Freshly revamped for a post-pandemic wine world, Premiere Napa Valley introduced a new auction partner and approach for 2022, raising $2.7 million for Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), the local trade group that promotes the wines, producers and appellations of the Napa region. The live auction on Feb. 27 brought in $2.1 million of the total. A library wine auction in early February brought in an additional $600,000.
This year’s total is in line with 2021’s, though well short of Premiere’s high of nearly $6 million raised in 2015. But the average price per bottle was similar to that of past years, suggesting demand for Napa rarities has not waned.
Last month's sale was slated to focus on the 2020 vintage, but that year was impacted by devastating wildfires and smoke, drastically reducing production. In the end, vintners offered just 34 lots from 2020. The remainder of the total of 109 were from 2021 and 2019. That total was down from 149 lots offered last year.
NVV has been revamping its events over the past two years—it no longer hosts the Auction Napa Valley charity event and has been holding smaller auctions of library wines, part of a recognition of shifting auction conditions. This year, NVV partnered with Sotheby's to operate both in-person and online bidding for the first time. "Through them we were able to reach a wider audience, and introduce Premiere Napa Valley wines to even more people around the world," said Stacey Dolan Capitani, NVV vice president of marketing, in a statement.
Like Burgundy's Hospices de Beaune, Premiere is for members of the wine trade. All of the wines for sale are one-off special releases, many of them still in barrel, often from some of Napa Valley's biggest names. It's the rare nature of these wines that commands high prices, with many releases resold later for a premium by the buyers, who tend to be leading wine shops and restaurant groups.
Shafer Vineyards, which announced it had been sold to a Korean firm just a week earlier, was the top draw: 5 cases of its Sunspot Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 sold for $75,600, or $1,260 per bottle.
Duckhorn's 2020 Three Palms Merlot commanded nearly $50,000 for 20 cases. Ten cases of 2020 En Fuego! (a blend of Favia Cabernet and Hourglass Merlot) realized $54,000, and Cabernets from Spottswoode, Mayacamas and Heitz each sold for hefty prices.
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