Wine Talk

Snooth User: EMark

Premiere Napa Valley

Posted by EMark, Apr 28, 2013.

I plan on participating in the Lodi Virtual Tasting this week.  So, I figured that a good place to find the wines that are in the VT would be Total Wines. In fact, I did reasonably well and found 3 of the 4.  (Here's a PSA for VT participants.  No driving after this tasting.  The low ABV that I bought was 14.5.  The other two were over 15.)

Well, I'm not going to let a visit to the wine store go to waste without walking up and down every aisle to see what else I might want, and I did, in fact, put a dozen or so "everyday drinkers" into my basket.  (Remember a few months ago there was a thread here that touched on Carignane?  I actually found one--a 2007 Alexander Valley--from a winery called Les Caves Roties de Pente.  It went into the basket.)

Eventually, I walked by the locked cabinet.  I always do this just to taunt myself.  I have never had a clerk come over and unlock it so that I could buy one of the high-dollar offerings.  For the first time ever, though, I noticed several bottles with a "Premier Napa Valley" label.  Then I noticed that the grapes came from Chappellet's Pritchard Hill.  Then, I noticed that each bottle was signed (initialed, really) by the winemaker and numbered.  Then I noticed that next to the Pritchard Hill wines were Premier Napa Valley wines from Hestan, then I noticed other wineries under the Premier Napa Valley label--all numbered and all signed by the winemaker.  Prices for these wines ranged from (as I recall) $129 to $449 (for the Pritchard Hill).

Well after getting back a quick internet search led me to the Premier Napa Valley site.

The following is copied from that site:

Produced in California's renowned Napa Valley, Premiere Napa Valley is one of the rarest wine brands in the world. For 17 years the region's top winemakers have offered ultra-boutique wines to the trade, crafted in as few as 60 bottles and never more than 240 bottles, as individual bottlings for the brand known as Premiere Napa Valley.

These wines, created each only once, by 200 different wineries are offered as futures at auction only to the wine trade—individual restaurateurs and wine retailers—so they have the most unique, and some of the very best wines made from America’s leading appellation. Essentially think of Premiere Napa Valley as a brand consisting of 200 "single vineyard," small case production offerings.

Each wine from each producer is one-of-a-kind, and will not be found in the market except by the wine seller who secures the unique wine via an annual trade auction held each winter. Though reminiscent of how Hospice de Beaune wines are produced, the process is uniquely American. The winemakers take a gloves-off approach, often using varieties they may not bottle as a stand-alone, or perhaps a noted white-wine-only house producing a red wine. These wines are innovative and showcase the region's sense of explorations in fine winemaking.

So, it looks like the guys at Total Wines went to this event, bought these lots and now have them for sale in their stores.

Does anybody have any experience with these?  I would sure like to hear whether anybody thinks these wines are as unique as I think they might be.  These prices are way beyond my normal spending limit, but I giving some real serious thought to driving the Honda for a few more years so that I can put some of these into it and drive them home.

Oh, if anybody does go to the web site, there are several videos on the "Media" page.  I really like the metaphors in the "Make your Cellar Complete" video.  OK, what I mostly like is the Schubert 8th Symphony background music, although, I'm not particularly crazy about the electronic realization.  Also, the Napa Valley Opera House looks like a great venue.


Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 29, 2013.

OT got me an invite to another site's offline dinner, where a bunch of us winos, GdP, and a few assistant winemakers for high end wineries had a meal and brought bottles.  This was pretty recently after PNV as the folks call it, and I was sitting next to a young AWM.  He had been to his first PNV and was talking about it.  I had heard a little about it before.  It's an insider's club, merchants, winemakers, writers, and raises money for the umbrella marketing and sort-of preservation group.  It's a chance for winemakers to show off a little in front of their peers--whose wine will fetch the most?  Will someone pay big for the last vintage that an owner/winemaker might be involved in?  Wines are made with the event in mind, so they ought to be pretty mindblowing.  You can get Chappellet Pritchard Hill for $150 or so, which is a relative bargain compared to its neighbors and for its scores, if that matters to you, but it's possible that this particular bottling came from a sub-block of vines that don't produce enough fruit for widely marketed bottling, for instance.  It's crazy bucks to pay, but I have heard tell there are some extravagantly great wines. 

Still, I wish it was for a slightly more outward-looking cause.

Reply by EMark, Apr 29, 2013.

Fox, I appreciate your sharing the insights that you picked up.  Cutting to the chase, I've almost talked myself into it.

I have spent more time on the PNV site, today.  I have yet to find anything that says the the proceeds from the auction go to any cause.  To me it looks like a marketing program, and based on how many years it has been going, I'd say that it is a darned successful program.

If I do invest, I'm going to look for some indication that the bottle I'm buying is unique.  I mentioned the Chappellet that they had.  The label says "Heaven on the Hill."  As you suggested the shelf talker indicates that "Heaven on the Hill" is a block on Pritchard Hill.  Now the question is reward of having this unique wine comensurate with the markup vis a vis the $120 that Total WIne charges for the Pritchard Hill bottling.  Well, that is a tough one.  On the flip side, I mentioned the Hestan right next to the Chappellet.  The Hestan PNV is $129 as I recall.  It's label indicates that it is from the Stephanie vineyard with no other special indication.  I've bought Hestan Stephanie at Total Wine for about $45.  I'm not sure I'm interested in that one without some else to tempt me.  

I think I'll go back and look more carefully at some of the other labels and see if there is something that I cannot resist.

Also, at the PNV web site they have a "Wine Portfolio" page with several "Search" options.  One of them is labeled "Where to Buy."  This appears to list various auction participants who may be selling PNVs.  In the Los Angeles area I see Beverage Warehouse, Hi Time, Wally's and Wine House.  Here's the one that blew me away -- Safeway.  I don't know if you can actually find a Safeway that sells these (or any wine in this price range).  You certainly can't find anything like this in a supermarket around here.  (Safeway's down here are called Von's.)  Being the conspiritorial, suspicious kind of person I am, I wonder if Safeway execs/buyers go to these events to stock their personal cellars.  Actually, if they are spending their own money and not stockholder's, I guess I'm OK with it.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 29, 2013.

We have a Safeway near us with a fairly impressive wine department.  I'll take a look and see what they have on the shelf next to the Groth etc.

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