Another Record for Premiere Napa Valley


© 2015 Bob McClenahan, Napa Valley Vintners

Saturday saw yet another record-setting year at Premiere Napa Valley, for both the auction overall, and for our own Amici lot.  The highly anticipated auction, which brings hundreds of wine industry trade visitors to the Napa Valley every February, brought in $6 million in a fun afternoon of excitement and heated bidding.  Amici’s offering, a 5-case lot from a single barrel of 2013 Missouri Hopper Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, went for a healthy sum of $32,000, which amounts to more than $533 per bottle (the auction’s average price per bottle was $286).  The Missouri Hopper Vineyard on the Oakville Bench is one of Napa’s oldest vineyards and consistently produces premium, world-class Cabernet.  Tasters of Amici’s lot Saturday were wowed by a stunning, age-worthy wine that showed rich and complex layers of dark cherry, cassis and mocha.

There was much excitement Saturday about the quality of the 2013 vintage as visitors spent the morning sampling the auction wines in the barrel room at the Greystone Culinary Institute of America.  Some tasters extolled the 2013s as “even better than 2012,” a vintage which is already widely regarded as extraordinary.

At the end of the day, vintners and attendees alike went home happy.  Vintners were thrilled with the generosity of the bidders, whose funds raised will go to support the important work of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, and many of those bidders have some incredible one-of-a-kind lots of wine coming their way.


Amici is Coming to You!

You don’t have to make it to Napa Valley to try Amici’s new releases this month; we’re coming to you! Here’s a list of where we’ll be pouring our wines in the next few weeks:
Wednesday, Dec. 3: 
– Perry’s Steakhouse Winemaker Dinner 6:30 pm, Katy, TX

Thursday, Dec 4:
Total Wine, 2-5 pm, Clearwater, FL

Friday, Dec 5
Total Wine, 3-7 pm, San Antonio, TX (Del Norte)
– Total Wine, 12-3 pm, University Park, FL
– Total Wine, 4-7 pm, Charlotte, NC (Promenade)
– Total Wine, 12-3:15 pm, Durham, NC
– Total Wine, 4-7 pm, Cary, NC

Saturday, Dec 6:
Total Wine, 12-5 pm, San Antonio, TX (The Rim)
– Total Wine, 12-6 pm, Tampa, FL
– Total Wine, 12-6 pm, Charlotte, NC (Myers Park)
– Total Wine, 12-3 pm, Raleigh, NC (Triangle Plaza)
– Total Wine, 3:30-7 pm, Raleigh, NC (Six Forks Rd.)

Sunday, Dec 7:
Total Wine, 1-4 pm, St. Petersburg, FL
– Total Wine, 12-3 pm, Huntersville, NC
– Total Wine, 12-4 pm, Raleigh, NC (Brier Creek)

Tuesday, Dec 9:
Total Wine, 12-2:30 pm, Fort Myers, FL
– Total Wine, 3:30-6 pm, Naples, FL

Wednesday, Dec 10:
Total Wine, 12-2:30 pm, Stuart, FL
– Total Wine, 3:30-6 pm, Wellington, FL

Thursday, Dec 11:
Total Wine, 12-2:30 pm, Boynton Beach, FL
– Total Wine, 3-6 pm, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Friday, Dec 12:
Total Wine, 1-5 pm, Palm Beach Gardens, FL
– Total Wine, 12-6 pm, Laurel, MD

Saturday, Dec 13:
Total Wine, 12-4 pm, Boca Raton, FL
– Total Wine, 12-6 pm, McLean, VA

Sunday, Dec 14: 
– Total Wine, 12-5 pm, Laurel, MD
Friday, Dec 19: 
– Total Wine, 12-6 pm, Claymont, DE

Saturday, Dec 20:
– Total Wine, 12-6 pm, Claymont, DE

Sunday, Dec 21: 
– Total Wine, 12-6 pm, Norwalk, CT

A Smashing Success for the Barrel Auction

It’s tough to have a bad day wandering the beautiful grounds of Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, but Friday’s barrel auction hit an all-time high note for picture-perfect weather, stunning wines and delicious food.

Two thousand attendees came to sample and bid on wines from 100 barrels inside the Charles Krug Redwood Cellar at Friday’s barrel auction, part of Auction Napa Valley.  The wines were almost all from the celebrated 2012 vintage and as a group wowed attendees with their depth, complexity and sheer deliciousness.  Amici’s barrel of 2012 Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet was a huge hit with tasters, who bid more than $2,000 per case to get their hands on it.

Outside the barrel room, attendees wandered the Marketplace in the gorgeous weather, sipping white and rosé wines and tasting amazing bites of food cooked on site by the crème de la crème of Napa Valley’s restaurant and catering scene.  Yesterday’s barrel auction was an astounding success by any measure, and while the final numbers are not in yet, the unofficial word is that the charitable funds raised may be close to last year’s record of almost $1.7 million.  And to top that, things really kick into high gear later today with the live auction at Meadowood Resort, while the e-auction continues until Sunday.

The calm before the storm: minutes before attendees arrive.

