Premiere Napa Valley photo recap - Stark Insider
There will be wine.

Over the weekend I headed up to the annual wine auction known as Premiere Napa Valley. Held once again at the iconic Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone, the event is part celebration, part awareness building, and part community bonding. Here’s the Stark Insider photo roundup (see below) — I apologize in advance for being in just about every single photo.

The auction that takes place on Saturday afternoon is the heartstone of PNV, with funds benefiting the trade non-profit called Napa Valley Vintners. This year, records were again smashed, with the Premiere auction bringing in $6 million. Once again the scene was quite euphoric. 700 trade and press gathered on the top floor of the CIA to witness some of Napa’s finest 2013 wines get auctioned off at some heady prices.

Entering the barrel tasting room, the aromas of dark, delicious Cabs hit you: vanillas, oaks, fruits. The scent hangs magically in the air.

Earlier in the day, we were afforded access to all 225 of the barrel lots. We were able to taste and assess the vintage, while talking with the vintners themselves. It’s an extraordinary opportunity. This year the wines were, overall, astounding. Smooth, elegant, vibrant. Some were definitely tasting young, and will benefit from aging, allowing for tannins to relax. Still, I think most in attendance would agree ’13 is shaping up to be another spectacular vintage. Will there come a year when we say “Gosh darn it, this juice isn’t so great my dear!” I’m not sure. It’s all relative, and now that Napa has been producing fine, world class wine for the better part of five decades (at least in the modern post-Paris Judgment era), it largely becomes a preferential matter to debate flavor and style nuances.

Ed- WARNING: a ridiculous number of photos featuring Loni Stark about to commence.

For those who haven’t been to Premiere, you might be surprised at how (wonderfully) raucous it is. This is not a quiet, laid back affair. Far from it. You quickly realize how small and tight knit the Napa community is. I’ve been attending PNV for about five years now, and it’s remarkable how many familiar faces I see as I loop the morning barrel tasting. There’s so much conversation, hugging, even high-fiving the Vintner’s Hall of Fame (where the morning tasting happens) pulsates with energy (and volume!).


Auction Results


Some of my favorite wines included the ’13 Shafer Cabernet (balanced, just absolutely supremely made), ’14 Grgich Chardonnay (a Napa classic), ’13 Bougetz Cellars Cabernet (a small lot treat), ’13 Franciscan Malbec (I’ve been a fan of winemaker Janet Myers for several years now), ’13 Amuse Bouche Red Blend (Heidi Barrett does it again!), ’13 Canard Vineyard Cabernet (dark fruit gem), ’13 Keever Vineyards Cabernet (Celia Welch’s estate wine brims with that earthy, lush fruitopia that simply delights). Other stand-outs among stand-outs included Alpha Omega, Waterstone, Darioush, Coho, Corison (Cathy Corison should win some sort of Academy Award for consistently impressive Cabernets), Continuum (Tim Mondavi) and Peter Paul Wines, among so many others. We’re still reviewing our notes. Safe to say, ’13 Napa from what I tasted, and from conversations with retailers and wholesalers in attendance — another solid vintage.

MORE STARK INSIDER: Napa Valley wine auction breaks record, raises $6 million (Video)

One final note: an orchestra of sensory pleasure!

Ok, slightly dramatic. But if you visit the CIA in spring (or Napa or Sonoma as well), you’ll know what I mean. There’s a few magnificent Magnolia trees out front. With early bud-break in Napa, they filled the air with fragrant grandiflora. Moments later, after entering the CIA main hall–replete with stunning hanging chandeliers, colorful flags, and soaring staircases–you already can smell the oak. Entering the barrel tasting room, the aromas of dark, delicious Cabs hit you: vanillas, oaks, fruits. The scent hangs magically in the air.



Culinary Institute of America at Greystone
Premiere Napa Valley wine auction starts here, at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.


