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05.01.2008

Screaming Eagle Snubs The Wine Trade

The danger of a post such as this will be the fact that some of you, and perhaps the people concerned, will believe that I am simply whining. But let me assure you, though I am slightly disappointed, I am far more astonished at what seems to me to be a level of rudeness and arrogance that is thankfully rare in the wine world.

Monday afternoon, April 28th, the Oakville Winegrowers Association put on a tasting of wines grown and made in Napa's Oakville AVA (American Viticultural Area) for the trade and the media. Such tastings are quite rare for many reasons, but perhaps among them is the fact that many of the wineries in Oakville are quite simply the top wineries in Napa. These folks don't have any problem selling their wines out every year for hundreds of dollars per bottle. Needless to say, they don't have a lot of extra wine laying around for tasting. Many do not have public tasting rooms at all for this very reason. As listed in this forex brokers website have a look at how you can trade win.

However, most of these wineries, like the vast majority of their peers in Napa understand that their relationship with the trade (retailers, restaurateurs, distributors, the press) is important both for their own livelihood as well as the livelihood of the wine region as a whole. Which means that every once in a while they get together and throw a big tasting to allow members of the trade and media access to their hard-to-find wines in a comparative and easily accessible setting.

The Oakville tasting this week represented a fabulous opportunity to taste some legendary wines from some of Napa's best producers. Among them was Screaming Eagle, the cult wine of cult wines. This small producer is widely known for making some of the highest rated, most expensive, and hardest to get wine in America.

Frankly when I saw that Screaming Eagle would be pouring at the tasting, my first reaction was surprise, since I had never heard of them pouring their wines at such a large trade event. My second reaction was a warm feeling of approval. I was proud that they were going to support their appellation and their fellow winegrowers, and I was personally looking forward to tasting the wine for the first time.

But I never got to. And neither did hundreds of other members of the trade and media.

After about 20 minutes of pouring at the tasting, having only brought a few bottles, Screaming Eagle was out of wine. So when I arrived to the tasting about 30 minutes late, I found this:

screagle.jpg

An empty table, surrounded by stunned members of the wine community -- winemakers, wine buyers, sommeliers, marketing consultants, and other winery owners, all of whom were nonplussed at the blank table. Actually, not all of them were nonplussed. Some of them were pissed.

Now you might be thinking, well, they ARE the ultimate cult winery. They don't make a lot of wine, and their wine is so expensive, they can't really afford to just stand around and pour their wine all day long at this tasting.

To which I say: tell that to the following wineries, all of whom poured their wines for nearly three hours to everyone who wanted it at the tasting:

Harlan Estate. Production: 2100 cases. Release price: ~$700
Bond. Production: not sure, but low. Release price: ~$400
Futo Wines. Production: 200 cases. Release price: $250+
Dalla Valle. Production 2000 cases. Release price: $250+

The first people I ran into when I got to the tasting were a couple of winemakers I know who make wine elsewhere in the valley. They were leaving the tasting and told me that they had gotten to the tasting right when it started, and they still hadn't gotten a chance to taste the Screaming Eagle. They were shaking their heads in amazement.

So what is the point of all this?

The point is that there are wineries who understand that they're part of a community, and behave as such. And then there are those who don't.

I can't tell you how many tastings for both the trade and the public I have been to where Bill Harlan and Bob Levy are pouring the Harlan and Bond wines for all comers. There is no economic reason for such wineries to appear at these events. Most of the people who taste their wines in these settings will never be able to get their hands on a bottle anyway. Yet they are there, because they are supporting their industry, their appellation, and the trade itself.

For Screaming Eagle to agree to participate in this tasting and then to show up with only enough wine to last 20 minutes is just downright rude to the point of being offensive. It says very clearly that they pretty much don't give a damn about anyone.

That's fine, of course. It's their prerogative. But I find it quite ironic that for two hours after they abandoned their table, the two folks who came to pour Screaming Eagle were still wandering around, tasting everyone else's wines, almost none of which ran out until nearly three hours into the event.

Shame. I'm sure I'll taste Screaming Eagle someday, but I wonder if it will ever be able to overcome this bad taste I have in my mouth?

Comments (61)

Alex wrote:
05.02.08 at 1:37 AM

I agree with you that this seems incredibly rude on the part of Screaming Eagle. You have said that they don't often participate in tastings, so let's hope the lack of wine was more based on a lack of planning and understanding of how much would be required, rather than arrogance.

