Premiere Wine Auction Nets $5.9 million

The Napa Valley trade auction proceeds almost double than last year

by Paul Franson
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Auctioneer Fritz Hatton sells the last lot. Photo: Bob McClenahan, NV Vintners.

St. Helena, Calif.—The 18th annual Premiere Napa Valley futures auction raised $5.9 million Saturday, up 90% from last year’s already strong $3.1 million.

The previous record was $3.12 million in 2012.

The trade auction promotes Napa Valley wines while it raises money used by sponsor Napa Valley Vintners to support the valley’s wine industry.

Premiere Napa Valley is for the trade only, and sold out quickly to 600 top buyers from eight countries and 28 states who paid to attend, as well as members of the media.

This auction is unlike the vintners’ Auction Napa Valley in early June, which welcomes consumers and donates its proceeds to Napa Valley medical and youth programs.

The heady auction total was undoubtedly fueled by the industry’s anticipation of the superb 2012 harvest, which accounted for more than 90% of the lots. Most of the wines won’t be delivered until later this year or next year.

The two preceding years, 2010 and 2011, were more challenging, as was evident in a retrospective of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Napa Cabernets sponsored by the vintners.

Early word is that the 2013 wines may turn out to be even better. The hefty total also reflects the continuing recovery of the economy and especially the luxury wine market.

Most of the wines were Cabernet or Cabernet blends. Only seven weren’t red.

Average bottle price $283
The average price per bottle sold was $283, and that’s a wholesale prices. The wholesalers, retailers and restaurateurs who bought them generally price them higher to customers, though some use the wines for publicity or to reward good customers.

The 225 lots included five, 10 or 20 cases of one-of-a-kind wines donated by members, making price comparisons difficult, but there’s no question that prices were up.

The strongest bidding went for a Scarecrow Wine lot of 60 bottles from the J.J. Cohn Vineyard made by Celia Welch. The lot attracted $260,000, more than twice the previous record of $125,000 for a single lot. That’s $4,333 per bottle.

Oter top lots included Schrader Cellars; Shafer Vineyards Hillside Select and ZD Wines for an unusual multi-vintage Cabernet blend aged in multiple barrels much like a sherry solera, all for $100,000.

Next were Robert Mondavi Winery; Cakebread Cellars; a joint lot Bevan Cellars and Chateau Boswell Winery; VHR, Vine Hill Ranch; a joint lot of Constant, David Arthur Vineyards and Reynolds Family Winery; Silver Oak Cellars; Joseph Phelps Vineyards; and Brand Napa Valley.

Total Wines is top bidder
The average lot price was $26,222, and only a few lots went for less than $10,000. The lot prices seem to rise as excitement built, fueled by the long-time auctioneers, frantic Fritz Hatton and business-like Ursula Hermacinski.

The lowest price was about $30 per bottle early in the bidding. The top bidder at the auction was Total Wine & More, which has stores in 15 states. Its members, including Christina Pearce, who raised paddle number 1, spent more than $750,000 on 27 lots.

Mark Pope’s Bounty Hunter wine retailer in Napa spent nearly $500,000 for 13 lots and came in as the second bidder. It bought two of the top ten lots, Schrader, and Joseph Phelps Vineyards.

The other top ten buyers were Cliffewood Wine Syndicate of Little Rock, Ark.; Wine Library of Springfield, N.J.; The Wine House of Los Angeles, Calif.; Gary’s Wine & Marketplace of Madison, N.J.; Nakagawa Wine Company of Tokyo, Japan; Beverage Warehouse of Los Angeles; Yakiniku Hiroshi of Honolulu, Hawaii; Meritage Wine Market of Encinitas, Calif; Zoes Restaurant of Virginia Beach, Va,; and HEB of San Antonio, Texas.

The auction culminated a week of activities for wine buyers and the media. The Napa Valley Vintners also celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, a joint activity with the Culinary Institute of American and Meadowood resort in St. Helena.

The vintners also launched its new Sommelier Napa Valley program, reflecting the increasing influence of sommeliers.

The writers symposium attracted top editors and writers as speakers for the attendees, all already professionals already. Among the highlights: Robert Parker, who reminisced on his career and repeated his frustration that many other writers oversimplify his tastes and overstate his influence.

Thursday and Friday, wineries and winery groups including many sub-appellations in Napa Valley hosted more than 50 parties and other events for the trade and media.

Hugh Davies, president and CEO of Schramsberg Vineyards and J.Davies Estate was the chair of the 2014 Premiere Napa Valley Steering Committee.

Posted on 04.07.2014 - 14:32:00 PST
Thanks for letting us know Janet, we've updated the story. Cheers
Andrew Adams

Posted on 04.04.2014 - 11:05:56 PST
Nice article. It was a great event! Just noticed a few typos with the vintages:
The two preceding years, 2010 and 2012 [2011], were more challenging, as was evident in a retrospective of the 2009, 2010 and 2010 [2011] Napa Cabernets sponsored by the vintners.
Janet Viader