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Demand Is Up At The Second Annual Sonoma County Barrel Auction

sonoma county barrel auction panoramic

This past weekend we had the pleasure of attending the second annual Sonoma County Barrel Auction, which benefits the Sonoma County Vintners Association and showcases Sonoma County wines. This event offers "never before, never again" wines. Several of the wines offered are truly unique - a blend or a barrel that is unlike others the winery sells. But others are just a specific barrel selection of a wine the winery already makes and sells to the public. All of the bottles sold have a special SoCo barrel auction label that make it unique from anything else in the world. We just released to you the Delectus Cab from last year's auction, which is nearly sold out, so we were excited to bid on Lots this year.

This year's auction boasted so many amazing wines that it was difficult to choose our favorites. Unfortunately (for us), this year the wine Lots sold for such a premium that the average bottle purchase price was 2-3 times over market value, or what we as online retailers know our customers would be willing to pay. Great news for Sonoma County vintners, but not so good news for us. Some of the auction highlights included:

  • A 5-case Lot of Pinot from Cirq Estate, a new(ish) project by Michael Browne, that blends the two vineyards from which Cirq draws fruit. A previous vintage of the Treehouse vineyard-designate received 93-points WA. You can buy the vineyard-designate wines through the online aftermarket for about $135. This Lot, however, sold for $225/bottle before retail mark-up.
  • A 5-case Lot of 2014 Cab from Pride Mountain, a bottling of Jim's vineyard, a major component of their reserve Cab. The 2012 reserve Cab received 100 points from Robert Parker, so the aftermarket prices of that particular vintage are through the roof. But, generally, you can pick up a bottle of the reserve cab for $135. This Lot sold for $258/bottle before retail mark-up.
  • A 10-case Lot of Syrah from Donelan Family Wines from their Obsidian Estate vineyard. Robert Parker loves the Donelan wines, doling out scores from 94-100 points, particularly for their Syrahs. This was likely the best deal of the day, especially if they end up getting a 100-point score!
  • A 20-case Lot of Williams Selyem Pinot, a blend of several renowned vineyard sites by winemaker Jeff Mangahas, sold for $41,000 or $171/bottle before retail mark-up.
  • A 10-case Lot of Pinot from Kosta Browne that they call "Elixir." To make it, they took their Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast production grapes and pulled the small amount of wine that rests atop the fermentation tanks before the batch is put through the press. To pick up a Russian River or Sonoma Coast Pinot or even one of the vineyard designate pinots from Kosta Browne in the aftermarket might cost you $90-$150. This lot sold for $383/bottle. I hope the Elixir is really, really good!

Even though Karen with Helen Bacigalupi at Sonoma County Barrel Auction 2016we didn't win one of the auction Lots, we still walked away happy. Not only did we get a chance to network with new (to us) wineries, like Calluna and Bruliam, that we look forward to following, but at the auction tables we had the pleasure of sitting with David and Judy Breitstein, renowned wine buyers, and the icon Helen Bacigalupi. Helen was one of four icons honored at this year's auction and we felt overjoyed sitting at her table. She graciously shared her Bacigalupi wine, made by Ashley Herzberg, and I bet she was happy to see her legacy do so well in the auction.

Another treat at th1998 davis bynum pinot noir back labele event were the two bottles of 1998 David Bynum that we brought to share with our friends at the Davis Bynum winery. This wine was made from Rochioli grapes by winemaker Gary Farrell. Davis Bynam, Rochioli, and Gary Farrell wineries all had Lots up for bid, so it was neat to have so many paths cross in a single bottle. Tom Rochioli, another icon honored at the event, told us details about the weather conditions in 1998 like it happened last season, and hypothesized that it would hold up nicely compared to the 1997. And for an 18-year-old Russian River Pinot it was tasting amazing! Everyone was ooooh-ing and ahhhh-ing over it. Davis Bynum, known for its clone-specific Pinots, consistently scores about 88-89 points from Robert Parker and Wine Spectator, including for the 1998 vintage. We were so glad we could share this treasure with so many friends in the industry.

Next year we will try to work directly with our customers to form "symposiums" for the various wine Lots of interest, since the trend for the auction is moving toward premium pricing. That way you will benefit from the "deal sweeteners" that come with winning a Lot. Most of the lots are for five cases of wine, but there are a few 10 and 20 case Lots. And with each Lot purchased the winemaker and/or other winery principles, offer a market visit - they will pay their own travel expenses to visit your store, or restaurant, to discuss the wine. A sit-down with a winemaker is always a fun experience and worth a premium price!

All in all it was a fabulous second annual SoCo barrel auction. We feel so proud to live here and to be included in such a terrific event. If you are interested in tasting the 1998 Davis Bynum we shared, feel free pick to up a bottle!