Linda B wrote:
05.02.08 at 4:04 AM

I don't know what astounds me more: them running out of wine so early or the presenters having the audacity to hang around and taste everyone else's wines.

I doubt I'll ever get to taste the wine, but if I did I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be worth all the hype. But what do I know?

Nancy wrote:
05.02.08 at 7:05 AM

I live in the Chicago area. Do the Fabulous California wineries ever, so to speak, take their show on the road? Or are people in the middle of the country confined to grocery store choices or the internet for their wine purchases? Just curious.

Clive wrote:
05.02.08 at 7:43 AM

I am not sure I would want to taste this wine after such a dreadful story. Give me Paul Draper from Ridge any time!

Rich wrote:
05.02.08 at 8:13 AM

I would also be curious as to whether the Oakville Winegrowers Association sets rules for the participating wineries. My experience with trade shows is that the organizer sets rules, which would normally include a requirement to exhibit (i.e., pour in this situation) throughout the event so this sort of thing doesn't happen. I'm sure there is another side to the story (as there always is), but the bottom line is that this sort of thing generates a lot of badwill.

Dave wrote:
05.02.08 at 8:40 AM

They travel..
not in groups.. but they do get around, you just have to be on the lookout.
www.calwine.ca for example.

Alder wrote:
05.02.08 at 9:13 AM

Alex,

While certainly possible,it's pretty unlikely that the lack of wine was a simple lack of understanding or planning. The organizers of this event communicated specific guidelines for how much wine to bring to each winery.

Alder wrote:
05.02.08 at 9:18 AM

Nancy,

I know that the Napa Valley Vintners association usually does a tour once per year where they bring a bunch of wineries to major cities around the country to pour. Also, some of the bigger wine stores in Chicago likely also throw events where they'll bring in one or more winemakers to pur their stuff. Try getting on their mailing lists.

Finally, there are big wine and food events where wineries often participate. If I'm not mistaken an event like Taste of Chicago usually brings some California wineries out to the city.

Aaron wrote:
05.02.08 at 10:10 AM

Rude, but not particularly surprising. This kind of arrogance is endemic to the cult scene, and it is appalling.

It's important to remember that Screaming Eagle's proprietors/managers/pourers are only partly to blame; the majority fault lies with the consumers, trade and media who worship at Screagle's altar and waste their resources chasing it (and all the other absurdly priced cult wines).

No wonder the Screaglers think they can do whatever they want with relative market impunity - they can... because we let them.

Alder wrote:
05.02.08 at 10:16 AM

Aaron,

Thanks for the comments. While this is not the first time I have encountered such arrogance in the wine world, I must say that I find it much less common in the wine industry than in many other "luxury" industries.

Lessly wrote:
05.02.08 at 10:34 AM

Amazing, some people just don't get it. We all need to work together for the benefit of the industry.

mike wrote:
05.02.08 at 10:55 AM

Alder, you didn't miss much. It was the most disappointing wine there. I have been lucky enough to try multiple vinatges of Screaming Eagle through the years. I loved it for the its ability to be both expressive and refined. The '05 was port like and drying. I dumped it for the Stanton.

steve kirchner wrote:
05.02.08 at 11:04 AM

you're right - i do think you are "simply whining". if it makes any difference to anyone in the wine press the consumer would be better served by journalists who find great wines for less than $500/bottle, instead of standing around at the cult table and hoovering down as much as they can. which may be why the screaming eagle vanished as quickly as it did...

Aaron wrote:
05.02.08 at 11:06 AM

Hi Alder - that's a good point; markets for luxury goods are predicated upon high demand and low supply, and the wine industry is relatively down to earth (pun not originally intended) within the realm of luxury goods.

Fortunately, there is plenty of great wine available, much of it made by considerate, friendly people who appreciate and interact with their various audiences at all levels, not just the wealthiest tier.

Doug McCrea, for example, won me over a few years ago at Rhone Rangers. He could tell I wasn't buying cases and that my companions knew very little about wine, but he poured and chatted generously nonetheless.

Great topic today, thanks for keeping it up!


