Monday, February 28, 2011

15th Annual Premiere Napa Valley Auction for the Trade Breaks Records, Bringing Nearly $2.4 Million

The Napa Valley Vintners' (NVV) annual wine futures auction to the trade held February 26 in the Napa Valley, broke records finishing at nearly $2.4 million in sales. At 1,000-strong, the crowd of vintners along with retailers, restaurateurs, distributors, brokers and media from across the country and around the world, assembled at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St Helena topped last year's take by more than 23% during the three-hour live auction.

"Premiere Napa Valley (PNV) is often viewed as a barometer of confidence in current, as well as future sales of Napa Valley wines. Saturday's auction totals reflect a continuing trend of improved sales in the market for fine wine from the renowned American appellation, as well as optimism for the coming months and years," said NVV Board President Kathleen Heitz Myers of Heitz Wine Cellars.

By the Numbers
The statistics show a continual trending up. Last year's PNV auction brought nearly 30% more than 2009's take, and this year closed at 6% more than 2008's record-setting $2.2 million, clear indicators that confidence in investing in Napa Valley wines is strong. Overall this year there were 68 successful bidders, a third of whom were first-time bidders, who purchased 1530 cases at an average case price of $1546, an increase of 37% over the recession-stressed take of 2009 and 20% more than 2010's average case price.

The barrel futures auction capped a day where the 500 trade attendees representing 85 retailers, 66 restaurants, and 81 distributors/brokers began early in the morning with a tasting of the 200 offerings, followed by lunch in the school's teaching kitchen. Along with bidding, the day is the "must attend" networking event for these influential trade people.

"You could feel the buzz from the time the doors opened--the weather report called for snow in the Napa Valley--seriously--and thankfully it turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day. The energy was upbeat," continued Heitz Myers.

"I am thrilled that our fundraising has been such a great success this year," said 2011 PNV Steering Committee Chair Michael Honig of Honig Vineyards and Winery. "The soul of Premiere is the opportunity to network, peer to peer for the trade and for the vintners in making new and reinforcing existing relationships with our key ambassadors in the wine trade. The Saturday event sets the stage for a lot of business being done beyond the auction. It's great for our vintners and great for these trade who sell our wine to their customers."

New Records Being Set
Saturday's auction also broke PNV's previous single-lot record bringing $125,000 for a five- case offering from Scarecrow Wine, selling to Tokyo-based Nakagawa Wine Co. The previous single-lot record of $80,000 was set in 2007. Perennial auctioneer Fritz Hatton worked the bidding war that roared quickly into six figures as the audience of bidders and vintners cheered. When the gavel fell, the crowd jumped to their feet in rousing applause.

Ichizo Nakagawa when asked why he battled for the lot said, "When I came to the auction, I intended to get that wine no matter what it took." Nakagawa purchased five lots in total.

"I'm amazed, I'm shocked," said Scarecrow owner Bret Lopez stepping outside to catch his breath. "We never dreamed we'd reach this stature and (winemaker) Celia Welsh is a genius, a humble genius who coaxes the sublime flavors from the old men," referring to the 66-year-old-vines that produce just a 1/2 ton per acre.

Gary Fisch of Gary's Wine and Marketplace with three stores in New Jersey continues as the auction's top bidder, capturing 300 cases from 32 producers, spending more than a half million dollars this year alone. Fisch holds the title as the retailer offering the most prestigious list of Premiere Napa Valley wines in the world. This year among his successful bids, Fisch captured top-grossing lots from Ovid, Duckhorn Vineyards and Robert Mondavi Winery, as well as the chair's lot from Honig Vineyards and Winery.

The value of PNV wines for a wholesale buyer like Fisch is that the wines provide offerings to clients that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and from America's most renowned wineries that no prestigious cellar should be without.

Also among the top ten bidders of the day were; The Wine House, Los Angeles, CA; Cliffewood Wine Syndicate, Little Rock, AR; The Bounty Hunter, Napa, CA; Meritage Wine Market, Encinitas, CA; Golden Gate Wine Cellars, San Francisco, CA; Beverage Warehouse, Los Angeles, CA; Cache Road Liquor & Wines, Lawton, OK; The Metz Group, Dallas, PA; Bearfoot Bistro, Whistler, BC., Montesquieu, Napa, CA.

Rounding out the top ten highest earning lots of the day include Schrader Cellars, Ovid, first-time Premiere-participating winery, Levy and McClellan, Shafer Vineyards, Robert Mondavi Winery, Reynolds Family Winery, Duckhorn Vineyards, Silver Oak Cellars and Beringer Vineyards.

Click here for the full press release.

