A bidding war came when Lot 80 featuring Silver Oak Winery’s 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon was announced. When the gavel final hit, the winning bid stood at $140-thousand, the highest during the three-hour live auction held at the Culinary Institute of America for the 23rd Annual Premiere Napa Valley. This sold-out wine auction attracts wine professionals and wine enthusiasts from around the world. Attendees spent the morning sampling one-of-a kind tastings from barrel futures, took notes and were ready for the live auction that commenced in the afternoon.

Seventy-two percent of this year’s 187 lots were from the 2017 vintage and appreciation for their gracefulness was mentioned throughout the tasting. According to Korinne Munson, Communications Director for the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), the number of lots were down this year over last year by 30-lots.

“The lot size varies from year to year depending on vintner participation and the grape yield year to year,” said Munson. “2017 saw a lower grape yield, but the quality of the grapes was high.”

Lot 11 featuring St. Supery Estate’s 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon offered a unique vintage aged in a barrel from a 350-year old oak tree from the forest of France according to Misty Roudenbush Cain, Marketing Director of St. Suprey.

“St. Supéry was fortunate to garner possession of 12 of these rare and unique barrels, using one of them for our 2019 Premiere Auction Napa Valley 20 case lot,” said Roudenbush. “When Louis XIV nationalized the forests in France it was so that he could sustainably source the tallest and straightest trees for the army’s ship masts. He limited the number of trees that were to be harvested each year on a sustainable yield basis to protect the forests. This tradition continues today with a limited number of trees that can be sourced each year. This is the second year we have used one of these barrels for our Premiere Lot.”

Premiere Napa Valley wines are unique selections crafted by NVV member winemakers for just one moment in time, never to be replicated, in quantities as small as 60 bottles and never more than 240. Upon release, each bottle is hand-numbered and signed by the winemaker, increasing the allure of these wines for top collectors. More than half the lots commanded winning bids of $40-thousand or more including racecar driver, Danica Patrick’s Lot 32 of her Somnium Wine’s 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon.

“Premiere Napa Valley is always electric and this year we felt that current in bidders’ appreciation of these truly unique wines,” noted Aaron Pott, of Pott Wines and honorary chair of this year’s event.

“It’s great that we can raise money for NVV, but our main goal is to showcase Napa Valley wines to the trade and to the world,” said Munson. “This is an opportunity for our members to show their quality, show the prices they can command and to show we can get the attention and acknowledgment from knowledgeable buyers. Our wines merit this level of attention and recognition. It’s a double whammy; raise money for the NVV, but also Napa Valley wines are discovered and recognized.”

Unlike Auction Napa Valley, where 100-percent of the proceeds goes to Non-profits of the Napa Valley, proceeds from Premiere Napa Valley go to fund the NVV’s three main objectives of the Napa Green program, which currently has 70-percentage participation from NVV members.

  • Napa Green program, which currently has 70-percentage participation from NVV members.
  • Napa Valley name protection and lobbying for winery rights as well as marketing and education of the Napa Valley wine industry on a global scale.
  • Community giving and fundraising.

Leading up to Saturday’s barrel tasting and live auction were a number of educational programs and tastings, including the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers and the Vintage Perspective and 20-case Lots.

“As a person who has worked in the wine industry for two decades on the East Coast, I can’t believe I had never heard of Premiere Napa Valley,” said Munson, who moved to Napa five months ago. “I think people who are outside of Napa and are a Napa fan or a particular winemaker or winery fan, can realize there are unique wines that they can’t acquire from a national retailer, a wine club or being on a mailing list, but can only acquire these wines from attending Premiere Napa Valley auction or from the trade who acquired these one-of-a-kind wines. That’s exciting.”

2019 marks the 75th-year for the NVV organization.

Article By Kari Ruel – Napa Valley Life Magazine – Photos By Kari Ruel and Alex Rubin