Premiere Napa Valley co-chair Michael Scholz
Co-chair Michael Scholz has advice for next year’s PNV Chair Matt Wood, “Strap yourself in, and buckle up!” The planning process for Premiere takes about 10 months – yes, this is possible the Super Bowl of wine auctions.
Ghost Block and Markham Vineyards '13 Red Wine
Lot #2: Ghost Block and Markham Vineyards ’13 Red Wine. Bold, delicious, memorable.
Velvet Grgich of Grgich Hills Estate
All in the family. With Violet Grgich of Grgich Hills Estate. Her and the family are celebrating the 35th anniversary of the “Chicago Showdown” where Mike Grgich’s 1977 Chardonnay was declared champion.
Janet Myers, winemaker for Franciscan Estate
Janet Myers, winemaker for Franciscan Estate. On of our first wine videos on Stark Insider featured Franciscan (2009). Janet was one of the first female winemakers in Napa. I liked her choice to pour Malbec on this day.
Shafer Napa Valley Wines
The cool cats from Shafer. John Shafer and winemaker Elias Fernandez.
Stag's Leap Cellars impressed with their '13 Cabernet.
Stag’s Leap Cellars impressed with their ’13 Cabernet.
Premiere Napa Valley Stag's Leap Wine Cellars "The Judgment"
According to Stag’s Leap this wine pays homage to their 1973 Cabernet that won the historic Paris tasting.
Bougetz Cellars pours a '13 Cabernet
John Comisky of Bougetz Cellars pours a ’13 Cabernet, with just a dash (6%) of Malbec. Delicious.
Jim Caudill - The Hess Collection
Lot #22: Hess Collection ’13 Cabernet. Jim Caudill tells me they used grapes from Mt Veeder – the result is an intense, rich wine.
Tim Duncan Silver Oaks - Premiere Napa Valley
Tim Duncan of Silver Oak. I’ve managed to cellar away a bottle or two of their classic Cabs over the years.
Winemaker Steve Devitt
Winemaker Steve Devitt pours his ’13 Darioush Cabernet. A single vineyard Cab that was smooth, elegant, right out of the barrel.
Premiere Napa Valley barrel tasting at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone
Happiness to see me.
Coho Merlot at Premiere Napa Valley
Gary Lipp of Coho. Their Premiere lot was a ’13 Merlot (90% Merlot/10% Cabernet) made from vines planted in 1987.
The Queen of Cab: Cathy Corison.
The Queen of Cab: Cathy Corison.
Brent Shortbridge, co-winemaker at Waterstone.
Brent Shortbridge, co-winemaker at Waterstone.
Laughs with the team from Michael Mondavi Family Estate.
Laughs with the team from Michael Mondavi Family Estate.
Keever Vineyards - Premiere Napa Valley wine auction
Olga Keever of Keever Vineyards. Effervescent as always. Her ’13 Cab is made under the helm of the esteemed Celia Welch.
Premiere Napa Valley - Tim Mondavi
I had the good fortune of running into the one and only Tim Mondavi (Continuum).
Matt Wood Domaine Chandon
Matt Wood of Domaine Chandon will chair next year’s Premiere Napa Valley wine auction. Early word he says is that the ’14 vintage is also a good one.
Matt Wood - Premiere Napa Valley
One change Matt Wood will implement for 2016 Premiere: the co-chairs wine lots will go last (instead of first), after all, he notes, “We need to be here right to the very end.”
Jeff Morgan winemaker for Peter Paul Wines
The last lot (#225) was Jeff Morgan’s ’13 “Where’s Mary?” Cabernet.


Culinary Institute of America at Greystone
After the morning barrel tasting we headed to the (massive) CIA kitchen where a sumptuous lunch was served.
Try eating only one. I dare you.
Salmon, delicious and tender, served from a cedar board.
Desserts at Premiere Napa Valley - CIA
Happiness to see me (again).
Premiere Week Napa - Desserts
Hello sweets! A sugar high just in time for the wine auction!
Premiere Napa Valley 2015
If only there was more choice…
Sorry… one more tantalizing shot…
Calistoga Roasters - Premiere Napa Valley
Calistoga Roasters has been a fixture at Premiere for as long as I can recall. A latte fix gets us ready for an afternoon of frenetic bidding.


The main hall, Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.
The main hall, Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.


Ryan Sciandri of Sciandri Family Vineyards
Catching up with Ryan Sciandri of Sciandri Family Vineyards.
Premiere Napa Valley Chairs Emma Swain and Michael Scholz
Premiere Napa Valley Chairs Emma Swain and Michael Scholz kick off the wine auction.
Auctioneer Fritz Hatton
Going once! Going twice! Sold! Auctioneer Fritz Hatton (and David Elswood) had the room going mad for Napa wine.
Premiere Napa Valley auction
The calm before the storm…
Premiere Napa Valley 2015 raises $6 million
The auction moves at a brisk pace. Only a limited number of bidders are given paddles – typically distributors, and retailers. PNV 2015 raised $6 million from 70 successful bidders.
Premiere Napa Valley results
The average wholesale price per bottle sold was $286.



Premiere Napa Valley wine auction smashes record (Loni Stark Guitar Hero Edition) from Stark Insider on Vimeo.

With Clinton Stark in Napa Valley.

Loni Stark
Loni Stark is an artist at Atelier Stark, self-professed foodie, and adventure travel seeker who has a lifelong passion for technology’s impact on business and creativity. She collaborates with Clinton Stark on video projects for Atelier Stark Films. It’s been said her laugh can be heard from San Jose all the way up to the Golden Gate Bridge. She makes no claims to super powers, although sushi is definitely her Kryptonite.