The calm before the storm: minutes before attendees arrive.

Pouring at this year's barrel selection.

Pouring this year’s barrel selection.

Cooks from Meadowood prepare fresh spring peas for their dish at the Marketplace

Cooks from Meadowood prepare fresh spring peas for their dish at the Marketplace

The top bidder gets a commemorative signed barrel head.

The top bidder gets a commemorative signed barrel head.

Nothing matches the excitement of the barrel auction.

Nothing matches the excitement of the barrel auction.

Always a favorite, Woodhouse Chocolates presents samples of their amazing creations.

Always a favorite, Woodhouse Chocolates presented samples of their amazing creations.

The boards are full from generous bidders.

The boards are full from generous bidders.

The final bids are posted, the confetti has flown, and another great barrel auction comes to a close.

The final bids are posted, the confetti has flown, and another great barrel auction comes to a close.

Amici’s Premiere Auction Lot Fetches a Record Price


The bidding was hot at Premiere Napa Valley 2014 (photo by Bob McClenahan)

There were smiles all around yesterday as Amici’s 5-case Premiere Napa Valley Auction lot went for $28,000 after heated bidding.  The lot, 60 bottles of a limited production from a small block on Spring Mountain, was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from 2012, one of the best vintages in Napa Valley history.

It was yet another Napa Valley auction for the record books.  Hundreds of the wine industry’s biggest buyers gather each February for Premiere Napa Valley, a trade event which culminates with a Saturday afternoon auction of one-of-a-kind lots, and the wine is often destined for high-end retail wine shops or restaurants.  Almost all of the barrels at the Saturday morning barrel tasting before the auction were from the stellar but yet-to-be-released 2012 vintage, and clearly the wine experts in the room were excited about the opportunity to get their hands on these wines.  Bidding was heated for many lots and there were hoots and hollers from the crowd as paddles flew and bidders competed against each other, pushing certain lots sky-high.

At the end of the day, a whopping $5.9 million was raised (a sizable leap from the 2012 record of $3.1 million).  It was an exciting day for all, and today everyone in Napa is feeling very thankful for the support of those generous bidders.

Throw a “Wine Country-Style” Party – Anywhere!

August is the perfect month for backyard parties, and a wine country-themed party is always a winner, no matter where you live.  We recently threw a fantastic “wine country style barbeque” for a friend’s birthday – at a location two hours from Napa Valley.  Here are a few tips for adding a touch of wine country to your party, wherever it is:

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Serve the food family style at casual long tables. Baskets of fresh bread and a few simple flower sprigs from your garden are all you need to create a beautiful, informal table.


For a rustic touch of wine country, use two empty barrels and a plank of wood to create a wine bar.

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Create these fun and easy wine cork napkin rings for each placesetting to highlight the “wine country” theme.

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Place several open bottles of nice wine along the tables and encourage people to explore the different wines and discover their favorites. After dinner move any unfinished bottles to the wine bar and let people serve themselves as they continue to mix and mingle.

Supporting the Napa Valley Farmworker


An outpouring of largesse from attendees boosted Auction Napa Valley 2013 fundraising to record highs

Auction Napa Valley 2013 will long be held as a benchmark year for the event with its staggering $16.9 million in funds raised, more than 60% greater than the previous high water mark.  It was a year to remember, to be sure.  But amidst all the glamour of the auction, amidst its happily frenzied bidding on lots featuring sports cars, exotic trips, and some of the finest wine and food imaginable, it’s sometimes easy to forget why we all gather for this 4-day bacchanalia on the first weekend of June every year.  We do it to support the neediest in our community.

The Napa Valley may be world-famous as the source of some wonderful wines, but we in the valley have to remind ourselves often that none of our success would be possible without the thousands of underprivileged workers that live and work here.  With land going for up to $300,000 per acre, the Napa Valley is not exactly the most affordable agricultural community in which these workers find themselves.  These hard workers that support the wine economy perform a variety of important tasks:  they’re cellar workers, restaurant dishwashers, hotel cleaning staff and migrant farmworkers that prune and harvest the vineyards.

The migrant farmworkers in particular perform important tasks under what can be harsh living conditions.  While 75% of the grapes in California are picked by machine, in Napa Valley roughly 75% are picked by hand. This means that come harvest, thousands of workers are needed to get those grapes immediately from the vineyards to the crushpad.  Experts estimate that 8,000 to 12,000 migrant farmworkers live in Napa Valley, many seasonally.  A lack of beds, particularly in decades past, has meant that migrant farmworkers were often living in makeshift camps in the woods, under bridges, in cars, or bunking six or more men to a bedroom.

Thankfully, life for migrant farmworkers in Napa has improved dramatically from years past and is far better than most agricultural communities.  Through the work of Napa Valley Housing Authority and other important organizations, for about $12 a day many of these workers can have a shower and a hot meal when they return from the vineyards, and sleep in a clean bed in a shared room.

