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Million Dollar Bottle: Napa-grown cab breaks world record at Emeril Lagasse Foundation auction

From the Napa Valley Wine Insider Digest: Nov. 27, 2021 series
  • Updated

The wine world has been feeling philanthropic this month, and for one collective of Napa vintners and winemakers, these open wallets led to a new world record.

In New Orleans at the annual Emeril Lagasse Foundation wine auction and gala, a bottle of wine from Coombsville recently sold for a whopping $1 million, with proceeds going to the foundation.

“It is surreal to know that a bottle of our wine has sold for $1 million,” said co-founder of The Setting Wines, Noah McMahon. “And we are overjoyed that the money is going to all be used to help kids across the country.”

A collaboration between McMahon, co-founder Jeff Cova and renowned winemaker Jesse Katz, The Setting Wines previously broke the record for most expensive bottle of wine sold at auction back in 2017, but that figure of $350,000 pales in comparison to this most recent $1 million sale.

Designed specifically as a philanthropic endeavor, the record-breaking wine is a six-liter bottle of The Setting’s 2019 Glass Slipper Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The buyers, headed by Don Steiner and a group of generous philanthropists, were inspired by the work of The Emeril Lagasse Foundation and decided to make the hefty donation and get their hands on this special wine.

The first to ever be released from the Glass Slipper vineyard, only 75 cases were made of this 100% cabernet which typically sells for $185 a bottle.

“Admittedly the wine is exquisite, and it is the first and only six-liter of Glass Slipper wine made, but the primary motivation for the bid was a tribute to the work of Chef Emeril Lagasse, his wife Alden, and Foundation President Brian Kish,” said Paul Frank, who owns the Glass Slipper Vineyard with his wife Suzie. “Noah McMahon, Suzie and I have long been involved in the Lagasse Foundation leadership, and we are all personally touched and grateful for this impressive donation.”

Humility aside, winemaker Jesse Katz said that this Glass Slipper vineyard is one of the finest he has seen, and he gushes about the cool climate and natural acidity from the site.

“It’s true that throughout the global wine universe, certain specific vineyards stand-out as producing wine grapes of extraordinary quality, [and] we can speculate on the specific attributes of those vineyards, but many of the reasons are as mysterious as nature itself,” said Frank.

“There can be discussion as to whether it is the soil composition, soil and water chemistry, or the microclimate that play the key role, but our conclusion is that it is the unique combination and balance of all of these elements that differentiate good vineyards from great ones,” he said. “That is why the long search for our vineyard included investigation of the vineyard fruit history and the attributes of the resulting wines.”

The Franks acquired the Glass Slipper vineyard in 2016, which already had a history of selling fruit to a variety of elite wine brands. A few infrastructure improvements were made, including a new well and irrigation system, which improved vine health and foliage conditions, but Frank says the vineyard was in pretty good shape when they took over.

But in addition to the existing soil and terroir, Katz says the other major reason he picked the Glass Slipper vineyard for The Setting Wines was because of the Franks’ commitment to their work.

“[They] farm this site with such precision and passion,” said Katz. “There is nothing they won’t do to improve their practices and ensure the best quality fruit for the vintage.”

And while this sale likely won’t dramatically hike the price of Glass Slipper fruit or dramatically change the lives of the Franks, it is rewarding to quite literally see the fruits of your labor come to be.

“We never stop learning and discovering new ways to improve wine grape production, so we continue to design our protocols without compromise,” said Frank. “I sometimes speculate that half of our efforts and expense in the vineyard may be wasted, but the problem is we never know which half so we continue our never-ending quest.”

Emilia and Joseph entered a contest to win a 'dream' wedding at Napa's Meritage Resort. Watch them get the good news here.

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