The message from Napa Valley Vintners to wine lovers on April 14 and 15 is: The front doors might be closed, but our cellars are open. For the second time in as many weeks, NVV is putting on sale—for two days—250-plus wines from more than 150 producers, many of which are normally available only at the wineries, often just to mailing lists and many from rare library vintages. Bottle prices range from $25 to more than $600, and there are 20 varieties and 18 vintages on offer.
With tasting rooms closed, wine lovers have lost a direct channel to their favorite producers. It’s true that under shelter-in-place orders, many fans have turned to online sales and an ever-growing number of virtual ways to taste. But the NVV’s two-day Open the Cellar sale breaks new ground on the one-stop shopping front. It’s a terrific (if brief) chance to fill the slots in your own cellar that might have opened up through the last few weeks of stay-at-home sipping.
On the winery side, many small producers have lost a key point of sale, directly to their consumers from their winery tasting rooms, and the NVV online event is a welcome new channel. Tom Gamble, whose Gamble Family Vineyards has listed its 2015 Cairo Cabernet Sauvignon and 2015 Family Home Cabernet Sauvignon for sale, describes what this means to his business: “With the sudden national crisis, we are confronted with the dilemma of no visitors in Napa. Napa Valley Vintners has provided the opportunity to expose our wines to Napa-wine lovers who may still not have heard of our small, exclusive brand, and thus begin a relationship that thrives as with our current friends.”
Think of the older vintages on offer as an end run around years in your own cellar, at a time when a mellow sip might be a welcome treat in isolated circumstances. Cain Vineyard & Winery, for instance is offering a magnum of its 2006 Cain Five, a wine that ages notoriously well. Chappellet Vineyard is listing a 2008 Las Piedras Red Blend, Chateau Montelena a 2003 Cabernet, Ghost Block Estate a 2005 Temescal Red Blend, Lang & Reed Wine Company a 2005 Right Bank Cabernet Franc (if you’ve never tried a Lang & Reed Cab Franc, don’t miss this) and Mayacamas Vineyards a 2003 Cab.
Even producers whose wines are available in more normal times only to their mailing list and allocation members have joined the sale in solidarity: Alejandro Bulgheroni Estate, Arietta, Brand Napa Valley, Corison Winery, Hourglass, Kenzo Estate, Meteor, Moone-Tsai Vineyards, Paul Hobbs, Staglin Family, TOR…
With restaurant wine sales imploding and the industry struggling, a shopping trip on the vintners’ site (where many wines are discounted and shipping is often included) is a triple win. The association puts it best: “You support the employees and small family businesses in wine country, get an exclusive wine and you don’t have to leave your couch.”