2003 PREMIERE NAPA VALLEY® BARREL AUCTION DELIGHTS WINE TRADE WITH GREAT WINES AND UNUSUAL BLENDS
Cabernet joined by tempranillo, cabernet franc, malbec and other unique varietals set record for seventh annual futures auction
2/24/2003 - 138 one-of-a-kind wine lots created by Napa Valley's finest winemakers were auctioned off Saturday, February 22nd to a prestigious gathering of domestic and international wine wholesalers, retailers and restaurateurs at the seventh iteration of Premiere Napa Valley®.
In just two short hours, $938,800 had been raised to help support the many important programs managed by the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), official sponsors of Premiere Napa Valley.
Before the bidding began, a tasting of the barrel wines, primarily red varietals and vintage 2001 and 2002, offered more than 450 trade and news media an opportunity to taste wines created from special vineyard blocks, using innovative winemaking techniques - resulting in wines that are unavailable anywhere else in the world. The wines are scheduled for private release, to the successful bidders only, from Autumn 2003 to December 2005.
Competing for the 138 lots this year were more than 240 paddle holders stretching from New Jersey to Texas and from Canada to Japan. A total of 860 cases of wine were sold to 54 winning bidders, totaling $938,800.
Official bidding began with the Chairman's Lot, this year courtesy of Premiere Napa Valley Chair Don Weaver, director of Harlan Estate in Oakville. Ultimately, the gavel came down at $26,000 for the Chair's Lot - five cases of 2001 Cabernet Franc bottled from estate vineyards in the western hills of Oakville.
"The vibe here is the best I've ever seen," said Weaver. "The vintners are very impressed by the number and caliber of the wine trade who support this event and clearly, the trade is impressed with the wines."
Weaver went on to say the relationships between Napa vintners and trade are more collaborative than ever. "We certainly have a greater appreciation for what they want and need in the market," he added.
The top bidder of the day, Gary Fisch, owner of Gary's Wine & Marketplace, Madison, New Jersey. Fisch spent $115,500 on 10 different lots, including the Shafer Vineyards and Spottswoode Vineyard & Winery lots. A return bidder, Fisch has participated in Premiere for the past five years.
"I come to Premiere for three reasons," said top bidder Fisch. "First, I want to support the Napa Valley and the many friends I've made here over the years. These are more than just business acquaintances - these people are my friends.
"Second, it's a great learning experience. I'm continuing to understand what the winemakers are working to create. And last, our customers back east are asking for Premiere wines - they love them. They want me to use my palate and my paddle to bring home Napa Valley's finest," he concluded.
The day's single highest bid came from Wayne Hirst, owner of Hirst Imports, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. When auctioneer Fritz Hatton brought down the gavel, Hirst held the successful bid of $32,000 for five cases of Rombauer 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, hand crafted by winemaker Greg Graham.
Hirst, who has been a successful bidder at previous Premiere auctions, said "I came today planning to purchase the Rombauer lot regardless of price. It's my favorite wine and it must be for others - I didn't anticipate such intense competition."
Not only does the wine trade have an opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind Napa Valley wines at Premiere, they also have a chance to get to know the winemakers and principals of their favorite wineries, and to meet the new, up and coming winery proprietors. This year, there were a number of wineries new to Premiere: Ardente Winery, Cafaro Cellars, Dyer Vineyard, Elan Vineyards, Frias Family Vineyard, Milat Vineyards, Origin-Napa, Provenance, Renteria, Seavey Vineyard, Tres Sabores and Zahtila Vineyards.
"This is a great way for new wineries to debut their winemaking talent with the trade," said Clay Gregory, vice president and general manager of Robert Mondavi Winery and president of the Napa Valley Vintners. "The wine buyers, retailers and distributors that attend PNV are the cream of the crop, so it's a great opportunity for the new wineries to make an impression."
Because Premiere Napa Valley is a barrel "futures" auction, the lots are primarily cabernet sauvignon and other red varietals. This year, special attention was given to cabernet franc during a morning seminar and tasting which focused on how and why the varietal differs from region to region within the Valley - the impact of geography, climate and soil has on the final product. Winemakers John Skupny of Lang and Reed Wine Company; Scott McLeod of Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery; and, Robert Brittan of Stags' Leap Winery shared their expertise, as wine writer Rod Smith moderated.
PNV is held each year at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (CIA), in
St. Helena - the heart of the Napa Valley. Of special note, $100,000 of the total proceeds generated by Premiere Napa Valley 2003 will be donated by the NVV to help fund the CIA's new wine studies program. (Later this year, historic Christian Brothers Still House will become the new home for the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the CIA.) Each year, for a total of five years and $500,000, the NVV will contribute $100,000 to the Center, further demonstrating the Association's commitment to important community pursuits and partnerships.
The Napa Valley Vintners is a professional nonprofit trade organization representing 220 wineries in marketing and promotional activities throughout the United States and abroad. For more information about NVV and its members go to www.napavintners.com. Digital images of the 2003 Premiere Napa Valley are available on the Web site in both the Press Room and Auctions sections and may be downloaded at no cost.
Top Lots at Premiere 2003
Rombauer Vineyards, Inc. $32,000
Shafer Vineyards $30,000
Harlan Estate $26,000
Hartwell Vineyards $24,000
Beringer Vineyards $19,000
Robert Mondavi Winery $17,000
Spottswoode Vineyard & Winery $17,000
D.R. Stephens Estate $16,000
Vineyard 29 $16,000
Reynolds Family Winery $13,000
Duckhorn Vineyards $13,000
Top Five Bidders at Premiere 2003
1. Gary Fisch, Gary's Wine & Marketplace, Madison, NJ
2. Pram Acharya, Esperance, Charlevoix, MI
3. Masaki Inoue, Nakagawa Planning Company, Tokyo, Japan
4. Andre Saint-Jacques, Bearfoot Bistro, Whistler, BC
5. Wayne Hirst, Hirst Imports, Oklahoma City, OK