan Merlot.
All in all, the average wholesale price per bottle sold was $160.75—an encouraging barometer of Napa’s ability to weather fluctuations in vintage and economy.
The auction concluded a week of festivities throughout the valley. Activities included The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley and the world premier of Napa Valley Rocks, an educational short film produced by the Napa Valley Vintners.