When you think about it, magnums are the perfect sized bottle for a party. Especially when that party has 600-plus guests. And even better when every guest is required to bring their own magnum of wine to share.
That, in a nutshell, is Wine Spectator's annual Bring Your Own Magnum Party, hosted every year since 1988 as an unofficial kickoff to Auction Napa Valley. It's a chance for winemakers and industry members to relax and rub shoulders during an evening of food and wine.
This year's event was held May 29 at the Pavillion at The Estate in Yountville, adjacent to Bottega Ristorante. The evening event welcomed wine country vintners, including Joel Peterson of Once & Future and Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock, the father and son team recently featured on the cover of Wine Spectator's June 30 issue. Also in the crowd were David Duncan of Silver Oak, Jean-Charles Boisset, Joey Wagner of Copper Cane Wine and Provisions, Bill Harlan of Harlan Estates, and Tom Klein of Rodney Strong.
Like any gathering of farmers, weather was a collective topic among the winemakers. Spring in wine country had been unseasonably cool and rainy this year, but the low- to mid-80 degree temperatures through the valley on this evening had some feeling like summer was finally on its way. The warm day was a welcome sight for Jeff Ames of Rudius, whose estate vineyard on Howell Mountain has yet to begin flowering. "We already knew it was going to be late before the rain, but I'm already a month behind normal," said Ames, noting that he's had to mow his cover crops twice because of the abundance of rain.
Everyone in attendance was antsy to get their glasses filled with some of the best and rarest from Napa, Sonoma and beyond. Wine stations were overflowing with magnums of Napa classics like Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Fay and Cask 23 2005, Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Private Reserve 2007, Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Trailside Vineyard 2007 and Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Beckstoffer To Kalon MMX 2010.
Sonoma was well-represented too, with stalwarts like Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Rochioli River Block and Allen Vineyard 2014 and Bedrock's The Bedrock Heritage Sonoma Valley 2017. There were also some notable rarities, such as a Staglin Sangiovese, a Shafer Merlot and even a grand cru Chablis—Domaine Laroche Les Blanchets 2007.
Marimar Torres actually took time the morning of the event to taste through several of her library wines to choose the perfect magnum to share. "It was a fantastic tasting to find out what was tasting good, and what I can use for cooking wine," she jested. She ended up bringing a striking 1996 Don Miguel Vineyard Chardonnay.
Chef Michael Chiarello's culinary team put out a Mediterranean cuisine-inspired spread, including seafood paella and pizza stations, as well as salmon caja china with romesco sauce. Crowds flocked to the whole lamb and pig stations, where both were cooked upright over an open flame, or what Chiarello called "on a crucifix." The real showstopper were seemingly humble potatoes, which were first smoked with bay leaf and then coated in corn starch before deep frying, and then sprinkled with salt. The result was a I-bet-you-can't-eat-just-one side dish.
Guests lingered well after the stars came out and enjoyed the live music, cigars and assorted desserts, and perhaps even a little more wine, seeking out what remained for a few extra memorable drops to close out the night.
—With reporting by Augustus Weed.
Photos by Jason Tinacci