Scarecrow Napa Cab

Scarecrow Napa Cab - don't touch me please, I'm resting.

Maybe it’s time to start a series of “un-boxing” posts for crazy Napa cult wines. Then again, unlike gadgets, a bottle of wine is… well, a bottle of wine. You seen one, you’ve seen them all.

Unless we’re talking about Scarecrow which could very well be the new king of over-the-top cult wines.

At Premiere Napa Valley this weekend five cases of 2009 Scarecrow Cabernet sold for $125,000 at auction to a Japanese wine entrepreneur. That’s just over $2,000 per bottle. So is the wine that good? Or is it another example of extreme luxury marketing in action? (see below for the final tally on the event)

In the past I’ve not-so-cleverly referred to this cult style of marketing as the “velvet rope” approach. Trendy clubs employ it–you know, you see a line of people waiting to get in somewhere. It immediately draws interest. What’s behind the rope!?

As for the worth of the wine, it’s simple economics: it’s worth whatever the market will bear. In this case it was a large number, but it could’ve easily been larger had there been another equally determined collector on the scene. Or, if Ichizo “Get that wine no matter what it took” Nakagawa had not been in attendance on this day, then the winning bid could’ve been far less. Obviously cult wine is a game of extremes, and not necessarily a barometer of market conditions.

I began to wonder what he would do with the wine. Was he going to hold it, flip it, or drink it? Who knows really, but whatever the scenario I’m guessing he has some pretty decent logistics (and insurance) in place for transportation back to Tokyo.

The news also got me thinking about collecting vs. consuming. To age, or to drink. That is the question.

2007 Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc
Sadly, perhaps the only time this bottle will see the light of day...

For me, it’s all about the now–to a fault.

For doe-eyed wife Loni it’s about collecting (and valuation).

To each their own. I don’t think there is a right or wrong. I have learned that Loni has two vulnerabilities when it comes to vino: hard to get wines (I think she enjoys the challenge of finally landing them) and pretty bottles (like the laser-etched magnums from St. Francis or the beautiful “1886” bottles from Ehlers Estate). My greatest weakness is most likely impatience. Open it, I say. Instant gratification. But often, good things do come to those who wait.

One of the joys of wine is that it means different things to different people. In our household that means we need to hedge our bets and satisfy both of our compulsions. When we find a nice wine in Napa, or Sonoma, we’ll usually buy a few cases. That way we can enjoy some now, and, if the wine is likely to age well, we’ll put some away. This to me also feels very Canadian. We will just please everyone and avoid extremes. This system sits well with my eager to please DNA.

These Scarecrow photos here are of the 2007 vintage we finally were “allowed” to purchase. Three bottles. And befitting the velvet-rope, Loni was summarily rejected on her first few attempts to buy an allocation. The answer was to wait in line longer… I want what I can not have!

I was actually surprised that Loni even opened the box itself (something we’ve never done with the Harlan which might as well be sitting on the ocean floor next to Titanic), exposing the bottle to light. Ahhh, the light!

Holding the bottles, I imagined what the wine might taste like. Many at PNV were able to taste Scarecrow and other premium and cult wines. For now, I can only dream.

Premiere Napa Valley 2011 – By the Numbers

  • Nearly $2.4 million in sales
  • 23% y/y increase
  • Topped record year 2008 ($2.2 million) by 5%
  • Successful bidders: 68
  • Cases purchased: 1530
  • Average price per case: $1546 ($128/bottle)
  • Rounding out the top ten highest earning lots of the day: Schrader Cellars, Ovid, Levy and McClellan, Shafer Vineyards, Robert Mondavi Winery, Reynolds Family Winery, Duckhorn Vineyards, Silver Oak Cellars and Beringer Vineyards.

Source: Napa Valley Vintners

Clinton Stark
Clinton shoots videos for Stark Insider. San Francisco Bay Area arts, Ingmar Bergman and French New Wave, and chasing the perfect home espresso shot 25 seconds at a time (and failing). Peloton: ClintTheMint. Camera: Video Gear