Premiere Napa Valley Hits It Out of the Park

Napa’s influential barrel auction raises $5.9 million, doubling the previous record.


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This year’s Premiere Napa Valley told a tale of exuberance—exuberant wines and bidders. The $5.9 million spent for 225 lots almost doubled last year’s previous record of $3.1 million.

The trade event, held Saturday, February 22, at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena brought in more than 600 attendees, including restaurateurs, merchants, distributors, importers, winemakers and media to taste and bid on special barrel lots created specifically for Premiere.

Premiere wines are made exclusively for the event and sold to single bidders in lots that number as little as 60 bottles (5 cases) and never more than 240 (20 cases).

The majority of Premiere wines highlight Napa’s nurturing of Cabernet Sauvignon, but a coterie of red blends, as well as Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling wines were also on offer.

More than 90 percent of the wines created for the trade event were from the 2012 vintage, confirming the sense of anticipation that has built around a vintage considered one of the best in recent years.

Russ Weis, the chair of the Napa Valley Vintners Board of Directors and general manager of Silverado Vineyards, echoed that sentiment: “It shows there is a renewed confidence in the fine wine market in general and in Napa Valley wines specifically.”

Nothing reflected that feeling more than Los Angeles retailer The Wine House’s winning bid of $260,000 for 60 bottles from Scarecrow Wine (Lot 210). The 100-percent Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from vines planted in 1945 was made by Celia Welch.

Earlier in the afternoon, the crowd roared when lots from Shafer Vineyards and Schrader set new auction records at $100,000, only to be shattered the same day.

First timers such as Favia Erickson Winegrowers, the partnership between husband-and-wife team Annie Favia and Andy Erickson, fared as well as veterans, hauling in $50,000 for its inaugural lot, 120 bottles of a 50-50 blend of Coombsville Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon called The Century Egg, the couple’s play on a Chinese delicacy.

But even $50,000 didn’t crack the top 12.

The top lots in order were: Scarecrow Wine (5 cases); Schrader (5 cases); Shafer Vineyards (5 cases); ZD Wines (5 cases); Robert Mondavi Winery (20 cases); Cakebread Cellars (20 cases); a joint lot between Bevan Cellars and Château Boswell (10 cases); Vine Hill Ranch (5 cases); a joint lot between Constant, David Arthur Vineyards and Reynolds Family Winery (20 cases); Silver Oak Cellars (20 cases); Joseph Phelps Vineyards (5 cases); and Brand (5 cases).

The biggest bidders included Total Wine & More of Maryland; Bounty Hunter of Napa; Cliffewood Wine Syndicate of Arkansas; Wine Library of New Jersey, The Wine House of Los Angeles, Gary’s Wine and Marketplace of New Jersey, Nakagawa Wine Company of Tokyo, Beverage Warehouse, Yakiniku Hiroshi of Honolulu, Meritage Wine Market of California; Zoës Restaurant of Virginia; and HEB of Texas.

In all, the average wholesale price per bottle sold was $283, up from last year’s average of $160.75, an astounding confirmation of Napa’s continued cachet.

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