Friday, February 28, 2014

A few more thoughts on Premiere Napa Valley

Just as with last year, I want to write about a few specific thoughts on Premiere Napa Valley in a bit more detail than my initial post.
Premiere Napa Valley 2014 Auction

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Initial comments on Premiere Napa Valley 2014

As usual, the weather in Napa this past weekend was almost perfect and the results from the 18th annual Premiere Napa Valley wine auction shattered the previous record. Seventy three bidders spent more than three hours purchasing 225 different lots of wine for a total of $5.9 million. That total was almost as much as the two previous auctions (now the second and third largest results) combined! The most expensive lot was a 60-bottle lot collaboration from Scarecrow that brought in an astounding $260,000. That lot was more than double the previous record for a single lot and comes to $4,333 per bottle. What makes this even more mind-blowing is that more than a dozen other lots sold for less than $10,000, including a few that sold for just $5,000 total. That's almost the price for just one bottle of the Scarecrow! Other six-digit lots included Schrader Cellars' 2012 Double Diamond Rocky's Row,  Shafer Vineyards' 2012 Sunspot Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and ZD Wines' Non-Vintage Petit Abacus all selling for $100,000 for five cases.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Off to Premiere Napa Valley 2014

I'm headed to the 18th annual Premiere Napa Valley barrel tasting and auction today. Premiere Napa Valley offers some of the world's rarest wines, with wine winemakers pushing the limits of their creativity, offering one-of-a-kind limited lots. With a maximum of 240 bottles, and more often only 60 bottles per lot, the wines offered at Premiere Napa Valley are truly unique pieces of art. Vintners, members of the trade, and media are invited every February to taste the barrels of these special wines as a preview of the coming vintage release and to raise money for the Napa Valley Vintners trade association. The lots are purchased by retailers and restaurants and then occasionally made available to their customers.

The barrel tasting tomorrow morning will be somewhat of a preview to the 2012 vintage of Napa cabernet sauvignon. There will be the token chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and sparkling wine offerings, as well as a handful of Bordeaux blends showcasing cabernet franc, malbec, merlot and petit verdot, but the vast majority of donated wines will be varietal cabernet sauvignon. After a series of cool vintages (with 2011 being the wettest and coldest) the 2012 vintage has been proclaimed to be an excellent growing season. Fruit quality was high. Along with yield. From what I've heard from winemakers is that 2013 gets a slight nod to 2012, but I'm eager to see what the tastings today and tomorrow reveal and to see how much bidders are willing to spend on high-end Napa Valley wine.

When I get to California in a few hours (it's 5 am here at gate B37 in Denver), I'll make the drive up to Napa and weave my way throughout the valley visiting various appellation preview tastings and a few private parties. At these events, PNV lots will be previewed and other wineries not part of the auction will be pouring their latest released and maybe even a few library wines. While the introduction to vintage, and they opportunity to taste wines I can only dream of affording, are important parts of why I attend PNV, I am really looking forward to seeing friends and acquaintances in the industry. Colorado is kind of like an island in the American wine world. Most wineries and wine writers are found on the coasts. So at big industry gatherings like this it is fun to see familiar faces and meet new people. I of course am eager to taste a few key wines, but the informal and social dinner tonight with a few "New California" winemaking and wine-writing friends might be my most anticipated stop. I even brought a bottle if Colorado petit verdot to share!

Oh, I almost forgot that I told Paul Mabray that I'd try to get a selfie of Steve Heimoff and me. I saw Steve last year in passing, but didn't have the opportunity to introduce myself. I am hopeful I can meet Steve this year and fulfill my promise to Paul.

Ok, time to get some sleep in the flight and I'll report back next week (I'm sure I'll be tweeting throughout the weekend)!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Do wine sales matter for writing wine blogs?

Yesterday, Joe Roberts wrote about one of the most commonly cited criticisms of wine blogs. An argument that many critics use to support their claim of wine blogs' insignificance is that blogs do not move consumers to buy wine and are thus useless to wineries trying to sell wine. I have no idea how many people use my blog to make purchase decisions, and frankly I do not care. I do know that I have purchased wines based on recommendations from other blogs, as well as recommendations from traditional wine publications (Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, et al.). I buy wine for many different reasons.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The California wine industry wouldn't be where it is without Colorado...