MJ wrote:
05.02.08 at 12:19 PM

Makes me glad I could care less about wine. And I live in Napa.
but I cared enough to read the article-this reminds me why I avoid these types of people at all costs. Ugghh, they worship the liquid-AKA beverage.

slaked wrote:
05.02.08 at 1:37 PM

Hi Alder,
I'd have to agree with your sentiments completely. If I went to this event, or one like it, with the expectation of trying Screaming Eagle, I'd be pissed they picked up and left. That said, it wouldn't surprise me, and I wouldn't stand around their empty table wondering what happened. I'd get back in line for BOND round 2. Also, I am in total agreement with your astute observation that Harlan has done what can only be described as a remarkable and formidable job of marketing. I enjoyed Harlan for the first time at a Wine Spectator event in NYC last year. Needless to say, I was flabbergasted to see Harlan pouring his own wines for three hours straight. That showed a lot of class in my book, and a respect for the consumer rarely seen in Cali Cult producers.

wineguy wrote:
05.02.08 at 2:06 PM

Let's see how they do next time...that will tell a lot about whether this represents arrogance or miscalculation.

Two years ago at the Santa Barbara Futures Tasting Foxen ran out of their highly-regarded Seasmoke Pinot Noir in 20 minutes. Some folks were miffed. But I noticed this year they had enough to pour all day long.

Gerald Weisl wrote:
05.02.08 at 2:40 PM

This year I attended the annual VinItaly wine fair in Verona. Some 4200 wineries attend this 5 day affair.

Depending upon how much space and how elaborate the stand is, it can cost exhibitors tens of thousands of dollars. I'm certain a winery such as Montalcino's Biondi-Santi spent $20-$40,000 to have a nice, spacious stand and exhibit.

When I stepped in, I introduced myself as having a wine shop in the San Francisco Bay Area and that we have their wine in the shop. Biondi-Santi, most readers of this forum probably know, costs upwards of a hundred bucks a bottle.

A bottle of the 2001 Biondi-Santi Brunello was opened on their wine 'bar' along with the Rosso di Montalcino and wines from their 'other' estate, Poggio Salvi.

We were poured a sip of the Rosso and a drop of the Poggio Salvi wine. When I asked to taste the Biondi-Santi wine, I was told it was not being offered for tasting. Now, the bottle which was on the counter had been whisked off to a table at which several people were seated (in full view of anybody in the stand or walking by).

We departed, not entirely surprised, but certainly disappointed. They make about 60,000 bottles of Brunello annually and it might "cost" them ten to fifteen dollars to produce a bottle. If one estimates they might pour a dozen or two dozen bottles over the course of this trade fair, they might have spent $200-$360. This pales in comparison to spending tens of thousands to rent space in the pavilion, hotel and meal expenses, staffing costs, etc.

This seems mighty foolish to me. What does this portfolio of wines 'gain' by this apart from bad publicity? They could simply stay home, keep a lower profile and not offend trade "partners" (if you want to use such terminology). Since they do not sell every drop at the cellar door, trade partners in the form of wine merchants, sommeliers, importers and the like are required to help make their wines “disappear.”

In the world of wine, there is a fair bit of arrogance. I was amused by a fellow who told me his winery would "allow" me to buy a dozen bottles of their prized Cabernet, since I would get the wine into the hands of "the right people." I was amused by this, since our idea of "the right people" were folks with (at that time) a twenty dollar bill.

Alder wrote:
05.02.08 at 2:48 PM

Gerald,

Thanks much for your comments and your insights based on so many years as a retailer. Your story made me laugh. I've definitely come across an occasional producer like that. There's usually one producer at each tasting where it's clear that their goal is to get as little wine into your glass as possible.

Zinny wrote:
05.02.08 at 3:23 PM

I don't think it sounds like whining.

I think it's ironic that NAPA - which, to me, owes a lot of it's success to a rebellion among wine drinkers who were tired of silly pretense and being priced out of wines are now doing the same thing . .and chasing thier customers *back to France*!! in search of innovative and accessible wines (and wineries).

I am a regular wine buyer and drinker - mid 30's living in CA. I have all but stopped browsing the NAPA section at my wine shop because of unjustifiable price points and snooty treatment in tasting rooms. I have long ago stopped caring if I would ever taste the Screaming Eagle.

Gence wrote:
05.02.08 at 3:38 PM

I'm so glad you wrote about this Alder, my rave and rant when I saw you there was genuine, we were by the SE table at 3:15, taking our time to get there when we saw them run out and leave. It had to be one bottle of wine as pours I saw were tiny.

