Why Premiere Napa Valley Is Crucial To A Winemaker’s Creativity

Photo by Alexander Rubin for Napa Valley Vintners_0018

At last weekend’s Premiere Napa Valley, 58 successful bidders (from 32 states and eight countries) purchased 217 lots of wine. The auction generated $4.1 million in revenue for the Napa Valley Vintners association. For a certain type of collector, the wine auctioned at Premiere is the creme de la creme. It’s also significant for the winemakers. Each lot contains a small amount of bottles, no less than 60 and no more than 240. For a winemaker that’s a very small quantity of wine.

Hourglass' Jeff Smith
Hourglass’ Jeff Smith

Getting to produce a special bottle specifically for the event is a thrilling experience for the winemakers involved. “This is really the fun part from a vintners perspective,” Jeff Smith, the founder and CEO of Hourglass and the 2018 Premiere Napa Valley chair told Haute Living. “It’s our opportunity to do something highly creative, kind of out of the box that we wouldn’t normally do in the course of doing our business. And these are really micro lots like I said five to 20 cases.” Producing a smaller quantity allows the winemaker to get into a hyper-creative state and do things that are outside of the norm. There are no limitations or restrictions.


As Napa is Cabernet Sauvignon country, the majority of winemakers stick to what they’re good at and make Cab, albeit Cab with a special significance or focus. For example, Bryan Kays, the winemaker at Trefethen Family Vineyards, crafted a superb Cab Sav from vines that are 50 years old. The 60 bottles of wine were created in commemoration of the family-owned winery’s 50th anniversary. On the other hand, Rolando Herrera, the winemaker at Mi Sueño Winery, made 60 bottles of Cab Sav meant to showcase a single estate vineyard in Coombsville.

Photo by Alexander Rubin for Napa Valley Vintners_0141

Only a handful of vintners make other reds and whites. Robert Schermeister, of Schermeister, produced a Chardonnay. While it tasted a little “cheesy” as Schermeister put it, it was obvious after one sip that the unfiltered and wild fermented Chard is destined for greatness. Everyone was talking about Nine Suns Grenache. Vintner Lloyd Matthews crafted 60 bottles. This wine is representative of the only Grenache planted on the highly acclaimed Pritchard Hill property.


The innovative wines found at Premiere Napa Valley often inspire the winemakers to think outside the box—when it comes to their regular winemaking. “What is interesting is that we have had lots that affect the creative process in general. Some we have taken out at a later date and repurpose as commercial lot,” Smith says.

Photo by Alexander Rubin for Napa Valley Vintners_0104

He believes that Premiere—and the stimulation of creativity and craftsmanship that it causes—is crucial to the Valley’s success. “That creativity and the openness of the community is one of the things that has pushed Napa Valley forward so fast. If you look at what Napa has accomplished within the last 60 years, it’s kind of staggering,” Smith says. “To think about going from completely off of anybody’s radar to becoming one of the premier wine-growing regions of the world. It’s pretty amazing to be able to do that in a 50-year span.”