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Napa Valley Vintners: Coming Together Napa Style

Posted: Friday, 09 March 2012 16:46

Napa Valley Vintners: Coming Together Napa Style

March 09 : Napa Wines are considered among the best in the world today but a lot of credit to their popularity goes to the promotional and educational activities undertaken by the producers who formed their own association, Napa Valley Vintners which collects funds for its expenses through Annual Barrel Auction which fetched them a record $ 3.1 million last month, writes Subhash Arora who attended this event of exclusive wines reserved exclusively for wine professionals.

Two hundred producers had donated 5,10 and 20 cases of wine which was exclusively made for the event, making it a collector’s delight and bidders on behalf of retailers, restaurants and collectors from as far as Japan were seen furiously outbidding each other in the event that lasted barely 3 hours leaving organisers and the donors extremely happy.

There was another cause of jubilation-the auction is a barometer of the current wine economy. Total amount collected was 31% higher this year for around 1500 cases-the average donation being 7.5 cases each. The average cost of each case at around $2000 was also a record figure and 34% higher, according to the statistics released by the organisers.

Christened as Premier Napa Valley (PNV), "Premiere provides an outstanding stage from which to showcase the innovation and quality of wines from the Napa Valley. The wines crafted for this auction truly are the best of the best. As a winemaker, I look forward to creating something unique each year--and tasting what my friends and neighbors have made as well. “ said PNV 2012 co-chairperson Michael Beaulac, winemaker and general manager of Pine Ridge Vineyards in Stags Leap District, one of the venues where tasting of wines from the District was held the previous day.

The whole of Napa Valley seems to have turned into a party town with the specially crafted wines for the occasions could  be tasted at over a dozen different wineries a day before the event on Saturday 25th February. Several groups of restaurateurs, retailers, importers and media had landed almost a week earlier, including a group of 20 Japanese importers and media. Earlier the guests were treated to a blind tasting of several cabernets and Merlots at the Culinary Institute of America for ’07,’08 and ’09 vintages- the Cabernets showing their nobility and superiority.

The excellence of the event is highlighted by the sentiments expressed by Beaulac. It is strictly a business affair and though the wines are still in barrels, the bidders hope to make good money on the sale of these wines-many of the buyers informed delWine that they had confirmed buyers while a few said they were investing on their own and knew that the prices fetched would be much higher as the wines were released, as the wines were exclusive. Many restaurateurs had bought them so they could be positioned in the exclusive section of their wine lists.  As Linda Reiff, the Executive Director of NVV said, ‘these professionals are experienced enough to judge the value of wines and would bid only keeping the economics in mind and are not charitable. For that we have a charity Auction in June every year.’ NVV has donated around $130 million so far since these auctions were started about 30 years ago.

While the top bidders included a Japanese importer, Nakagawa Trading Co, Tokyo the top earners for NVV were Dana, Kapcsandy, Ovid Napa Valley, Checkerboard, Vine Hill Ranch, Joseph Phelps, Amuse Bouche, Duckhorn  Silver Oak, Levy and McClellan and Shafer.

Some of the wineries have their own fans. Cakebread Cellars found the same Canadian buyers for their 20 cases of Vaca Range Blend-46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 20% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc.  Bruce Cakebread, an ex-President of NVV (2010) and President of Cakebread Cellars (imported in India by Brindco) said with a smile of satisfaction. ‘these guys have been coming for years and picking up our special lots at almost the same price of around $140 a bottle.’ Dr M Revana, the Indian-American cardiologist from Houston known for his quality Napa wines at Revana Family Vineyards was thrilled that his Premier cuvee 2010, their classic cabernet wine was picked up at $400 a bottle. Another Indian, Raj Patel of Patel Wineries couldn’t complain with a decent price of $200 a bottle for his Malbec 2010.

Genesis of NVV

The non-profit association, Napa Valley Vintners was formed in 1944 by 7 vintners a few years after the prohibition was lifted and the US was embroiled in the World War II. Although , it was then a primarily a professional eating and drinking club where the producers could come together once a month on a social platform for better co-operation among each other, it got a chance to prove that there was a strength in numbers and coming together would make a difference the very next year.

In 1945, after the war was just over, the US Congress was putting maximum price limits on commodities that included wine, to check inflation when the members represented Napa Valley and successfully argued that wine was a work of art like Mona Lisa and no price could be put on their art. Since then, they have been involved in promotional, education and environmental protection activities.

To promote the region, the NVV had in i1949 invited about a thousand Harvard Alumni. They had the vision about these people with an international business stature being the brand ambassadors of Napa Valley. In 1952, when they heard there were 2000 people at a GE communications convention in San Francisco, they bussed them all to the Valley; the whole town came together to look after the guests and have them taste their wines. They got celebrities including sportsmen and movie stars in various projects.

They worked to protect the land as a preserve and strongly advocate that the Napa Valley is a unique spot and a national treasure.  Napa Valley has been an appellation as a Viticultural area but they pushed for a law that made it mandatory for Napa Valley AVA to have at least 75% grapes from the Valley. NVV launched the international promotional programmes too- first one was to reach out to South Korea. Last year when they decided to go to China there were 7 producers. For their second visit next month 41 producers have signed up. Unfortunately, India is not on the radar due to heavy tax regime though individual producers like Cakebread, Staglin, Honig, Joseph Phelps, Stags Leap Wine Cellars, Beringer and several others are present in their individual capacity at the moment.

In 2001 they worked to tax themselves to help farmer housing project –to organise temporary housing for the workers at harvest time, especially from Mexico. The Napa Valley producers have come together  to make the land sustainable, using organic practices even when not certified.

There are infinite lessons of such co-operations for producers in every country, especially in India where the industry is young and producers lack harmony, trust and the spirit of co-operation one finds in the wine world. As Robert Mondavi, a father figure, a legend in Napa Valley and also the first secretary of NVV said, ‘Harmony together makes a difference of day and night and people love to see that.’ ‘Together we can make a difference,’ has been the motto of NVV.

When I think of Napa Valley Vintners I am inspired by an old Beatles song which rings in my ears and remains stuck. If I could sing for my Indian wine producing brethren, I would croon,’ Come together! Right now!! Hey, you.’

For further details click

Subhash Arora



Nidia Says:


I absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post's to be prsceiely what I'm looking for. can you offer guest writers to write content for you personally? I wouldn't mind creating a post or elaborating on most of the subjects you write regarding here. Again, awesome site!

Posted @ April 25, 2012 12:18


Brix Elite Says:

Sounds like a great event! We are proud to offer fantastic California wines in India!

Posted @ March 13, 2012 14:35


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