Anyhow, this was my 4th Taste of Oakville and SE never did this, tasting the 2002, 2003 and the 2004 and reading Mike's comments I am glad I didn't make it there on time as I would have felt guilty to be among the privileged few who tasted it that day.

I have always much preferred the Harlan Estate and the BOND wines too, SE tasted plush and exotic, yes, but manipulated and manufactured to me. After this catastrophe they lost whatever credibility and pizzaz they had in my world. The true face of the new ownership, the Walmart touch is here to say. I respect Harlan beyond words for pouring all throughout the event.

gillett wrote:
05.02.08 at 3:47 PM

I believe the Screaming Eagle folks just dont get it. I am an importer/exporter, and thought I would take a shot to see if S.E. would like to expand its footprint in some of the finer accounts in Australia. They were polite, said that it may take some time, but that they would be interested, and then PROCEDED TO SET ME UP ON A WAITING LIST FOR 2 BOTTLES. "NO" WOULD HAVE BEEN JUST FINE. Even if the answer was yes, 2 first class tickets on the QEII would have blown my profit margin - maybe?

Jerry D. Murray wrote:
05.02.08 at 5:17 PM

I think the screaming eagle folks are monitoring your blog as we speak. You are playing into thier hands; if Alder, king of the wine bloggers never has gotten to taste screaming eagle, it must be very very special. The very fact that many serious wine folks posting on this page have never had a drop of the stuff lends more weight to its scarcity. Each post elevate Screaming Eagle to mythic status. You are moving Screamin Eagle further up the status ladder with each grumble. I can just hear armani clad executives in NY and Hong Kong sipping thier 2002 screaming eagle and lauging at jokes with punch lines like "... they really thought they were going to get a taste, and they don't even live in a Penthouse", or "... I mean if you only had to be rich to get it, we wouldn't want it. We only drink wines that you need to filthy stinking rich to get".
The only way to punish Screaming Eagle for acting this way is for EVERYONE to stop talking about them. Not a peep from a wine critic, blogger, winemaker or sommelier. Then they would be forgotten and would have to 'stoop' to pouring wines for three hours at a time just like the rest of us.

Morton Leslie wrote:
05.02.08 at 6:07 PM

I think this is the new owners. They think that this sort of stunt emphasizes the scarcity and the demand for their product. Same with their one ounce pours for $150 at the Ferry Building. What they don't know is that they are attracting attention to the fact that Jean and Heidi are gone and so is their generosity and humility. It's like a big sign that the vineyard and wine are in the hands of novices.
It will just take a whisper that the wine is not the same and they will have problem on their hands...and they won't have a lot of defenders.

Course, after standing for a few hours at some of these tastings answering the same questions over and over again, hearing yourself say the same thing over and over, feet and legs aching...you start to pour really heavy servings...hoping to run out of wine and so you can sit down or go to the bar and have a beer. But it doesn't sound like this was the case with S.Eagle.

Gio wrote:
05.02.08 at 7:22 PM

I went to the tasting early, tried the SE first, knowing it always runs out. Very polished wine, intense and silky. Worth trying but as always too much hype. Alder, I am not sure I understand why you are so surprised or incensed. It is exactly the impression they wanted to give, a sense of scarcity. Do they respect the wine community? I believe that those that respect the community are part of it, they make the wine, pour their wines, talk to aficionados, make friends, etc. Andy was there, he is real, you can talk to him, share ideas with him. You cannot expect that from wealthy investors who have no interest but in the prestige represented by owning a winery. They are losing out on the most valuable part of all:the powerful sense of awe that the labor of wine can inspire and the excitement derived from sharing that emotion with others.

Lenny Pepperidge wrote:
05.03.08 at 6:29 AM

LOL. There's a reason that they don't want too many people to actually taste that imbalanced, overoaked "cocktail wine" with its scorching levels of volatile acidity. Scamming Eagle represents everything sick and dysfunctional about Napa Valley from what's in the bottle to the Napatude of its owners.

05.03.08 at 7:27 AM

We get this kind of thing all the time. Sometimes it's ignorance, sometimes it's premeditated rudeness. Most of the time, somebody in the command chain doesn't understand the ramifications of this kind of stunt. They don't see how it's all connected. Like one reader said, I'm inclined to just stop talking about them.

