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Star/NVV panelists evaluate e-auction wines, experiences

Star/NVV panelists evaluate e-auction wines, experiences

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The St. Helena Star and Napa Valley Vintners Tasting Panel met recently at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone to review wines and special e-auction packages that will be available this year through Auction Napa Valley 2012. Panelists tasted through 39 wines while reviewing the details of the e-auction lots in order to each choose one package that particularly intrigued them.

While the Napa Valley Auction is known for offering rare wines sought by collectors and once-in-a-lifetime wine experiences, the panelists found that among the 2012 e-auction lots, there is something for everyone. Extravagant multi-day events and collector wines appear in addition to simple dinners and small assortments of fine wines.

The e-auction lots can be viewed now at Bidding begins at noon Sunday, May 27 and can be done from anywhere in the world. All proceeds will benefit health and youth development nonprofit organizations in Napa County. Bidding closes at 6 p.m., 6:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 3.

In a review of the panelists’ top choices, a few clear favorites emerged — Corison and Blackbird being the top two. Yet each of the following e-auction packages found favor from the panelists:

Mark Epstein

Tyler Florence Pinot Noir, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and the “Ultimate Food & Wine Pairing”

The winner of this lot will enjoy a private dinner for four at Tyler Florence’s new restaurant, El Paseo in Mill Valley, and guests will listen to music hand-picked by co-owner and legendary rocker Sammy Hagar. Magnums and a gift certificate for kitchen essentials from Florence’s shops are included.

Bob Bath

Trefethen Family Vineyards 2008 Dragon’s Tooth red blend, Oak Knoll ($75) and the “On HaLo Ground” Package

As pioneers of the first cooking school in Napa Valley in 1973, the Trefethens now offer the opportunity to cook alongside renowned chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, Jeremiah Tower and Narsai David. Janet Trefethen also provides a private class with family recipes. Plenty of wine will be served and taken home as well.

Alan Viader

Corison Winery 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon ($80) and the “Celebrate in a Big Way” Package

Alan calls this lot “a must for Corison collectors; classic Napa.” The winning bidder will receive a nine-year (2000 to 2008) vertical of magnums of the celebrated Corison Cabernet Sauvignon.

Kristen Belair

Clif Family Winery Rte. Blanc, Zinfandel and Cab Blend and their “Tour de Clif”

There is more than just wine and food — there is fun and adventure, too, says Kristen Belair. A vineyard bike ride with owner Gary Erikson starts the tour, followed by a private dinner and two-night stay on Howell Mountain with private wine tasting, cycling kit, and wine and food to take home.

Catherine Seda

Truchard Vineyards, 2007 Reserve Cabernet, Carneros ($75) and “Visit Carneros” Package

The wine is classic and so is the package: a moveable vintner feast. Hors d’oeuvres and Roussane among the Roussane vines overlooking the Bay; pork and pinot noir in historic Carneros; and lamb and cabernet sauvignon on a hillside vineyard. Private tour by the Truchards and wine included.

Bill Dyer

Lang & Reed 2004 Right Bank red blend ($60) and their “Let’s Get This Right” Package

A beautifully balanced and ultra-smooth wine made in the style of Bordeaux’s Right Bank in homage to a 1977 trip to the ancient town of St. Emilion. Rare wines and vintages (2004 and 2005) are part of this package.

Christie Dufault

Blackbird Vineyards 2008 Illustration Oak Knoll ($125) and the “Birds of a Feather” Lot

The ultimate vacation — a little country, a little city. In addition to an etched 3-liter bottle of Illustration, the winning bidder will enjoy dinner for two at Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley in Yountville, have a one-night stay at Solage Calistoga — complete with spa mud treatments, and dinner for two — to be followed by two nights at the Mandarin Oriental in San Francisco.

Paula Moschetti

Conn Creek Winery “Barrel Blending Bonanza for 10”

The winner and nine friends will take part in a tasting and winemaker-for-a-day experience with Conn Creek’s Mike McGrath. Guests will bottle their own wine, then head to lunch at Alex Restaurant in Rutherford. Library wines will be served and wine taken home.

Bill Ryan

Ziata 2009 Cabernet Franc Oakville ($60) and “The Treasures of the Table” Package

Less an e-auction lot description and more of a personal invitation by Karen Cakebread, the panelists were unanimous in appreciating this lot. Wine is provided for the winner’s table, and they will also join Cakebread at the Michelin-rated restaurant, SolBar at the Solage Resort, with special library wines and new releases of Ziata.

Sean Scully

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars FAY 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($95) and “Living Large with Stag’s Leap” Lot

A collection of this historic winery’s classic wines in 3-liter bottles, specially etched, and a tasting for six with winemaker Nikki Pruss. Each guest will also receive George Taber’s “Judgment of Paris” book, a story of the event that elevated Stag’s Leap and other Napa Valley wines onto the world stage.

Bob Skupny

Howell at the Moon 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain ($100) and 12 Rare Bottles

This lot is all about the wine, says Bob Skupny. The wine is made exclusively from Block 3 of the Knoll Vineyard on Howell Mountain and this special 2008 was an extremely small production. The owner of this package may have one of the largest collections of this wine around.

Jim Sullivan

Three Clicks Wines 2010 Petite Sirah ($35) and the “Three Clicks and Larken Wines Good Things Come in Threes” Lot

A host of 3-liter bottles start off this package, and the winning bidder and friends will be whisked off for an insider tour of Napa Valley by Jeep with professional tour guide Julie Paine of Hidden Napa Valley Jeep Tours. Also included is a two-night guest stay at Napa Valley’s Arbor Guest House.

John Skupny

Pine Ridge Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap ($80) and the “Collection of Fives” Package

To mirror the five appellations its wines are made from, the winner of this lot will be treated to a five-course dinner in their home with the winemaker. Also includes a collection of five special wines, an etched 3-liter bottle, and year-long memberships to wine, chocolate and coffee clubs.

Celia Welch

St. Supéry Estate 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($85) and the Dollarhide Estate “Vineyard Round-up”

A customized vineyard tour and lake-view barbecue for 12 is followed by a vertical tasting in which each guest picks and takes home their favorite. An etched 3-liter and a mixed case of wine goes home with the winning bidder as well.

Kyrsta Scully

Mt. Veeder 2007 Red Blend Reserve ($80) and “High Altitude Vineyard Experience”

A vineyard hike to the crest of a hill overlooking the Napa Valley leads to an al fresco lunch of local delicacies and savories. Following is a vertical tasting of Mt. Veeder wines.

(Catherine Seda is the St. Helena Star’s tasting panel writer and works for Balzac Communications & Marketing in Napa. She holds a diploma in wine and spirits from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, and enjoys all things wine. Contact her at Only wines from Napa Valley Vintner member wineries are accepted and tasted. Many wineries offer local residents discounts on their wines through the Napa Neighbor program; visit and click on Napa Neighbor to learn more.)

Editor's Note: the original version of this story, and the version appearing in the print editions of the Star and The Weekly Calistogan, misspelled the first name of Kyrsta Scully.

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