In 2002 vineyard owners voted to assess themselves $10 per acre to create a program which helps house and feed migrant fieldworkers. Those tax revenues along with donations contribute to provide a wide safety net for these workers, including not just housing and food, but healthcare and job placement.  While in other farming communities migrant fieldworkers are sadly exploited, paid little and charged exorbitant living expenses, in Napa hourly wages for fieldworkers are an average of 9% higher than the rest of California.


Vineyards workers race against the warming sun during harvest 2012

It’s satisfying to be part of a community that recognizes the importance of the often unheard group that supports our economy.  As a whole, the community of vineyard owners and winemakers in Napa understands and appreciates that we couldn’t be successful without these workers.  Every year the proceeds from Auction Napa Valley go to programs that support this community of workers and their families, helping with everything from housing and food to medical care and after school programs.  With all of its glitz and glamour the auction is certainly a fun time, but every year it’s the end result that makes it worth it.

A Great Way to Support Public Schools

SONY DSCLast weekend we had the chance to host what has become tradition for Amici, the 3rd annual Amici/Las Lomitas Education Foundation fundraiser.  As anyone who lives in California knows, our public schools in this state need all the help they can get these days, and  this fundraiser has been a great way to raise funds for the public school district in Menlo Park and Atherton area.  Parents and wine lovers at the event were the first to get to try all three 2011 single vineyard barrel samples side by side.  Also in the line-up was the pre-release 2010 Amici Reserve Napa Valley Cab , as well as all of our new spring releases.  It was a great line-up of wines, a fun evening and, best of all, with 25% of all proceeds going straight to the school foundation, thousand of dollars were raised for public school programs.  Sounds like a win-win-win to us!


Exploring the Terroir of Napa Valley Sub-Appellations

Last week we had the pleasure in taking part in an exploratory “terroir” tasting of Cabernets from six of the 16 appellations in the Napa Valley.  While the concept of terroir comes to us from France, arguably there is no better place to explore it and taste it in the glass than here in the Napa Valley.


Terroir is an imprecise concept of how the geography, geology and climate of a specific grape-growing location can affect the resulting wine.  The relatively tiny Napa Valley, just 1/8 the size of Bordeaux and only 30 miles long by 5 miles wide, offers winegrowers a dizzying array of elements that create vastly different terroir from one appellation, and even one vineyard, to the next.

Our tiny valley has 100 different soil variations and fully half of the world’s soil orders. With five mountains surrounding the valley and volcanic knolls throughout, as well as the Pacific Ocean sitting 30 miles to the west, the valley contains micro-climates of valley and hillside vineyards facing all different directions, some cooled by ocean fog sneaking in, some much warmer.  Vineyard soils can be alluvial, volcanic, clay, loam or other.  Add the winemaker’s influence into that mix, and what you have is a concoction of almost infinite variables influencing a wine’s terroir.

Tasting Cabernet Sauvignons from various Napa appellations side by side is an entertaining, always-educational exercise that I highly recommend for anyone interested in wine.  The six wines we tasted last week, every one of them an exceptional and delicious wine, spanned a wide variety of flavors and profiles:  some showed red perfumey fruit, others deeper black fruits, some tannins were gripping and powerful, others were velvety.


At Amici in addition to our Napa Valley blends, we love to create vineyard-specific wines that allow people to explore in-depth the characteristics of the sub-appellations of Napa Valley.  From Spring Mountain to Rutherford Bench to Oakville, we have an exciting array of vineyard-specific wines in the bottle and in the barrel now.  Each one has its own distinct personality, an expression of its terroir, waiting to be expressed when the cork is pulled.

Special thanks to those involved in this tasting: it was organized by the Concierge Alliance of Napa Valley and Sonoma (CANVAS), led by the Napa Valley Wine Academy, and hosted at the beautiful Alpha Omega Winery.  

Auction Napa Valley 2012

The gray clouds and rain moved in at just the right time on Monday morning, as out of town attendees for this year’s Auction Napa Valley were loading their bags into cars destined for the airport, and vintners were getting little extra sleep after another successful auction. The weather had been warm and beautiful during the weekend festivities, and everyone’s spirits around the valley are bouyed by the fact that the total auction proceeds this year are a whopping $8.1 million, up from last year’s $7.3 million.

At Amici we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly over this annual weekend of fun, wine and friends. At Friday’s barrel auction, Joel poured his 2010 Amici Cellars Gary Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. This single-vineyard wine from the famed Morisoli Vineyard on Napa’s Rutherford Bench was a huge hit with attendees and bidding on case lots from the barrel was active. The ten lucky top bidders will be receiving their cases next summer after the wine is bottled.

Bidding was also heated for our e-auction lot, featuring a weekend stay at the Amici guest house for three couples, private vineyard tour and barrel tasting, gourmet wine-pairing lunch prepared by our chef, and two cases of Amici single-vineyard reserve wines. The e-auction bidding was open for seven days, and reached its peak just before close on Sunday night as several bidders competed for the lot. We’re excited to host the winning bidders soon, and show them the time of their lives!


Fun was had by all at the barrel auction on Friday, held this year in the beautiful caves at Jarvis Winery.