The weather in Napa last week was almost perfect and the results from the 17th annual Premiere Napa Valley wine auction fell just shy of last year's record. Sixty seven bidders spent almost three hours purchasing 211 different lots of wine for a total of $3.04 million. The most expensive lot was a 120-bottle lot collaboration from Bevan Cellars and Chateau Boswell Winery that brought in $75,000. Shafer Vineyards' 2011 Sunspot Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was the highest per bottle price with just 60 bottles selling for $50,000.
My trip was jammed packed with tastings. Friday started with a blind Vintage Perspective Tasting of 2008, 2009, and 2010 cabernets (I skipped the chardonnay portion). My quick takeaway from that tasting was that 2008 is in a good place right now. Almost across the board, 2008 yielded fantastic wines. Wines from the 2009 vintage were a bit lighter and more floral, but with rougher tannins and shorter finishes than 2008. The 2010 wines were spotty, with many showing green aromas and flavors. I had private appointments with Lou Kapcsándy and Stephane Derenoncourt as well as attended preview receptions at Ovid (Pritchard Hill Wineries), Shafer Vineyards, Far Niente (Oakville Winegrowers Association), Silverado Vineyards (Family Owned Wineries) and Corison Winery. Friday finally ended with a Vegas meets Disney World meets Napa party at Raymond Vineyards, palate fatigue and a black mouth.
Saturday was the main event. The barrel tasting portion of the auction showcased lots mostly from the 2011 vintage. I found the vintage to be quite varied in quality. Many of the Premiere wines were under ripe, some were overly massive, but just a few were really spectacular. Granted, the wines were not finished products, but with wines that will retail for $100 to $1,000 per bottle I wanted to be wowed at every turn and I was not. My favorites wines of the week included BRAND PNV Lot 162, Continuum PNV Lot 199, Corison PNV Lot 118, Derenoncourt 2009 Red Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Inherit the Sheep 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Kapcsándy PNV Lot167, O'Shaughnessy PNV Lot 116, Oakville East Exposure PNV Lot 148 and Revana PNV Lot 92. I also enjoyed meeting Alder Yarrow, Roy Piper, Doug Wilder and Adam Lechmere for the first time.
On another, and hopefully a final note on this subject, I was congratulated by more than a handful of writers, winery owners and other industry members for my post from two weeks ago. I had no idea that so many people would would actually care (and support me) that I called out Steve Heimoff for censoring his website. I was hoping to meet Steve, but the opportunity never appeared. It is too bad more of those people don't feel comfortable speaking out publicly, but I guess that is the problem with such an insular industry.