Best Reason To Get Into The Wine Business

The reason you want to get into the wine business is not to enjoy the sun on your back as you walk through your vineyard, not to help educate people about wine from a well-stocked shop and not to produce wine in your own vision.

The reason you want to be in the wine business is to be able to attend the "Premier Napa Valley Tasting and Auction".

Held last Saturday at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in St. Helena, Premier Napa Valley is one of the most fascinating tastings in California. The event is designed to raise funds for the Napa Valley Vintners association. Each participating winery creates a unique blend, something that simply doesn’t get released to the public. They make 5 to 20 cases worth. The tasting puts these wines on display then they are auctioned off. The event is limited to members of the trade, mainly retailers, restaurants and wholesalers.

This is the Napa Valley event where the more famous as well as more obscure wineries take part. They are all looking not merely to help out their association, but to meet and make contacts with people in the business. The wineries take it very seriously.

Wineries pour "reserve" wines that are made from the best barrel of Cabernet, from the most interesting parcel of their vineyards, from blends they don’t normally create. Essentially, you get to taste wines of tremendous quality and uniqueness. Interestingly, you don’t see many members of the media at this tasting, probably because they know the wines they taste will never be offered to the public. So what’s the point?

This year 181 wineries offered lots that eventually were sold for a record $1.87 million. A brief rundown of the auction lots can be found at this link.

This is the second time I’ve been to Premier Napa Valley. The first time was as a bidder while I was working as Director of Communications for This time I was behind a barrel, working on behalf of a client who was pouring at the event. It’s a very different perspective, but fascinating nonetheless.

No matter what kind of tasting you pour at you are always wondering who you are talking to. At large events such as Family Winemakers Tasting the odds are much smaller that you are talking to a decision maker. Still, you look at the badge they are wearing to have some idea of what the context of the encounter you are engaged in. At Premier Napa Valley nearly everyone who attends is the decision maker who comes with dollars and power in hand. You simply pay closer attention to who is tasting your wine.

I stood all day across the aisle from Ed Sbragia of Beringer ands next to Tony Soter of Etude. It was fascinating to actually watch people "pay homage" to these two giants of Napa Valley. They are creations of their own talent and expertise as well as the "star winemaker" system that was a huge factor in marketing wine back in the 1990s than it is today. Yet, it is fascinating to listen to people approach "star winemakers" that truly helped define wine for them.

Finally, the setting for the tasting is magnificent. The barrel room at
Greystone where the tasting takes place is dark, cool, home to great
old wine casks and easy to maneuver. You could never mistake it for
anything other than a place of wine.

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