News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Community News Network

March 11, 2013

Golden woman hangs upside down, pours wine at wild Napa auction

"We're trending above Nascar and the Oscars on twitter," crows auctioneer Fritz Hatton, as he opens the 17th Premiere Napa Valley trade barrel auction with sharp bangs of his gavel.

Everyone cheers, primed to bid big on cabernet after a week of wooing by vintners at tastings and parties. The wildest event was Raymond Vineyards' "Napa Gras," where a woman in long black gloves and abbreviated gold body suit poured wine while hanging upside down.

Napa's annual February event serves as a barometer of demand for expensive Napa cabs.

The 211 one-of-a-kind, not-yet-bottled cuvees offered in five, 10, or 20-case lots represent each winery's best of the best. Most are cabernets from the 2011 vintage, so the pre- auction tastings provide a gauge to the year's overall quality and an opportunity to scout out the valley's hot new names.

The big room at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena is crowded with rowdy retailers, restaurateurs, importers, distributors and media from 39 states and nine countries.

Ichizo Nakagawa, owner of Tokyo's Nakagawa Wine Co. Ltd., which specializes in California wine, is sporting a bright orange jacket and shirt with a wild striped tie and a golfer's tan.

His son Sei, a former bond trader who is now company president, keeps an eye on the spreadsheet open on his white laptop and the auction catalog.

Nakagawa used to design golf courses and run the family lumber business, sampled his first California wine in the 1970s, and started his wine business in 1985.

"Once I tasted Ridge Vineyards cabernet I stopped drinking Chateau Latour," Nakagawa says, as his son translates. "I perceived huge potential for California wine in the Japanese market. It's a useful tool for networking. You can drink it without food."

Immortalized at home as a California wine expert in the influential Japanese wine manga series "Drops of God" (Kami no Shizuku), Nakagawa is equally famous in Napa.

His winning $125,000 bid in 2011 for five cases of 2009 Scarecrow, the highest ever bid at Premiere, drew a standing ovation and a flood of emails from buyers. That's $2,083 a bottle, more than a 2009 Chateau Lafite costs today.

"High-end Japanese people want rare California wines they can't purchase easily," he says.

So do Americans. Robert Trone, co-owner of Total Wine & More, an independent wine retailer with 89 superstores, paid $75,000 for the most expensive lot, 10 cases of the luscious 2011 "We Will Rock You" cabernet blend from Bevan Cellars and Chateau Boswell Winery. He also splashed out $50,000 for five cases ($833 a bottle) of tannic, powerful 2011 Shafer Sunspot Vineyard cabernet, produced from the tiny parcel of land that also provides the heart of their cult cab Hillside Select.

"It's for a good cause," Trone says, with a grin. Auction proceeds help fund the Napa Valley Vintners association.

Nakagawa is more cautious. "This year is complicated," he says. "2011 is not the greatest year. 2012 is better." Still, he bought five cases of plush 2011 Revana Family Vineyard Premier Cuvee cabernet (one of my top wines) for $15,000 and another five of spicy 2011 Lewis Cellars cabernet for $26,000, among other lots.

Like most auction buyers here, Nakagawa has commissions from customers for specific lots; the rest of his purchases will fatten his inventory.

I was more impressed than I expected with the 2011 vintage, a year vintners spin as "challenging," due to heavy rains right before harvest. Winemakers who picked early or managed to prevent mildew and rot, made delicious wines that have lovely, juicy fruit, bright acidity, and aren't buried under the high alcohol that often plagues Napa cabs. On the other hand, many wineries failed to get it right.

My top picks among these 2011s include the complex earth- and-cherry 2011 Corison Winery Premiere Reserve; the bright, rich, cassis-flecked 2011 Kapcsandy Family Winery cabernet; a dark, intense 2011 Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery cabernet; silky-textured 2011 Notre Vin winery's "One Hundred Vines" cabernet; and the concentrated, plummy 2011 Continuum Estate cab blend.

I also made some new impressive discoveries: the supple, elegant 2011 St. Helena Winery cabernet sauvignon, just its second vintage; a pure, violet-scented 2011 Detert Family Vineyards cabernet franc, made from 60-year-old vines; and the ripe, opulent 2011 Patel Tourmaline Vineyard cabernet.

Tracking down Premiere wines outside the auction used to be tough, though now the Napa Valley Vintners posts on its website the names of the winning bidders for each lot. Now may be a good time to contact them if you want to buy before the Dow climbs any higher.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Joy Fills Streets of Cleveland As LeBron Returns Raw: Rebel Leader Weds in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Israel, Gaza Exchange Rocket Fire Police: Prostitute Linked to 2nd Death Texas Shooting Suspect Collapses in Court Chimp-attack Victim Lobbies Congress Raw: Australia Hosts Annual Beer Can Regatta Arizona Mom of Missing Baby Released From Prison WH: LeBron's Move a 'Powerful Statement' Death Toll Tops 100 As Israel Offense Continues Robot Writes Jewish Torah Scroll Diaz and Segel Strip Off for 'Sex Tape' More Immigrants Detained Along Rio Grande Man Flees Police in World Cup Scalping Scheme Proposed Bill to Regulate NY Costumed Characters Ana Ortiz on 'Devious Maids' Finale Argentina to Face Germany in World Cup Final LeBron James Says He's Returning to Cavaliers Soft Robot Fish Lead New Wave of Robotics Downside of Low Mortgage Rates? Less Selling
NDN Video
Cleveland welcomes home LeBron Houston Killer Collapses in Court When Read Capital Murder Charges for Allegedly Killing Family of Six Worst Valet Ever Wrecks $500K Lamborghini Glee Star Becca Tobin's Boyfriend Matt Bendik Found Dead in Hotel Aerial fish restocking in Utah ScarJo Channels Marilyn Monroe Obama Responds to Hecklers on Immigration Tiny Hamsters Who Ate Burritos are Back for a Tiny Hedgehog's Party Watch Kelly Ripa Get Soaked! 'Referee' Hands Out Yellow Cards for Social Faux Pas in NYC 2014 Emmy Nominees: 8 Snub Shockers Emma Watson Is Va-Va-Voom in Valentino 7 Infamous Sports Blowouts Argentina tops Holland in World Cup semifinals News flush: Japanese toilet exhibition making a splash Emmy Nominations: What to Watch For 'Game of Thrones' Leads 66th Emmy Awards Nominations Photographic 'Proof' That LeBron Is Leaving Miami - @TheBuzzeronFOX Elephant Pool Party at The Oregon Zoo Must-See! Berry and Fallon Form Human Hamster Wheel
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity