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How to Get Your Hands on the Most Coveted Wines From Napa Valley’s Stellar 2021 Vintage

We tasted through the region's very best at this year's Premiere Napa Valley.

premiere napa valley Alexander Rubin

We are always on the lookout for exclusive access to rare wines for Robb Report readers, and this year’s Premiere Napa Valley outdid itself in that regard. While its primary aim is to raise money for Napa Valley Vintners and the projects it supports, PNV, held the last weekend of February, is also a one-of-a-kind glimpse into the most recent vintage from the valley, in this case the outstanding 2021. We tasted them all so that you don’t have to. Our pick hits are below. 

After several years of drought and 2020 wildfires that destroyed grape crops for many Napa Valley producers, the quality of 2021 is a welcome relief. Although the drought continued and quantities were relatively small, a near-perfect growing season offered ideal conditions for ripening small berries with a high juice to skin ratio. The vintage is filled with luscious fruit flavors, polished tannins, and vivid acidity. In short, everything you want and expect from classic Cabernet Sauvignon and red blends but don’t always get. As one international buyer, Juan Pablo Salgado of Delizia Wine Boutique in Costa Rica stated, “The 2021 vintage is beyond perfection. Structure and finesse blend into marvelous juice that will definitely take your breath away. I’m thrilled and excited to have been able to get a sneak peak of it and can’t wait to work it in our market.”

Open only to winery staff, press, and the international wine trade, including importers, distributors, and buyers, PNV opened with a series of tastings, lunches and dinners held up and down the valley during the week. Friday’s barrel tasting at Charles Krug Winery highlighted the finest not-yet-released wines the region has to offer, which were then auctioned off in micro lots of mostly 60 bottles, or five cases, on Saturday. One hundred thirty-seven lots were from 2021, offering a broad perspective of what is surely the best vintage in Napa Valley in recent memory.

Tasting through the very best.

Alexander Rubin

Two hundred fifty bidders from 18 countries paid an average of $307 per bottle including a handful of white and sparkling lots. The 144 lots of red wines sold for an average of $315 per bottle; that includes 118 lots of Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 lots of Cabernet Franc plus some red blends and other single varieties. Eighty two percent of the lots fetched prices upwards of $200 per bottle and 14 percent went for more than $500 a bottle, with only three breaching the $1,000 mark. Among those was Tor 2021 The Centennial Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which at a bidding price of $80,000, averages $1,333 a bottle. Sold to Japan’s Nakagawa Wine Co., it will be difficult to access for all but the most well-connected American consumers.

But don’t worry, 76 percent of the wines were sold to US buyers, and with the exception of those that went to restaurants, many will be available through a variety of retailers after continued aging and bottling. Wines are set to be released over the course of the next two years as determined by each producer’s winemaking team, with a special Napa Valley Vintner’s label affixed to every bottle.

Besides the lots sold at Sunday’s live auction, 50 lots from 2003 through 2014 were auctioned online via a separate Vintage Perspective Auction. A total of $3.4 million that will be put towards programs that protect, enhance, and promote Napa Valley was raised through the live and online efforts.

napa valley

The 2021 vintage is one worth chasing.

Alexander Rubin

One of the top buyers this year was Gary Fisch of Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, a wine and specialty food retailer with shops in New Jersey and California that also ships nationwide. Teresa Wall, Senior Director of Communications for Napa Valley Vintners, told us, “Gary is our number one top bidder at Premiere Napa Valley. He has attended since the second auction took place in 1998 and has always been in the top ten and many years was the number one bidder.”

Among others, Fisch successfully bid on the lot from Signorello, made by winemaker Priyanka French, who was this year’s auction chair. She told us, “We are thrilled to have the 2021 Signorello Estate ‘Leap of Faith’ Cabernet Sauvignon in the hands of uber wine retailer Gary Fisch of Gary’s Wine and Marketplace. We only produced 60 bottles of this wine, and we are excited to have the terrific team at Gary’s share our story and this special wine with their loyal customers.”

In addition to all that heavenly Cabernet Sauvignon, we were intrigued by the single varietal Cabernet Franc lots. Vanessa Conlin, MW, the chief wine officer at Wine Access, picked up Morlet Family Vineyards 2021 Le Fabuleux Franc Cabernet Franc Oakville. “At Wine Access, we have always deeply respected Luc [Morlet’s] expressive wines and meticulous attention to wine quality,” Conlin told Robb Report. “Being based in Napa Valley, I love Cabernet Sauvignon, but have a real passion for Cabernet Franc, as it can showcase a broad and intriguing range of aromas and flavors, while being at once rich and lithe on the palate.” She expects the wine to be available by the fall.

At the conclusion of Sunday’s auction, Jamie Ritchie, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s Wine & Spirits, who was one of two auctioneers, said, “Today’s phenomenal results show the enormous enthusiasm worldwide for these unique and innovative wines that showcase the best of Napa Valley. The 2021 vintage is clearly great, and is going to be in very strong demand, as witnessed today.” With that in mind, in addition to those mentioned above, here are our top picks for wines from Premiere Napa Valley 2023 including potential release dates and retailers. All are lots of sixty bottles unless otherwise noted. Mark your calendar for these release dates to make sure you get the ones you want.

premiere napa valley auction catalog

Alexander Rubin

Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, New Jersey and California

  • Amici Cellars 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer Georges III Rutherford Napa Valley
    • Release Date: October 2023
  • Lail Vineyards 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon THE HENRY Napa Valley
    • Release Date: October 2023
  • Mt. Brave 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder Napa Valley
    • Release Date: October 2024
  • Grgich Hills Estate 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon Paradise Block Old Vine Yountville
    • Release Date: October 2024 (10 cases/120 bottles)

H.E.B./Central Market, Texas

  • Silverado Vineyards 2021 Right Bank Reverie Meritage Coombsville Napa Valley
    • Release Date: April 2024
  • Taub Family Vineyards 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon Triumvirate Napa Valley
    • Release Date: January 2024

Wine Huntress, Chicago

  • Foley Johnson 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon Peral Vineyard Rutherford Napa Valley
    • Release Date: January 2025

Classic Wine, Texas

  • Mayacamas Vineyards 2021 Cabernet Franc Estate Mount Veeder Napa Valley
    • Release Date: April 2024 
  • Ellman 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon Back to School Proprietary Red Blend Napa Valley
    • Release Date: October 2023
  • Textbook 2021 Red Table Wine 5ive Proprietary Red Blend Oakville Napa Valley
    • Release Date: October 2023

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