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Monday, 24 February 2014

Premiere Napa Valley Auction Doubles Sales Record!


A dozen different 2012 Napa wines sell for more than $1000 a bottle to retailers and restaurants. Who knows what they'll cost in the store?

Take that, Bordeaux. Five cases of a Napa Valley wine sold for $4,333 a bottle Saturday, highlighting a record-crushing Premiere Napa Valley auction.

The Wine House in Los Angeles paid $260,000 for just 60 bottles of a special edition of 2012 Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon. Three different auction lots – from Schrader, Shafer and ZD – sold for $100,000 each, or $1,667 a bottle. And 12 lots cost at least $1,000 per bottle. This came despite the fact that almost all of Napa's top cult names, a group that Scarecrow now must be included in, did not take part.

The wines on offer were mostly from 2012, a warm vintage that has received praise from winemakers for being easy to work with. The total of $5.9 million spent ($283 per bottle) nearly doubled last year's haul of $3.04 million, which came mostly for the cool and wet 2011 vintage.
In theory, only trade buyers from retail stores and restaurants are allowed at Premiere Napa Valley, although at least one major buyer was a syndicate of wine lovers based in Arkansas seeking prizes for their cellars. But most of these wines will end up for sale somewhere at a higher price than the buyers paid.

"I think it speaks to the economy," said Doug Shafer, president of Shafer Vineyards. "This year we've got a great vintage. I tasted a lot of the 2012s, and they're great. (The buyers) are confident that they can go back to their towns and sell them."

Glen Knight, who raised his paddle at $260,000 to capture the Scarecrow for his family's Los Angeles store, said: "I wanted to stop at $175,000, but I just got carried away. The wine is fantastic. It's the oldest Cabernet vineyard in Napa. I will sell it to my customers, but most of it's going to go in my dad's cellar."

The wine, "Toto's Opium Dream, Scene III," was a barrel selection from a block of vines planted in 1945. Robert Parker called the barrel selection of 2012 Scarecrow that he tasted (which may not have been the same wine) "another blockbuster potentially meriting a three digit score," saying: "This fruit bomb displays the classic sucrosity and sweetness of creme de cassis, toasty oak, licorice and floral notes."

Parker previously gave the 2007 Scarecrow 100 points; the average retail bottle price of that wine on Wine-Searcher is now $893, about 20 percent of what each bottle of this wine cost wholesale.


Scarecrow winemaker Celia Welch, who sat beside winery owner Bret Lopez and his partner Mimi DeBlasio, said: "At about $150,000, I just kind of went blank. I never expected it to go anywhere near that kind of money. It's just about taking really good care of these ancient vines. Each of them is so special and unique. In the winery, it's really just about holding on to that special intensity."

The fight over the Scarecrow quickly narrowed to two bidders, Knight and the team from the large national retailer Total Wine & More. The Total team was assigned paddle #1 for good reason, as it left St. Helena with 27 of the 225 lots offered, far more than any other bidder.
The two bidders sat less than 10 feet apart, across an aisle, and the three-person Total team, just slightly behind, could see Knight slumped in his chair, but he never looked behind him. Instead, he immediately and matter-of-factly raised his paddle every time Total decided to up the ante. Knight's father scowled beside him the entire time, but did not make any move toward the paddle. The price went from $120,000 to $260,000 in about 45 seconds, jumping in $20,000 increments.

"We went past our limit," said Steve Olsen, senior vice president of Total Wine & More. "I'm not going to tell you how high our limit was. But it was hard not to raise the paddle again."
Scarecrow owner Lopez said: "When it passed $200,000, I was just stunned. It went up so fast. I'm kind of in shock. A part of me says we should never enter an auction again, because we're never going to do that well again. We had three guests this year that came to the house. All three said, 'This year I'm going to win.' Glen told me he had $180,000. I thought it would be lucky to get that high. I hope he can market it. It is really good wine. It's probably the best wine we've ever made."

The battle over Scarecrow came near the end of what had already been a record-setting auction. The top bid in 2013 had been $75,000, for a 120-bottle lot, and the highest price per bottle was $833. On Saturday, 11 lots topped 2013's top bid.

It does raise the question of what these wines will cost the general public. Zoës Restaurant in Virginia Beach bid $100,000 for the Shafer lot, just 60 bottles of a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Sunspot block in the middle of the vineyard responsible for its top-end Hillside Select Cabernet. Shafer had the highest average bottle price of $833 at last year's Premiere; these wines cost exactly double – wholesale.

"We think it's a value at that price," said Zoës sommelier Marc Sauter. "What would you have paid for Lafite Rothschild '82 back in the day? I've always been a big fan of Hillside (Select) and of Shafer in general. It's the Sunspot. It's the center of Hillside. Parker gave 2010 100 points. 2012 is a better vintage. We tasted it. It has amazing mouthfeel."

"We would have bid up to $125,000," Sauter said. "We're still going to make money on this."

Source: www.wine-searcher.com