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!
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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On April 6, I’ll be part of a roundtable wine industry panel discussing “strategies for building wine brand loyalty” among what has to be one of the most fickle (and largest) group of wine consumers ever to swipe credit cards in exchange for vinous experiences: the oft-discussed (and more often misunderstood) Millennials.
The panel is part of a larger symposium for wine industry types being held at the gorgeous Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. My panel-mates (now there’s a word that has limited contextual usage!) will include moderator Brad Todd of the Richards Group, and Adam Strum (founder of Wine Enthusiast). Gary V is the keynote (for those who’ve yet to experience a Gary V keynote – it alone is worth the trip).
It’s going to be an interesting discussion, because I’m not sure that capturing the loyalty of Millennials can actually be done (at least, not in the way that wine-related business are used to doing it when it comes to Baby Boomers). Still, there is hope, provided that you can continuously entertain those buyers with transparency, compelling stories that relate experiences connected with a brand, and above all continuing to up the quality of your products. And void social-irresponsibility that could result in a brand boycott.
You know, really easy stuff, right? I recommend investing in some Tylenol, because there will definitely be headaches encountered in marketing departments before the dust settles. For more on how the Millennial set views wine, I recommend checking out Millennier.com (because it’s authored by an actual Millennial and not a late-30s guy with Millennial leanings – like me – just talking about Millennials).
I’m calling attention to this gig because it’s a paying gig (WOOT!), and therefore deserves some mention in the Going Pro vein of articles here…
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