Click here for Premiere Napa Valley photo coverage.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Look Back at the 2010 Chardonnay Harvest with Ceja Vineyards

Footage of the Ceja vineyard crew hard at work picking Chardonnay in the Carneros district of Napa for Ceja Vineyards' 2010 vintage.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bottling 2009 Chardonnay with Elias Fernandez at Shafer

It's time for Shafer’s Chardonnay to move from barrel to bottle in an annual tug-of-war between winemaker and chaos!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Napa Vintners Release Findings of Climate Study

The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) non-profit trade association announced today the release of the Napa Valley-specific climate study titled Climate and Phenology in Napa Valley: A Compilation and Analysis of Historical Data by Dr. Daniel R. Cayan, Dr. Kimberly Nicholas, Mary Tyree, and Dr. Michael Dettinger.

In 2006, a researcher garnered national media attention by predicting that Napa Valley would soon become too warm to grow fine wine grapes. These reports noted signs of warming in California and the western United States in recent decades, calling attention to several changing indicators in weather, hydrological and biological systems. Evidence from other Mediterranean climate regions around the world indicated that climate warming may be taking hold in these settings. However, the experience of Napa Valley growers has been contrary to the notion that Napa Valley has warmed substantially. A problem in applying this previous research to the Napa Valley is that it has considered just a few weather station records in Napa Valley, which has long been known for very diverse micro-climates and growing conditions.

This just-released Napa-specific study by Cayan and colleagues scrutinized weather and phenology (the growing cycle of grapevines) records based on many more stations within Napa Valley, and arrived at a number of important new conclusions. Over the four years of the study, more than 12,000 data points were collected from measurements made at geographically diverse sites in the valley, using information ranging from hand-written journals kept by long-time growers to digital data from current-day automated weather stations positioned valley-wide. Most of the observations were from records taken since the late 1970s, but some of the hand-written entries were from as early as the 1950s. The Executive Summary of the study is attached; in brief, it finds that the region has experienced some warming, approximately 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the past several decades, but considerably less warming than would be inferred from the standard cooperative observer weather stations in Napa Valley. The warming has been primarily in winter, spring and summer, and it has concentrated during nighttime rather than daytime. Over the last several decades in growing season temperatures, there has been little warming in the daytime and the available observations provide little evidence that the growing cycle of the grapevines has changed substantially.

The results, overall, provide good short-term news that consumers are not "tasting" climate change in Napa Valley wines. It reinforces the firmly held belief among growers and winemakers that the taste profile of Napa Valley's wines is driven by its place of origin, as well as by the solid direction of the in-field practices related to viticulture (clonal and rootstock selection, canopy management, irrigation, crop load and hang time, among others) along with stylistic preferences in winemaking.

Click here to read the full story.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

In the Cellar reviewing the 2010 Ceja Chardonnay Vintage with Winegrower Armando Ceja

Napa Vintners' Premiere Event for the Wine Trade Sold Out

The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) non-profit trade association announces today that its annual Premiere Napa Valley (PNV) mid-winter barrel tasting and auction for the wine trade taking place February 26 is sold out.

"We are delighted with the response from the wine trade--retailers and restaurateurs, wholesalers and brokers from across the country, as well as the UK, Canada and Japan--who will attend the 15th annual Premiere tasting and auction," said PNV 2011 Chair Michael Honig of Honig Vineyard and Winery.

"This continues to be the must-attend event for the wine trade each year. It raises money for our trade association's work to promote and protect the Napa Valley appellation, but more importantly, the event provides the opportunity for the best networking event anyone could ask for. All under one roof at The Culinary Institute of America in St Helena will be hundreds of winemakers and winery owners pouring their offerings to the 200+ wholesale wine accounts represented by the attendees," said Honig.

"Selling out four weeks in advance of the tasting and auction is a clear signal of the demand for Napa Valley wines, as well as the recognition of the value of networking and relationship building that PNV provides. What we always understand in Napa Valley is that building and maintaining personal relationships with the top accounts that attend Premiere is integral to our success in the market," said PNV steering committee member Jeff McBride of Stag's Leap Wine Cellar.

"Premiere Napa Valley is where winemakers get to have a 'gloves off' approach to what they make," said PNV steering committee member John Skupny of Lang and Reed Wine Co. "These wines are ultra-boutique wines crafted in as few as sixty and never more than 240 bottle lots from 200 renowned Napa Valley wineries, each sold to one buyer like a restaurant or retail store, who then offers these wines to their savviest customers. So while the event is only for the wine trade, the product--the portfolio of Premiere Napa Valley wines-- provides wine consumers with not only truly one-of-a-kind wine, but some of the very best wines from the Napa Valley."

Consumers can see the wines offered as futures at and engage their favorite wine retailer, whether in attendance or not, to purchase wines on their behalf. Another way for consumers to purchase these rare wines is by visiting the website after the wines have been sold at the February 26 event to see who will have them on their shelf or wine list.