Excitement generated by the outstanding wines produced from the 2013 crush led to record-setting results at Premiere Napa Valley last weekend.
The winter auction — exclusively for restaurateurs, retailers and wholesalers — staged by the local 500-plus-member trade association, Napa Valley Vintners, netted $6 million — up by $100,000 over last year when the take nearly doubled the tally from 2012.
While there were a few more lots this year — 225 — it was the spirited bidding by vying members of the trade that accounted for record-breaking results.
For example, more than 10 percent of the lots offered — 27 — brought bids of $50,000 or more. Three of them — 60 bottles, or five cases each — went for $100,000 or more. Top bid of the afternoon Saturday was $115,000 offered by Veraison, of Zurich, for the Brand cabernet sauvignon from Pritchard Hill. That wine was made by respected winemaker Philippe Melka. Melka also blended fruit from two other Pritchard Hill vineyards for Fairchild’s second Premiere offering, a cabernet sauvignon owner Lawrence D. Fairchild called Stones No. 2. Gary Vaynerchuk, of Wine Library in Springfield, New Jersey, was high bidder at $100,000.
Cliffewood Wine Syndicate, a consortium of wine lovers from Little Rock, Arkansas, opened and closed the bidding on the Chateau Boswell lot at $100,000, a cabernet sauvignon “sealed with a kiss of petit verdot” from winemaker Russell Bevan.
The fourth highest bid of the afternoon of $85,000 was for another Pritchard Hill cabernet sauvignon from Pritchard Hill, also made by Philippe Melka. This special cuvee from select barrels in the Gandona cellar was also purchased by Cliffewood Wine Syndicate.
Three lots of wine futures each sold for $80,000. Wine geeks Adam Craun, Hayes Drumwright and Adriel Lares relied on winemaker Sam Kaplan to come up with a single barrel selection of cabernet sauvignon from the Dr. Crane vineyard for the Memento Mori lot. The Memento Mori offering at last year’s Premiere was one of the best this attendee tasted. I didn’t get to taste this year’s entry (“all gone” by the time I got around to it), but it’s obvious the folks at Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas liked it. They will get to offer it to their customers once it’s released come fall.
If you want to taste Pulido-Walker cabernet sauvignon from Pritchard Hill produced by another roundly praised winemaker, Thomas Rivers Brown, you’ll have to go to Japan, as it was purchased by Tokyo’s Nakagawa Wine Co.
The third wine that sold for $80,000 is the handiwork of the three amigos — John and Doug Shafer and that savvy cellarmaster who’s been part of the team for decades, Elias Fernandez. The five cases of cabernet sauvignon from the Sunspot block of their Stags Leap District vineyard is staying a little closer to home than other lots. It was purchased by Bounty Hunter, Mark Pope’s exceptional wine retail operation in downtown Napa. But you’ll have to wait for a while to taste it — the cellar release date is fall of 2017.
The Shafer offering was one of the wines I did get to taste Saturday morning. A big mouthful of ripe black fruit, this particular vintage resulted in a wine of great depth. A lush, layered cab, it has a delightfully long finish with a subtle blueberry note. There’s plenty of time to get your orders in — but you better have deep pockets as I expect it’ll go for at least $1,500 a bottle. The rest of that Sunspot barrel will undoubtedly wind up in the 2013 Hillside Select blend.
The remaining three lots that made up the winter trade auction’s Top 10 list each sold for $75,000. Director of winemaking Daniel Baron’s Red Baron cabernet sauvignon for Silver Oak Cellars came from the Duncan family’s Soda Canyon vineyard. The lot was purchased by Total Wine & More of Potomac, Maryland, top bidder at this year’s futures auction.
Winemaker Richie Allen selected the Stice Lane vineyard cabernet sauvignon for Rombauer Vineyards lot and it, too, was snapped up by Total Wine & More.
The Cliffewood Wine Syndicate liked what winemaker Steve Reynolds blended together for the lot offered by Constant, David Arthur, Italics and Reynolds Family Winery — cabernet sauvignon from Diamond Mountain, Pritchard Hill, Stags Leap District and Coombsville along with merlot from Stags Leap District and cabernet franc from Coombsville.
