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Wine futures auction raises $3.04 million

Wine futures auction raises $3.04 million

Premiere Napa Valley event raises money for NV Vintners programs

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ST. HELENA — Two of the top bidders at Saturday’s Premiere Napa Valley wine trade auction together bought more than two dozen lots, and each spent more than $230,000 buying futures of Napa Valley wines. The auction raised $3.04 million, slightly less than the $3.1 million it raised last year. There were 67 successful bidders.

John Wade, chairman of the Cliffewood Wine Syndicate from Little Rock, Ark., bought the first lot, 20 cases of 2011 Reynolds Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, for $50,000 and then bought 12 more lots during the three-hour auction.

Both Wade and Glen Knight from The Wine House in Los Angeles battled for the final lot — 10 cases of 2011 cabernet sauvignon from Keenan Winery — but after starting at $20,000, the bids quickly reached $35,000. At that point, auctioneer Fritz Hatton commented, “I can’t believe Arkansas has run out of money” when Wade paused before pushing the bid to $40,000. Knight bought the lot for $45,000, amid a lot of cheers and clapping. Hatton slammed down his gavel and shouted, “Sold and good night!”

After the auction, Knight said he had spent $233,000 on wine futures Saturday, and added the 2013 event was the 14th in a row he and his father have attended since the event began in 1997.

Why does he attend and buy the wines? “Because we love the vintners and love supporting them,” Knight said.

After the auction, Wade gathered many of the 17 people from his wine syndicate who attended the auction on stage for a photo. Also gathered were several local vintners, including Tim Mondavi and Steve Reynolds, who made the wines Wade bought. Afterward, Wade said the syndicate members are interested in small-production, small-lot wines from the Napa Valley and buy them for their personal cellars.

“We make connections with the vintners here, and when they come to Arkansas, we host them,” he said. “We are buying what we love.”

Helping Wade and others evaluate the local wines was Roy Piper, general manager for St. Helena’s Seven Stones and a wine consultant.

The top lot of the auction was a 10-case lot of a 2011 red wine produced by Bevan Cellars and Chateau Boswell Winery. It sold for $75,000 and was bought by Robert Trone of Total Wine & More, in Potomac, Md.

Seventy percent of the 211 lots were cabernet sauvignon and more than 80 percent of the lots were from the 2011 vintage, which had an unusual growing season.

“Today was a great chance to get a glance into the quality of the 2011 vintage,” said successful bidder Daniel Williams of Hi-Time Cellars in Costa Mesa. “I think there were some tremendous wines presented, and I think the vintners have done a great job of putting their best foot forward in a vintage some might call ‘challenging.’”

The auction, held in a cold upstairs venue at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, provides operating and program funds for the Napa Valley Vintners, a nonprofit trade association made up of 450 member wineries.

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