Jonathan Newman wrote:
05.03.08 at 11:15 AM

Being a retired veteran of these "walk around" tastings, I'm surprised any winery would ever agree to participate in these events. In all my experiences, it has never ceased to amaze me at how rude the crowd can be, esp a crowd that is at the event on the wineries' dime. Your article perfectly captures the level of entitlement that exists at these events--and, further, is pervasive throughout the wine consumer world.

SE makes very expensive wine that sells out. Because of this you want to taste it, and for some reason--maybe due to your position--you feel they owe you something. They don't. Don't get me wrong, they would have been better off not showing up at this tasting, but I'm sure there is more here than meets the eye. I've never tasted SE, and am not particularly motivated to. However, I am impressed by the way they run their business. Sure, they're elitist, but they're also not shy about that. They've priced you out of their product. Being bitter about that, and spewing bile against them isn't constructive towards yourself or the wine industry.

Dean Tudor wrote:
05.03.08 at 12:35 PM

Well, I just accept it. I feel fortunate enough to get to many of these shows in Toronto, Canada. But I know that the expensive guys run out of wines. So I get there early (even before the show starts), and try the expensive wines first. I had been stung in the past with empty bottles, but no more. Also, the general rule in Toronto seems to be that you hang around and apologize to people when you run out. That way the trade customers can at least talk to you. There are other wines to drink....

1WineDude wrote:
05.03.08 at 2:40 PM

I suppose it's possible that it was deliberate (and therefore malicious), but I wonder if maybe they just goofed it?

Brian wrote:
05.03.08 at 4:46 PM

blah, blah, blah
screaming eagle, who cares.
They are a caracature. The manufacture of cult demand through clever marketing...the story of the modern, high-end California wine industry. I sincerely doubt you missed anything special, Alder.

Selena wrote:
05.04.08 at 12:05 AM

First off it does seem like you have the right to be upset but the price of Harlan is only 350.00 a bottle as I have had an allocation for some time. All I ask is that you check your facts before writing them in a forum.

05.04.08 at 10:35 AM

Aah, the perils of trade tastings. Over the years, my preference has generally been to stay away from these cattle calls for all the reasons mentioned. Elbowing my way in amongst the hordes prostrating for an ounce pour of the latest "must-have", has little appeal for me.
Yes, a single venue provides access to many wines, but I seldom find them to be the best environment for evaluating wine, especially when it becomes a combination competition sport and sales pitch.

Last Friday (April 25th), the Wine Appreciation Guild hosted the Wine Literary Awards, at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. It included a press tasting for 1000 wines. Winery reps and distributors were not permitted to attend. We were free to taste a few, or as many of the 1000 wines, one can evaluate over a six-hour period. I suffered palate fatigue after 2 1/2 hours and a few hundred wines. While none of the "cult" wines were included in the tasting, many small quality-focused producers submitted their wines for review. Sure there were a lot of mediocre wines in the group, but there were also some incredible wines and none of them were priced in the $500 + range. A 2002 La Serenissima cabernet, made by John Tiso, from grapes on his San Diego vineyard was outstanding - yes, San Diego cabernet! Sixty-five pinots were on hand, one, a 65 case production, 2005 La Finetre made at Au Bon Climat reaffirmed that Jim Clendenen indeed is a master of Burgundian style pinot and demonstrates that pinot doesn't have to have a dollop (or more) of syrah to please.

I've been fortunate to have tasted numerous vintages of both Screaming Eagle, Harlan, etc. and they are fabulous wines. But...are they worth the money? Put them in a blind tasting with less revered wines at a fifth the price and you'll have your answer.

Alder wrote:
05.04.08 at 3:02 PM

Selena,

Thanks for the comments, but you should know that I did check my facts. The price I listed was based on the pricing provided by Robert Parker in the latest issue of his Wine Advocate newsletter. I'll take your word for the fact that you're getting it on the mailing list for $350. It may be that the price Parker is listing is the "suggested retail price" but that is a little odd, as this wine is not really sold at retail.

Alder

P.S. Vinography is a blog, not a forum. All I ask is that you know the difference.

Alder wrote:
05.04.08 at 3:36 PM

Jonathan,

I'm surprised that you read my commentary as bile, and that your impression is that I'm bitter about something. Neither is the case from my perspective.

