Is there a new pecking order for cult Napa Cabs?
Well, the case could certainly be made after this past Saturday’s Premiere Napa Valley: the part-auction, part-networking-event, part-total-insanity in which small, selected barrels/lots from some of Napa’s most celebrated wine producers are auctioned off to collectors, buyers and importers, as special, once-in-a-lifetime future bottlings. The idea is that those wines are unique to each winning bidder, as the small lots from each producer are sold in their entirety to the winning bidder for that lot (I attended on the heels of the 2011 Pro Wine Writers Symposium).
Last year’s auction started off a little grim due to the down economy. The atmosphere was a little more convivial this year and when the biddings kicked off, the auction room was packed and the excitement, to my eyes and ears anyway, was more palpable. But when a Japanese importer got into a friendly-but-intense bidding battle over Scarecrow’s 5-case 2011 Premiere lot, the festivities took on the air of a rock concert, with cheering, clapping and smiles. No dancing or head-banging, though.
The winning bid by the Japanese importer was $125,000 – roughly $2,000 per bottle of Scarecrow’s stuff on offer that day.
We may just have a new King of cult Napa Cabs, and a renewed focus on Scarecrow’s winemaker Celia Welch – not only was the $125K the highest bid of the day for any of the 200 auction lots on offer, it was the highest winning bid in the history of the Premiere Napa Valley auction.
Will that Japanese importer ever break even on this weekend’s historic transaction? Probably not, at least not when it comes to recovering the investment on that particular wine. BUT… very likely the cache factor will send more business their way, so it seems a smart move commercially.
Is the news good for CA wine? Probably – if there were a better indication of the economy for high-end wine recovering, I’ve yet to see it. I did hear grumbling on the auction floor by other producers that the historic bid was more fanfare and marketing over substance, but there were plenty of people raving about the quality of the Scarecrow lot wine, and I think any Napa Cab producer needs to see the forest through the trees here – I can’t think of any way in which this won’t benefit the recovering industry here, generally-speaking.
More to come on all of this later in the week – including my notes on some of the other auction lot wines, and video of the history-making gavel being slammed on that Scarecrow auction (for now, you’ll have to settle for my crappy cell phone picture of the winning moment from the “results board”).
What do YOU think? Is Scarecrow’s record-breaking success a boon for Napa Cab.? or is it a score-whoring setback for fine wine at affordable prices? Shout it out in the comments!
Ok, so after all my talk of Valentine’s Day and the unauthentic splurges it generates like so many embers from a fire of burning love letters after a bitter break-up, I thought I’d go the total hypocrite route and (finally) detail the samples I cracked open on V-Day. So sue me. Whatever.
NV Bollinger Brut Rosé Champagne ($100)
I’m going to ignore Bollinger’s PR push to promote their affiliation to the royal family in the UK (who have awarded Bollinger with the Royal Warrant since 1884, and which is now reached a fever-pitch of hype with the recent royal engagement), because I now find the whole thing too annoying, in stark contrast to this very sexy but possibly-overpriced sparkler. It’s predominantly Pinot Noir, with the Chardonnay and Pinot Munier playing more supporting roles, and the results are quite Pinot-ish as you’d expect, with the initial impressions being tart cherry fruit and a sizeable mouthfeel despite a relatively modest 12% abv. This might explain why it got low-90s scores from most of the established wine mags, who might have been too quick to pronounce judgment – it takes a good 45 minutes in the glass for the Bollinger Brut Rose to open up, but when it does you will get some incredible baked red apple coming at you, and a great match for appetizers of almost any stripe.
More after the jump…
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As most regular 1WD readers know, I’m not much for classic reporting-style articles.
In fact, to me the choice between writing a “such-and-such took place on Monday and so-and-so was honored with a whozy-whatsit for their work on the whatcha-ma-jigger” piece or a “let me tell you what I think about X…” piece – namely, between writing a USA Today style event report ,or interpreting an event through the prism of my unique but twisted perception – is sort of like having to choose between being brutally murdered or having amazing sex. In other words, there’s really no choice at all, is there?
So, you’ll hopefully understand why I’m having trouble trying to decide how best to bring you news of the Fifth Annual Vintners Hall of Fame event held earlier this week at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena (I was invited as part of the 2011 Pro Wine Writers Symposium, which in turn I’m attending as a speaker but more so as a learner as I gear up my efforts trying to make a living in the wine world). To further complicate the matter, I promised my friend W. Blake Gray (who chairs the VHF Electoral College) that I’d consider writing something about the event, and he’s really a very talented and nice guy so I’m gonna feel really bad about myself if I don’t at least give this the old college try.
See, even that tiny bit of exposition was painful to write. F*ck me, I need a drink already.
Anyway, rather than give you a litany of facts about this year’s thoroughly deserving inductees (you can read all about them at http://www.ciaprochef.com/winestudies/events/vhf_inductees.html), I want to share with you what those inductees – or, rather, the what the speeches that introduced those inductees – tells us about how California wine came of age. And it can be summed up in two words…
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