Thursday, March 13, 2008


We’re not usually big ones for going to the fancy parties that get thrown in this business. Sure, we do WhiskyFest, and if there’s a big Champagne tasting we’re morally obligated to send someone there. But the big, glitzy galas, where people go to be seen, that’s not exactly us.


Except for this one event that takes place every February in the Napa Valley. This is called the Premiere Napa Valley Auction. The events run for a week, with wineries cleaning themselves up and having catered open houses and that sort of thing, which is always a lot of fun. However, we’re on the spoiled side, living here in San Francisco, we get to Napa more than most, and people treat us really well. So we usually just go up for the weekend.

This gives us a chance to meet the faces behind the wines, to see who the new, up and coming winemakers and wineries might be. It’s also a chance to have dinner with friends in that we don’t see often enough, and to see what’s new at some of our favorite wineries. It also gives us a chance to see what’s old, since some folks, like the lovely people at Shafer and Duckhorn, break out older vintages and great big bottles and everyone has a good time. If you need a break, Joel Gott hosts a taco and beer party at his Taylor’s Refresher.

The main event, of course, is the auction itself. This is where the participating wineries offer exclusive lots of special, one-time-only blends, to the trade. There were celebrities around (both William Shatner and Kevin Costner were spotted), but if you’re not in the business, you don’t get to bid.

(A little aside here: The Premiere Napa Valley Auction is for charity. It helps raise funds for the alliance of wine-growers trying to protect the land and reputation of the region. Did you know that only 4% of California wine comes from the Napa Valley? Still, some people find a way to put that magic appellation on their labels anyway. It is this sort of thing these wine-growers are trying to combat, as well as to preserve the beauty of the valley itself).

The auction is held at the Culinary Academy in the great old Greystone building. There are over 200 different barrels to taste. Like everyone, we do some homework and decide which ones we might be interested in, so that we can still trust ourselves with a bidding paddle.

Again, all of the lots sold at the Premiere Napa Valley Auction are unique. No one else will ever have what we buy.

A few years ago we were lucky enough to lay down the winning bid for a 2002 Oakville Ranch Lucinda’s Blend composed of 85% Cabernet Franc and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Only five cases of this supple, floral, spicy red were made. We do still have a few bottles left, but don’t expect them to hang around forever.

This year we’re excited to say we managed to win the following two lots:

Livingston Moffett Wines – 2006 Aidan’s Blend: This lot is a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The Cabernet come from three famous appellations, Howell Mountain, Rutherford and St. Helena, and the Syrah vineyard is in the cooler Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley Appellation. All four of these vineyards are less than three acres in size and produce yields of 2.5 tons or less per acre. This lot was named after Trent and Colleens’ son Aidan.


Paoletti Estates 2006 Nero d’Avola: A rare and beautiful grape native of the village of Avola in Sicily. Apparently, we are blessed with the same microclimate as Avola. The vines are 15 years old. The wine is lush, rich, velvety, dark and fruity, a memorable experience.

Both of these wines were bottled over the last couple of weeks. They’re resting now, but they should available for sale in December of this year.

If you’d like to learn more about the event and the work of these Napa Valley Vintners, visit .