You wrote "SE makes very expensive wine that sells out. Because of this you want to taste it..." Actually that has nothing to do with why I am interested in tasting this wine. I've tasted most of the wines in Napa, and I'm naturally interested in tasting those that I haven't yet. This tasting was an opportunity to taste one of those wines.

Finally, I have no idea what kind of walk around tastings you've been going to, but perhaps they were not trade tastings like this one? All of the attendees at these types of tastings in Napa are wine buyers, wine retailers, sommeliers, and journalists. They aren't public riff-raff. These are the folks who SELL these wineres' wines on a daily basis, all over the country. There's very little sense of entitlement at these events. Quite the contrary, there's a sense of collegiality and mutual appreciation, and on the whole (there are certainly exceptions) people are quite respectful.

Why would a winery participate in such an event? Because they are members of the Oakville Winegrowers Association, which they joined to help promote their winegrowing area, their fellow wineries, and themselves. This sort of tasting is designed to be the "rising tide that raises all boats."

My commentary has nothing to do with the "elitist" nature of Screaming Eagle. They have built a fabulous brand over the years and are entitled to all that such success brings them. My article was simply prompted by a bit of self contradictory behavior. They chose to participate in an event whose purpose was to showcase wine to the trade, and then they brought so little wine that the whole point of the exercise was moot.

You are free to think that I'm an entitled, bitter, and rude, but you should know that the reason I wrote this article was because I spoke to so many winery owners, winemakers, and attendees (these are people who've been working in Napa for decades) at this event that expressed how rude THEY thought this behavior was on the part of Screaming Eagle, that it was clear to me something needed to be said.

Charles Banks wrote:
05.04.08 at 5:41 PM

I would like to respond to these comments, if only to get the other side of the story out. We have poured at the previous 2 Taste of Oakville events (several cases at each pouring). The ONLY reason we cut back this year was because our production was down to 408 cases and we subsequently had to cut each persons allocation to 2 bottles (from 3). It did not seem fair for us to pour 2 or 3 cases of wine at the expense of long time and loyal customers. We will be back to pouring more next year when production is back to normal. We apologize for offending anyone. CB

R M Kriete wrote:
05.04.08 at 6:13 PM

You are whining....YOU got there 30 minutes late....next time, be on time!

jeff nowak wrote:
05.04.08 at 6:39 PM

there are so many ignorant comments contained in the replies to this ridiculous blog, that it is truly pathetic. i'm a screaming eagle mailing list customer, and to print so many blanket condemnations about a program that you obviously know NOTHING about is truly astounding. the production of the 2005 is miniscule, and the allocation to everyone was reduced to two bottles in an effort to stretch the release as far as possible. and, yes, they are going to take care of their established customers and accounts first. get over it. i have personally witnessed the generosity and charity of the screaming eagle team, and the legacy and ethos of the brand is in excellent hands. they are investing millions of dollars to replant the vineyard, modernize the vinification, and increase production. one other specific thing...i'm also on the harlan estate mailing list, and the cost of the 2005 vintage is $450...i'll type it again...$450, plus, you have to pay for the wine almost 18 months before it's released. harlan estate has a deserved excellent reputation for customer service, but at least when i paid for my 2005 screaming eagle a few weeks ago, it was shipped ou almost immediately. i hope all you pikers have a nice day.

05.04.08 at 8:53 PM

The original owner/founder of Screaming Eagle - Jean Phillips - was very involved with the Oakville Winegrowers Association, poured at all their tastings and always brought plenty of wine. She was truly a class act.

This simply sounds like a bad decision by the new owners. Given their reduced production it might have been better to sit this year out rather than irritate people.

Alder wrote:
05.04.08 at 9:32 PM

Charles,

Thanks for commenting and sharing your side of the story.

I definitely agree with Richard, above, who suggests that in the situation of dramatically reduced production you describe it might have been best to skip this tasting altogether.

You know what they say about hindsight, of course.

In any case, it's good to know that the paucity of bottles this year was not an overtly calculated move.

Joel wrote:
05.05.08 at 12:28 AM

To Alder,

I know that you are a veteran of ZAP which I have attended 4 of the last six years. Although I finally landed on their mailing list and purchase my twice yearly allotments, I found myself feeling about Turley as you did about SE. Perhaps they were around for the trade portion of ZAP but my experience has been that their wine is all but gone by the time us heathens were allowed to make our entrances. And this has happened consistently in the years that I attended the event.