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2013 tasting real good
Tim Mondavi’s Continuum lot was one with added significance. The 2013 Bordeaux blend was the vintner’s first in his new cellar at the summit of Prithcard Hill. It also marked the 100th anniversary of his father’s birth. And it just happened to be Tim’s 40th vintage as a full-time winemaker. This blend — 56 percent cabernet sauvignon, 18 percent cabernet franc, 15 percent petit verdot and 11 percent merlot — is made from fruit grown at elevations ranging from 1,400 to 1,600 feet. The vines were planted more than two decades ago. This one I did taste. It exhibited layers and layers of flavor, the most elegant wine I tasted at Premiere. The Wine House’s Bill Knight thought so as well. He paid $70,000 for the five cases you’ll have to fly or drive down to Los Angeles to get.
Thomas Rivers Brown put together the 10th anniversary single vineyard cabernet sauvignon for The Grade Cellars, a concentrated wine that’s fairly intense on the mid-palate, with blackberry and cassis persisting on the finish. This five case lot went to Wine Library for $40,000.
Brian Brown and Keith Emerson’s inaugural Premiere Napa Valley offering was a single-block cabernet sauvignon from benchland east of Skellenger Lane. The inviting bouquet and gorgeous flavor of bright cherries made the first wine of the day quite memorable. And, oh, what a marvelous finish. The 10 case lot was sold to Gary’s Wine & Marketplace in New Jersey for $22,000.
Bryter Estates brought along a serious cabernet sauvignon from the Georges III vineyard in Rutherford. A broodingly elegant cab, cassis and mocha notes finish on the palate. The 10-case lot cost The Wine Barn in Winter Park, Florida, $16,000.
The wine that I could drink right now came from Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards. Mostly cabernet sauvignon from a single block of the estate vineyard — co-fermented with 2 percent petit verdot — it has a most inviting nose and is, in short, a lush, rich, fat cab that would taste pretty good with dinner tonight ... or I bet even better with a piece of beef on a cold night in 2019. The five case lot was sold to General Beverage Sales Company in Wisconsin for $18,000.
A rich, ripe red from Arrow & Branch proved to be a blend of a pair of distinct grapegrowing regions — anchored by Coombsville cabernet franc blended with cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot from Dr. Crane vineyard. This lovely expression of both appellations — a five case lot — went to high bidder Veraison in Zurich for $26,000.
Winemaker Diana Snowden Seysses selected cabernet franc from a vineyard above Auberge du Soleil for the 10-case Snowden Vineyards lot. A wine with finesse and a French accent, this standout provided a mix of red and black fruit with a terrific finish. The 10-case lot sold to Unwined in Alexandria, Virginia, for $28,000.
Winemakers Philippe Melka and Aaron Buoncristiani selected a single block of cabernet sauvignon for the Roy Estate “Vois Basse.” A wine with layers of ripe fruit, it’s an intense, big cab — so good that I suspect the late Charles Roy might have had a hand in it. The five case lot went to Jersey boy Gary Fisch for $35,000.
A familiar wine industry presence, Paul Hobbs put together the blend for his winery’s first Premiere Napa Valley offering. It’s a blend of cabernet sauvignon, plus 10 percent cabernet franc and a smidge of petit verdot from the Nathan Coombs Estate vineyard in Coombsville. Lush, ripe, layered, chock full of black fruit, it’s a juicy wine with a sexy finish. Owners of Yakiniku Hiroshi, a popular hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Honolulu, paid $50,000 for the five-case lot.
Steve Devitt’s big cabernet sauvignon, with pronounced silky tannins, for Darioush came from the estate’s oldest block of vines. Intense blackberry coats the palate followed by a never-ending finish. H-E-B of San Antonio picked up the 10 case lot for $40,000.
The Bure Family Wines cabernet sauvignon from winemaker Luc Morlet comes from a two acre plot surrounded by Vineyard 29. The second vintage from the property for the Europe-born Bure brothers, this is a lush, rich, ripe cab with oodles of tasty black fruit. The Wine Library paid $20,000 for five cases of this extraordinary wine.
“Wow!” That’s what came out of my mouth after tasting the cabernet sauvignon from Taplin Cellars, the oldest continuously operating family vineyard in the valley. The first collaboratiion with winemaker Julien Fayard, this is a wine of exceptional length, a wine that offers a mouthful of both red and black fruit, a wine that’s both lush and, well, tasty. Wine Library got this five case lot as well. High bid was only $18,000.