Premiere Napa Valley 2014

Now that the dust has settled after this amazing whirlwind I can’t help but think about what this event not only accomplished (raising a record shattering $5.9 million bucks) but the overall experience.

I am sure that many of you know of Auction Napa Valley, the annual auction that happens during the first week of June each year which focuses on bringing consumers into the lavish lifestyle endeavors that the Napa wine world wants you and your friends to enjoy. At their core they have pretty much the same outline, however Premiere Napa Valley is dedicated to the trade; retailers, restaurateurs, wholesalers, distributors and so on. It is a very VERY wine-savvy event. You basically throw decades of wine knowledge, experience, power and prowess all into one room and say “go.”

The auction lots range from 5, 10 or 20 cases of a single unique wine which go to a single auction winner. So not only is it a super small production but, in general, you can only get these in one spot. In total there were 225 lots, each from a unique wine producer or combination of  wine producers. The tasting of these lots being at 9am sharp for the bidders who happen to win one of these exclusive lots in at the previous event. At 9:30am the rest of us yahoos are let in to go through what are an amazing lineup.

First of all if you try to go through all 225 lots, most of which are Cabernet Sauvignon or other assorted big reds/blends, before the tasting closes at 1pm you are probably going to end up face down on the concrete floor of the CIA Greystone building, where the event is held each year. There were plenty of people who looked like they were up to that challenge until the last hour or so. The key is to do a little bit of research as you get to the tasting floor and pace yourself. Find a few favorite producers and then seek out a few more that are new and different. Checking out some of the “cult” productions is always a blast, more so for sh!ts and giggles than anything else. Lord knows I can’t afford those bad boys; I like to think there are very few people who would pay $260k for 5 cases of Scarecrow.  And yes, that actually happened this year.

Out of the 225 I probably got through two or three dozen (yeah I’m not really sure). There were definitely some winners and losers, some you might not expect considering the lineup of producers. The lots from Barnett and J. Davies were the top two on my list by far. They were probably the most complex, approachable and had the most potential to go the distance in terms of aging out of the wines that I tasted that day. Ancien, Coho, Ovid and Larkmead were also high on my list. All of them were very solid wines that made you think. Schramsberg and Domaine Chandon made the list because they were doing sparkling wine (thank god for something refreshing in what seemed like a never ending sea of red wine). Both lots of bubbles were very good beyond the fact that they were a good break from the rest of the lots. Some of the other “cult-y” guys were fun to try but none of them stuck out like those I listed above, even that $260k lot. It was good but would much rather have my hands any of those other guys.

Once the tasting concluded there was a brief pause for lunch after which the bidding began at a furious clip. As soon as bidding concluded on one lot it was on to the next. Truthfully it was hard to keep up with at first but the auction quickly became an amazing spectacle as paddles rose and fell with the auctioneer(s) moving swiftly from $5,000 to $10,000, $20,000 and beyond for many of the lots.

Frankly it is hard to describe the scene that is Premiere Napa Valley. It is awesome; not like Spicoli “totally awesome” (kind of) but more like awe-inspiring. It makes you realize the power of wine, and some the major players in the wholesale game, despite the fact that it is just a beverage that folks like you and me enjoy on a regular basis. It also makes you remember that even though wine is just a beverage it is also so much more than that.

The bottom line is that if you have the chance to try a wine from Premiere Napa Valley you should take that leap, it is very likely you won’t see it again, and if you have the chance to attend the event you should say “yes” without missing a beat.

-Manderson

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