Nancy,

I am not sure if you will check in again but if you are buying supermarket wine in the Chicago market, you are not trying very hard. This market, including suburbs, contains several of the largest and most agressive retailers in America. A partial list includes Wine Discount Center, Sam's Wine and Liquor, Binny's, Famous Liquors, Sav-Way and this is just a partial list of multiple store vendors. Other excellent single-store sources abound as well (TCWC, Knightsbridge). Generally speaking, during my 13 years living there and purchasing wine, I could source just about any wine, excluding the top boutiques, at a local store at one of the lowest prices in America. You are truly blessed to be living in one of the most competitive and vibrant wine retail markets in America, as well as in a reciprocal state (for now, although I hear this may change). Open up the phone book or pay attention during your commute and you are almost assured to find one of these fine retailers close to home who will be glad to take your money and provide top-notch wines for our enjoyment.

Dana Sexton wrote:
05.05.08 at 9:43 AM

I think it's brillant that this has generated so much interest.

The marketing person who decided to pull this stunt might be arrogant, but if it was a buzz they were after, Mission accompolished.

Nancy wrote:
05.05.08 at 10:33 AM

I think it would be interesting to see if Screaming Eagle cares to respond to these charges.

My gut feeling is that Morton Leslie is right about the new ownership, but that may not be fair. All I know is that when I went to the Taste of Oakville a few years back there was plenty of Screaming Eagle for all of us to taste.

BTW, it was absolutely delicious, but I did not see God. ;-)

Thor wrote:
05.05.08 at 11:24 AM

Yes I agree, you do sound as though you are whining.

I'm curious how much wine do you think they should have brought? If as you say there were "hundreds of other members of the trade and media"?? Lets see if they poured 8times from every btl you are at aprox 1case/100 ppl. "Hundreds" implies 300++; so you are talking about at least 3cases. I believe the mailer price is $500/btl, so using loose math we are at $18,000 in wine to pour??!!??!

As you correctly state there is no economic value for them to be there at all, yet they still showed up and offered an unknown amount of wine. Did you expect them to wait for your arrival 30minutes late?

Lastly your pricing data is flat wrong: Harlan does not sell at release for $700/btl-try 1/2 that amount, nor do you have correct release pricing for any of the other wines you mentioned.

I'm sure this post sounds nasty, but yours sounds lazy to me. Especially for not knowing the correct relase prices.

-and no, I have no affiliation with any of the wineries. In fact I dropped Screaming Eagle when it went to $500/btl and I dropped Harlan when it went to $350btl. Afterall it is just fremented grape juice.

Alder wrote:
05.05.08 at 1:16 PM

Thor,

At trade tastings, you get WAY more than 8 pours per bottle. Generally you are pouring less than 2 onces per customer, so you'll get anywhere from 16 to 22 pours per bottle. If you do strict 1 ounce pours (using a flow cap) you'll get 25.

According to other wineries I spoke with at the tasting the oakville winegrowers association asked each attending winery to bring between 12 and 18 bottles of wine.

The pricing I have listed in my article was pulled from the erobertparker.com web site, as none of these wineries list the prices on their web sites. I have no idea why you (or anyone for that matter) are concerned with the prices so much. Anyone who buys wine regularly in the marketplace and off mailing lists knows that there is not one price for a wine, there are many different prices, depending on when you buy it, from whom, and how many you buy.

If you look at the comments on this article you will see two people claiming to be on the Harlan mailing list whose report of the price of the wine varies by $100.

The point is not that Harlan costs $350, $450, or $700. The point is that they, as well as a winery whose production is a miniscule 200 cases poured wine for everyone who wanted it, for nearly 2.5 hours while Screaming Eagle chose not to, even though they agreed to participate in this event. Different definitions of "participate" create different impressions in those who attend.

jeff nowak wrote:
05.05.08 at 2:18 PM

2004 harlan estate, $350.00
2005 harlan estate, $450.00
2004 screaming eagle, $500.00
2005 screaming eagle, $750.00
2005 futo, $200.00

i'm on all three lists.

quoting the (correct) winery release pricing at least allows one to make an apples to apples comparison. retail and secondary market values differ so wildly that it isn't a good indicator in situations like this, as noted. but, getting it right does have a place in a (so called) professional's blog because it demonstrates the ability to do quality research, and can be an indicator of sloppiness. anyone with any real experience knows that parker, for some reason, frequently quotes incorrect pricing; and, BTW, that's just as sloppy. further, stating that futo family has demonstrated such a wonderment of service by pouring their wine to everyone (or at least to your percieved standard) is a bit disingenuous. this is their first release. for many, if not most, they've never even seen a bottle let alone tasted the wine. futo family NEEDED to pour it for the trade to help establish themslves. screaming eagle is under no such pretense. you're getting skewered on the erobertparker wine bulletin board for your presumptuous stance, and rightly so.

