On February 21, Northern California’s Napa Valley will host the 19th annual Premiere Napa Valley auction weekend. Each year, this unusual event is held at the area’s Culinary Institute of America; the heavily attended barrel tasting offers samples of the wines up for sale, followed by the bidding. Though the event is open only to the trade, these uncommon wines make their way to collectors via the various retailers and restaurateurs in attendance.
The weekend is rich in networking opportunities, but it’s the wines that are the major draw. The 225 featured lots are crafted exclusively for the event, and often function as a creative outlet for otherwise traditional wineries. Produced in batches that range from 60 to no more than 240 bottles, these wines are about as rare as they come. This exclusivity is reflected in the price tags, with the top lots often going for several thousand dollars per case. The ample proceeds benefit Napa Valley Vintners, the region’s powerful trade and marketing association.
As the wines presented are true barrel samples, the winning bidders must wait months (if not years) to collect their treasures. This year’s auction focuses on 2012 and 2013 vintages, the latter of which is hotly anticipated, as it has been enthusiastically previewed by many notable wine critics. The list of participating wineries runs the gamut, from classic Napa estates such as Shafer, Spottswoode, and Inglenook, to compelling newcomers Continuum, Brand, and Gandona. (premierenapawines.com)