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Napa barrel auction breaks record

California producers are talking of confidence returning to the fine wine market after a record-breaking weekend in the Napa Valley.

Photo: Jason Tinacci/Napavintners.com

The Napa Valley Vintners’ annual barrel auction raised nearly $2.4 million in sales, the highest ever total, and 23% up on last year’s take.

Two hundred producers offered special production lots of as yet unbottled futures to the trade. The average case price of $1,546 was an increase of 37% on the recession-stressed take of 2009 and 20% more than 2010’s average.

‘Premiere Napa Valley is often viewed as a barometer of confidence in current, as well as future sales of Napa Valley wines,’ said Napa Valley Vintners Board President Kathleen Heitz Myers of Heitz Wine Cellars.

‘Saturday’s auction totals reflect a continuing trend of improved sales in the market for fine wine, as well as optimism for the coming months and years.’

“Two years ago, the scene was pretty dire here,’ said Dennis Cakebread of Cakebread cellars. ‘But there’s a definite sense that confidence is slowly returning to the market.’

Saturday’s auction also broke PNV’s previous single-lot record, bringing $125,000 for a five- case offering from Robert Parker favourite, cult producer Scarecrow Wine.

The winning bid came from Tokyo-based Nakagawa Wine Co. Asked why he battled for the lot, Ichizo Nakagawa said, ‘When I came to the auction, I intended to get that wine no matter what it took.’

‘I’m amazed, I’m shocked,’ said Scarecrow owner Bret Lopez. ‘We never dreamed we’d reach this stature and (winemaker) Celia Welsh is a genius, a humble genius who coaxes the sublime flavors from the old men,’ referring to the 66-year-old-vines that produce just a 1/2 ton per acre.

The vines date back to the purchase of the property by Lopez’s grandfather, Wizard of Oz producer J.J. Cohn. Lopez co-owns the estate with film director and wine producer Francis Ford Coppola.

The top ten highest earning lots were a mixture of young, boutique, critically-lauded producers, and older, bluechip names – from Schrader Cellars, Ovid, and Levy and McClellan to Shafer, Robert Mondavi, Reynolds Family Winery, Duckhorn, Silver Oak Cellars and Beringer.

Most of the wines being auctioned were Cabernet Sauvignons from the 2009 vintage.

Written by Guy Woodward in California

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