Tuesday, February 25, 2014

$260,000 for a barrel of wine, chocolate-covered nudes...

and other stories from the week of Napa Valley's Premier wine auction.                                                                       
       This isn't the famous one held each summer for wealthy wannabes from all over, but the winter bash for the wine trade: 600 devotees looking for rare wines to pass along to customers or to lay down. The blends are specially made for the auction, this year from the spectacular 2012 harvest that was both plentiful and good and raised a record - they're all records - almost $6 million which will fund the broadly-based efforts of the Napa Valley Vintners to promote Napa wine and enhance the valley overall.
     There were 225 lots and the winner was a cabernet, Scarecrow, that blew away last year's record. By my calculation that's about eight grand a bottle - a single barrel of cab -  but, hey, it's truly one-of-a-kind and proves not so much that enophiles are often well-heeled but that an exceptional vintage sells well on many levels. (Last year's mediocre vintage brought in half of this year's total.)
     Around the edges of Premier, for a solid week, are tasting and parties around the valley, including the annual Napa Gras at Raymond winery that this year featured two women wearing nothing but chocolate, which reminded me of an Impressionist painting, and lots of 2005 cabernet poured in Jean Charles Boisset's famous Red Room.                                                                      

     I tasted lots of wines, including three biggies from Bill Harlan (see my previous post). He gave me the remains of the bottle of 2000, which I took to a conclave of writers attending the Vintner's annual wine writers' conference at Meadowood. Driving up highway 29, I had to take some medication and had nothing to wash it down with so - you guessed it - swigged from the $1,000 bottle, one eye out for the cops. That, too, is Napa.    
     Lots of good food, of course, including the stand-in luncheon at Greystone, where the Culinary Institute of America fed everybody between the barrel tasting and the auction (seared scallops with roasted garlic aioli won my silent bid). The barrel tasting room emptied as soon as the auction began on the top floor of the beautiful, massive hall that was once a grape cooperative and today houses - appropriately - what must be the greatest collection of quite beautiful bottle openers, among other memorabilia.
   My own appearance at Napa's newest and best bookstore, Bookmine, had nothing to do with the auction. I read from Memphis Afternoons, Vanishing America, The Big Easy and my work-in-progress, a prequel to my novel, Nose. The idea was to chart a course (more or less) from my first desire to write into the present through both fiction and nonfiction.Several of my books just out in re-ebook and on-demand were available for the first time.
     One unexpected lagniappe for me was a bottle of 2011 cabernet handed to me at the book signing by one of the store's owners, Eric (the other's his fiance  Naomi ), winemaker at Pott. I didn't know the wine but could tell by the bottle's heft, deep punt and artfully designed label that the dark contents would impress. I opened it last night at my daughter Susanna's house in Berkeley, the proper conclusion to an extraordinary week. The wine was crammed with fruit - black cherries - that sets Napa cabernets apart from those of the rest of the world, a densely-flavored mouthful with an interesting finish and no discernible tannins, meaning it's ready to drink. Susanna found black currents there, and my four-year-old granddaughter, Brooklyn, said after a very long sniff, "Wine cupcake," more or less summing up the week.                                                                     

1 comment:

  1. Love this site! Makes learning about wine fun. Thanks for sharing!