Screaming Eagle Cabernet OR The Island?


Yes, it’s true. Napa Valley’s Screaming Eagle winery has been sold. It is, perhaps the most iconic of California’s Cult Wineries and likely the inspiration for a number of new Napa Winery owners who both wanted the kind of prestige that this operation brought its owner and who also eyed the kind of cash it generated.

Think about it: 500 cases of wine annually. $300 per bottle. That’s $1.8 Million. That’s some inspiration.

There was a time, however, when Screaming Eagle made lots of money not only for its owner, but for a huge number of people on its mailing list.

Back at the turn of the decade, Screaming Eagle was the most sought after wine made in America. If you were on the mailing list you could buy it for $75 to $100. However, if you wanted to purchase the wine and were not on the mailing list, that was a different story. The "aftermarket for Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon was running in the neighborhood of $300 to $400 per bottle.

So, imagine you are on the mailing list and you bought six bottles. You could put the wine down and look forward to popping the cork one day at a future anniversary or special event. Or, you could sell the wine immediately at auction and take a Caribbean vacation.

I’ve had the opportunity to taste Screaming Eagle on a number of
occasions as well as several vintages. It’s proto-typical modern
California Cabernet. Dense, Rich, powerfully perfumed with moderate
tannin and actually very drinkable when young. Yet, having experienced both the wine as well as a Caribbean vacation, I’d take the latter.

The fact that a number of people on the the Screaming Eagle mailing list had the same addresses (the or Christies’ auction houses, wasn’t lost on the owner. The only way to slow down the immediate resale of the wine was to raise the price. It was raised and the owner still sold every bottle.

Huge over at Zinquisition has a GREAT rundown of the dealings and speculation regarding the sale of this winery.

3 Responses

  1. johng - March 23, 2006

    The either/or argument is always interesting, but it doesn’t have to be either/or. You can go on the vacation and take along a bottle of 2002 Paradigm Cab, another Heidi Barrett wine (which I reviews this week on my blog) that sells for $54.
    Somebody on eRobert Parker was saying that the estimated sales price for SE was something like 100 times earnings, so this isn’t about generating cash, it’s about a trophy. Though it’s worth noting that SE has always sold a whole lot of grapes and could have made a lot more wine if Jean Phillips had wanted too. So the new owners may well ramp up production. (grape buyers are not allowed to say that they get their fruit from SE, but brokers are often hear whispering – true or not – that the wines they sell have SE fruit.)

  2. johng - March 23, 2006

    Tom, I just saw that the Press Democrat website now has more info about the sale and buyers. This expands slightly on the info that was already on the Wine Spectator site.

  3. St.Vini - March 23, 2006

    I don’t think this sold for 100 times earnings. No way. Remember that you’ve essentially got two things being sold here – 1) the business, which no doubt sold for a high multiple of earnings and 2) a 60-acre vineyard in Oakville that was worth ~$300k/acre. With only ~500 cases produced, they had ~9,000 cases of excess grapes/juice to sell every year from the vineyard. There’s a huge upside that you have to take into consideration.

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