The slowdown in the economy didn't squelch buyers' enthusiasm at Saturday's Premiere Napa Valley barrel auction, which raised a record total of $920,800 on 120 lots, mostly from the 1999 and 2000 vintages. That averaged out to $1,253 per case, slightly more than the average of $1,220 per case at last year's Premiere auction.
While Napa Valley is better known for its high-profile summer charity auction, where collectors dropped $9.5 million last year, Premiere Napa Valley gives the wine trade a chance to snap up one-of-a-kind lots that will not be available commercially. The annual event, held in St. Helena at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, helps finance the Napa Valley Vintners Association, a marketing organization of 186 Napa wineries. Estates contribute five-, 10- or 20-case lots of wine produced exclusively for the auction.
At the pre-auction tasting, more than 400 retailers, restaurateurs and distributors sampled the wines -- 81 of them from the 1999 vintage. While many estates brought Cabernet Sauvignonbased wines, all of the Bordeaux grape varieties were represented, as were varieties as diverse as Pinot Grigio, Charbono and Tannat.
The high bid of the day was $38,000 for five cases of a 1999 Cabernet-based blend from Lewis Cellars. Nine of the top 10 bids went for selections from 1999.
"I think when all is said and done, people will remember [the] '99, '97 and '94 [vintages]," said auction chairperson Delia Viader, of Viader Vineyards. "What a way to remember the century, not just the decade."
Top Ten Auction Lots
Read senior editor James Laube's inside look at Premiere Napa Valley 2001:
Read the report on last year's NVVA auctions: