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Spotlight On: Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Special Selection 1994

John Siudut
Posted: May 10, 2007

In 2004, senior editor James Laube revisited California Cabernets from the 1994 vintage with a retrospective tasting. The Special Selection 1994 (release price: $100; current auction price: $203) proved to be one of the standouts. He awarded it 93 points, noting that the wine was still youthful and demonstrated an enormous amount of complexity, concentration and elegance.

With prices for the 1994 approaching previous average highs of $220 (set in the second quarter of 2001), and the potential for diminishing volumes of the limited-production wine to put upward pressure on price, now is a good time for a closer look at the Special Selection 1994 at auction.

Since its release in 1997, auction prices for the Special Selection 1994 have traded in the $150 to $200 range, but there have been two distinct trend lines. Beginning in the first quarter of 1998, the price grew consistently until the second quarter of 2001 when the average price was $220. Over the next two quarters there was a precipitous drop to an average of $150 a bottle and from there it began a second slow but consistent rise in value. Now the wine regularly commands more than $200 a bottle, although bargains can still be found. A recent lot at the Zachys auction on April 13 and 14 featured seven bottles that sold just above the low estimate at an average of $153 a bottle, a figure that may prove to be an outlier of the trend toward escalating prices.

An uptick in sales last year, when 240 bottles changed hands, is perhaps an indication that Caymus collectors are attempting to capitalize on the recent auction highs. Despite this influx of bottles for sale, prices for this 13-year-old wine could continue to rise, as diminished availability of the 1,000 original cases puts pressure on the market.

For those looking to buy the Special Selection 1994, the upcoming Zachys auction on May 11 and 12 has a case lot with a high estimate of $217 per bottle and the Sotheby's May 19 auction has a nine-bottle lot with a high estimate at a mere $188 per bottle.

This data comes from the Wine Spectator Auction Index, a composite of average prices for wines sold at commercial auctions. This chart plots the average price of the Special Selection 1994 at commercial auctions from the first quarter of 1998 to the first quarter of 2007.

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