PREMIERE NAPA VALLEY'S UNIQUE WINE LOTS COMMAND RECORD BIDS; ATTRACT KEY TRADE
2/28/2000 - Premiere Napa Valley, a midwinter barrel auction for the trade, featured 104 lots of the region's most hard-to-find wines - all exclusive to the auction and not otherwise commercially available - to 550 members of the trade and their guests on Sunday, February 27. In total 900 participated in the event Sunday, including vintners, volunteers and media from throughout the U.S. and the world. More than 100 of Napa Valley's top wineries offered lots for the auction sponsored by the Napa Valley Vintners.
Excitement surrounding the fourth annual event, which focused on wines from Napa Valley's outstanding 1998 vintage, was reflected in the flurry of competition that erupted as Christie's auctioneer Fritz Hatton opened bidding on the very first lot. The gavel came down at $1400 per case for the Chairman's Lot, purchased by Wayne Hirst of Hirst Imports, Oklahoma City. The lot, a partnership blend presented by Premiere Napa Valley 2000 Chairman Rob Sinskey, Owner/General Manager of Robert Sinskey Vineyards, and 1999 Premiere Napa Valley Chairman Tom Shelton, President of Joseph Phelps Vineyards, is a one-of-a-kind Stags Leap District Cuvee, "The Velvet Glove."
Hirst, who has attended Premiere Napa Valley since its inception in 1997, emerging each year as one of its top bidders, said, "I'm delighted to be here and to support the efforts of the Napa Valley Vintners."
Competing for the 104 lots this year were some 226 paddle holders representing 34 states stretching from Hawaii to New York and three countries reaching across the globe from Japan to the United Kingdom. A total of 595 cases of wine were sold to 54 winning bidders who paid an average case price of $1,220. Gross sales totaled $726,000.
"The Premiere barrel auction for the trade has become the hot ticket wine and food event of the year. The unique character of this event is a tribute to all the vintners who created special, one-of-a-kind wines just for Premiere," Sinskey said.
He also noted that, "The way people enjoy food and wine is evolving. Not only do we have traditional restaurateurs and retailers at Premiere Napa Valley, we also have 'dot comers' who have a unique opportunity to tell a story and to sell a wine to a specialized audience."
Demonstrating the growing power of dotcoms was the day's top bidder, Mark Pope of Napa-based Bountyhunterwine.com. Pope, whose 5-year-old company started out as a catalogue business offering rare wines to a targeted direct mail audience and has now evolved to include on-line sales to consumers worldwide, purchased six lots for a total of $65,000.
"We purchased these wines because they represent rarity, pedigree and certainty," Pope said.
Oren Michels of Napa's Winebid.com was also among the day's top five successful bidders, ending the day with four lots at a total price tag of $32,000.
The day's highest per case price, however, was paid by a member of the "traditional" trade, first time Premiere Napa Valley attendee Terry Hudson, restaurateur and retailer from San Diego, CA. Hudson emerged as the winner amidst a flurry of frenzied bidding for five cases of Dalle Valle 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon. When the gavel fell, Hudson held the successful bid of $6,200 per case - or $31,000 for the lot.
Hudson says he was drawn to the auction by the "stellar, hard-to-get wines" offered at the event. Eventually, he says, he plans to make the wines available to consumers through his retail shop or one of his two restaurants - The WineSellar & Brasserie and Laurel, both in San Diego.
The auction was preceded by a barrel tasting of the auction lots and a seasonal lunch prepared by the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, location of the day-long event here in St. Helena.
The NVV is a non-profit, 167-member trade organization established in 1944. Wineries of all sizes work together to further the world-class reputation of Napa Valley wines and to protect the Napa Valley appellation. Proceeds from the Premiere Napa Valley trade auction will be used to support these goals.
NVV maintains a website at www.napavintners.com and a year-round information hotline at 800/982-1371.