In terms of size, history and reputation, Colorado doesn't hold a candle to California. I happen to think some of Colorado's wines can compare quality-wise to premium California wines, but they're still just a drop in the bucket compared to their Bear State counterparts. Over the past 50 or so years California wine has been immensely influential in the global wine industry. Despite producing wine for over 150 years, it took until 1976 for California to get the respect it deserved. Colorado on the other hand, not so much. However, many of California's biggest names in wine have their roots in Colorado (including a wine at that Judgement of Paris tasting). Colorado, after all, is known as the headwaters of America for being the source of four major rivers, so why shouldn't it also supply some of California's vintners as well?

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Daily Grind...

Writing a wine blog can be a difficult endeavor. I have the utmost respect for those individuals that are able to publish something on a daily basis. A few blogs are the result of a collection of collaborators, but many are lone writers typing away every single day. I'd love to be able to write every day, but I just can't. While my blog sometimes gets in the way of my life, my life gets more in the way of my blog.

I have a job, a wife, a child and a house to take care. The cats and chickens are easy when compared to all of those other things, but they take work too. I'd be willing to bet that most wine writers that are able to publish daily have few of those responsibilities. I'm sure some do, and probably even more! The hardest part, but also best, of my life has to be the 2-yr old that is sitting next to me as I type this. 2-yr olds require near constant attention (if you expect them, and your belongings, to be safe). When I am home, and thus able to write, my attention is usually not directed at my computer. Diverting a few moments here and there to Twitter is much easier than spend a decent chunk of time typing on this keyboard (which coincidentally is missing the comma key because of a curious little boy...) when feeding, entertaining and cleaning up after the little guy are necessary. Before Ben was born I used to write at night before bed. But now, after he has gone to sleep, I usually just want to turn my brain off and watch television. Over the past year, I've been lucky if I've posted something once a week. Now, I'm not trying to get any sympathy. I understand that I could watch less TV or sleep less if I really wanted to publish more blog posts. My lack of ability for posting more often makes what others do even more impressive.

Time isn't the only limiting factor. Coming up with ideas is almost as difficult as finding the time to put those ideas into a form that other people might want to read. Yes, I do respect the writers that are able to write something every single day. I don't care if some of the topics are repetitive, banal or vexatious, daily publishing is still impressive.

I started this blog as more of a journal to catalog my exploration of the wine world. I would write about the wines that I drank, but I a grew tired of just writing tasting notes with no real bigger picture than just promoting a wine. I do receive a small number of sample wines and taste them with every intent of writing about them, but unless I find the wine really interesting and fitting into a bigger topic I am unlikely to just write a tasting note. Now if I were to start receiving more samples, then then topics such as comparing similar wines from different regions might be more reasonable stories. One successful tasting series was Ben's Bubbly. When my son was born, I added a weekly topic that focused on tasting sparkling wines from around the world, as well as documenting Ben's growth. It was a fun series, and one that I am considering bringing back, although with a different style of wine.

I tried to do a regular interview with Colorado winemakers, but that ran its course when I couldn't get any more responses from more winemakers. It is frustrating that so few Colorado vintners keep up with the world of wine writing. That idea morphed into a series of interviews of American vintners over on Decanter.com, but ever since an editorial change a few months ago I have been unable to continue with that (in fact, two additional interviews were submitted but never published). I might also try to bring these interviews back to the blog in the the future if I can find interested winemakers.

One of my favorite new topics is the occasional "guest" posts by Dr. Harry Oldman and Remi Burmí. The posts by these two characters are more creative and humorous than traditional wine blogging. Plus, they provide a different perspective than I would normal provide. I can guarantee that both will continue as guest writers in the future.

Most of my recent posts are simply opinion pieces reacting to some news item or an other wine writer's articles. I know that across the blogosphere too many stories are about blogging and I am just as guilty as the next blogger. Social media, the 100-pt system and the alcohol content of wine seem to be some of the more discussed topics by digital and traditional writers alike. I happen to think that a healthy debate has its place in the wine world. I am not shy, especially when I disagree with someone. However, there is a lot of navel gazing in the world of wine writing, but that can be said about many other fields. Just look at tabloid journalism. All TMZ and the like "report" on is the illegal or absurd activity of a few celebrities. In academics, many peer-reviewed articles are researchers debating research methods and findings. Politics seems the same way these days. There is more name-calling and criticism, over the same few topics, than getting anything actually accomplished for the good of the country.

I'd love to get feedback from my readers as to what you want to read. I'd love to be able to publish on a daily basis, but that is most likely not going to happen. I do, however, want to try to be more active on my blog. Would more reviews be of interest? How about interviews with winemakers or even retailers? Would having posts published on the same day of the week be a good idea? Do you think Dr. Oldman or Ms. Burmí should be retired? Get more coverage? I really want to know how can I make this blog better. Please let me know in the comments!