This week the 22nd annual Premiere Napa Valley auction brings retail and restaurant wine buyers from across the country and beyond to Napa Valley. They are attracted by the 230 small lots of unique, high quality wines that are up for auction; it’s a chance to own and offer something truly special exclusively for their customers.
While every lot at Premiere Napa Valley is unique and only 5 to 20 cases are produced of each, some of the winemakers have chosen to further challenge the norm and make a different style and variety that breaks with the preconception of Napa wine and showcases what more the Napa Valley terroir has to offer.
Of the 230 lots, 70% are Cabernet Sauvignon and another 10% are blends with Cabernet Sauvignon, but four winemakers have chosen to offer wines made primarily from Grenache grapes.
According to the 2017 preliminary crush report, Napa produced 83,496 tons of winegrapes in 2017, of which 38,477 tons (46%) were Cabernet Sauvignon, and only 160 tons (0.2%) were Grenache; making these unique lots the rarest of the rare.
“Grenache is something special, an extraordinary, overlooked variety,” says Devlin, “It’s a vigorous variety that needs cooler and harder conditions to produce intense grapes, and that’s exactly what Frediani Vineyard does with their dry farmed and head trained vines.”
Devlin has been working with Frediani fruit for 10 years producing Three Clicks Petite Sirah, and in that time “I’d always ask the vineyard manager about their Grenache, and in 2015 he told me that he didn’t think their previous buyer was taking it, so we jumped at the chance,” says Devlin.
This is the first year Three Clicks is bringing a wine to Premiere Napa Valley, but Devlin has made wine (Cabernet) for other brands for the auction in the past and knows what the style trend looks like. “I blended in a little Petite Sirah with the Grenache to make it fit in with the crowd,” he says, “and the result is a different style than the Grenache we normally make, which is a variety correct fruit forward wine.”
Kale Anderson, winemaker of Kale Wines has created a Rhône-inspired blend of 84% Grenache and 16% Mourvèdre (Lot No. 140) from the coveted eastern Rutherford Bench of McGah Family Vineyards with the intention of celebrating the diversity of the Napa Valley.
“Grenache does fantastically in Napa Valley,” says Anderson, “Napa Valley is great for varieties other than Cab, it’s great for everything, but Cab is king because it’s a cash crop.”
This is Anderson’s second time bringing his own brand of Rhône style wine to Premiere Napa Valley, but he has made “Big Cabs” for the auction for other wineries in the past. “The last Rhône blend was success, it went for quite a bit of money,” says Anderson.
Being a small winery, Kale Wines only participate in Premiere Napa Valley every other year, but Anderson feels that it’s a good way to be part of the valley’s wine community. “We live here, our kids go to school here, and Napa Valley Vintners do a great job, so it’s a good way for us to give back.”
However, Anderson also recognizes that the auction is an excellent opportunity to showcase his brand and that Napa Valley can produce a variety of amazing wines, not only Cabernet Sauvignons. He’s particularly excited about showing off the first fruits of his collaboration with McGah Family Vineyards from one acre on their Heritage Block developed with special soil preparation, site specific rootstock, and carefully selected clones.
Devlin agrees about the value of participating in the auction. “Premiere Napa Valley is good exposure for our brand, and I think we have something unique to bring to the table.”
The two other Grenache based lots offered at Premiere Napa Valley are:
The online auction opens Friday, February 23 at 9 a.m. running until noon on the 24th. The live auction takes place at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone at 1 p.m. to 4p.m. on the February 24.
By Kim Badenfort