Unless you’re an invited restaurateur, wine distributor or retailer, you won’t be attending this week’s Premiere Napa Valley.
But here’s why you should support it anyway.
PNV is a wine futures auction in which members of the trade can taste special one-off wines while they’re still in the barrel, bid on them hours later, and receive them in a few years when they’re bottled and ready for sale.
This year 218 wines are being auctioned off, 187 live and 31 online. About 700 members of the trade will attend, representing 200-250 accounts.
The main event is here in St. Helena at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone on Saturday, but this week features private events where winemakers and winery owners are getting a rare chance, on their own home turf, to interact with some of their biggest domestic and international customers.
Those private events drum up business for local restaurants and event-related enterprises during what’s usually a slow time of year. But more important, the funds raised at Premiere, combined with Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) member dues, support the organization’s operating budget and its mission to promote, protect and defend the Napa Valley name.
That’s where the rest of us really benefit. The NVV’s promotion of the Napa Valley as a source of world-class wine reinforces the rural values we all share. It helps guarantee that vineyards, not subdivisions or strip malls, will remain the highest and best use of our ag land.
We met recently with Jeff Smith of Hourglass, who’s chairing this year’s Premiere, and Patsy McGaughy, communications director for the NVV. Smith said he’s spreading the message that everyone – the community, the wine industry and the bidders – shares a vested interest in furthering the NVV’s mission.
The Napa Valley’s sterling reputation in the wine world forms our economic foundation, protects the lifestyle we all cherish, keeps the wine industry roaring, and drives up profits for members of the trade, who are especially keen to get their hands on exclusive, collectible wines like those offered at Premiere.
The NVV also uses its operating budget to explore issues of broad local interest, like traffic, workforce housing and the environment.
NVV members have met with representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission who are undertaking a major study of local traffic patterns. They’re meeting with workforce housing developers to figure out how to build more housing for workers. They’re encouraging member wineries to adopt sustainable grapegrowing and winemaking practices to protect our air, soils and waterways. And don’t forget the millions of dollars vintners donated to fire relief efforts late last year.
On the St. Helena level, the NVV is doing its own part to limit traffic by choosing to hold trade tastings at Copia in Napa instead of building a tasting center next to its headquarters on Library Lane.
The funds raised at Premiere also support NVV-sponsored programs like Sommelier Napa Valley, which teaches influential and up-and-coming wine experts what makes our wine so special, and the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, which helps freelancers, correspondents and columnists hone their skills in writing about — and thereby promoting — wine.
Finally, Premiere frees up the NVV to focus the rest of its formidable fundraising abilities on charitable causes through Auction Napa Valley. If not for Premiere, we might see a trickle of smaller fundraisers to support NVV operations throughout the year, which would draw energy away from the wine auction.
So if you see visitors queuing up to get into the CIA on Saturday, thank them for protecting our valley and our way of life.