Tim Elliott wrote:
05.05.08 at 2:50 PM

I had the chance to taste Screaming Eagle 2004 last summer and I have to say that the wine did not measure up to my expectation. While excellent, it was not any better than other Cabs at the tasting selling in the $80-130 range. The Harlan Estate tasted immediately after SE was noticeably better. Since it was a social event and not a public tasting I did not publish my notes.

Clearly their "participation" in the Oakville event was botched but the winery has no interest in having their wines written about outside the mainstream wine press given their current production and closed list. It's certainly nice to try such iconic wines but I think more Vinography readers would be served hearing more about excellent producers like Pina than unattainable wines such as Screaming Eagle.

Paul wrote:
05.05.08 at 7:05 PM

Alder, you are whining. You're not entitled to taste the wine, after all. And you give air to your elitism with your comment about "public riff raff." This member of the public riff raff will no longer subscribe to your blog or read your opinions about wine (subscribed since 1/1/2007). You should be as careful with what you write as you ask Screaming Eagle to be with what they pour.

Alder wrote:
05.05.08 at 7:25 PM

Paul,

Sorry to see you go. The comment "public riff-raff" was responding to Jonathan's characterization of attendees at such tastings (as rude and entitled), and I was trying to make a point that however he was choosing to characterize the public at such events, the people attending this tasting most certainly were not rude or entitled (i.e. riff raff).

If you've been reading for a year, I'm surprised you'd think for a moment that I harbor any elitism, especially when it comes to access to wine, given my penchant for encouraging readers like you to attend the same tastings I go to on a regular basis.

Ed wrote:
05.06.08 at 10:03 PM

I think is shame for the owners to show up and don´t take wine. It´s very disappointing for the people who assisted, even worse for the colleges who did take wine. The organizers should not let them participate next time....

Rajiv A. wrote:
05.07.08 at 4:27 PM

Paul wrote:

"Alder, you are whining. You're not entitled to taste the wine, after all. And you give air to your elitism with your comment about "public riff raff." This member of the public riff raff will no longer subscribe to your blog or read your opinions about wine (subscribed since 1/1/2007). You should be as careful with what you write as you ask Screaming Eagle to be with what they pour."

Paul - Your loss.

It was very interesting for me to see the progression of comments start out carefully considered and migrate to hasty and pre-judged. I believe Mr. Yarrow delivered a carefully-worded, polite complaint, leaving room for speculation as to the exact reason. Mr. Banks from the SE team clarified the reason for the limited quantity, which Mr. Yarrow acknowledged, with the suggestion that it might have been better not to show up at all.

I think that not allowing SE to pour next year is a ridiculous overreaction to what seems to have been an error in judgement (and/or attitude).

Mr. Elliot: As a young wine drinker who has no hope of tasting SE in the near future (textbooks take priority, unfortunately), I do enjoy reading about SE, Harlan, and other standouts. Wine critics like Mr. Yarrow, Parker, and Tanzer not only recommend wines/regions for us to try as consumers, but they also open our minds to the possible emotional/intellectual impact of a truly great wine.

Giving the creme-de-la-creme due attention and spotlight is an integral part of any field and art - it's how we move forward and find ways to improve.

mustremainanonymous wrote:
05.08.08 at 7:14 PM

This strikes a chord deeply for me and one winery in Walla Walla, I feel, displays the same arrogance. Cayuse has the most prime location on Main street and boasts a satisfaction in only being open one day a year for a closed function aka "you better know someone to get in"...Its a little scary when someone gains satisfaction in providing an illusion that you'll ever have a chance to try their wine.

Eric Murray wrote:
05.09.08 at 4:17 PM

This episode evokes for me the Tulip Mania of the early 1700s, when the price of a single rare tulip bulb could fetch the equivalent of several year's wages of the average Dutch family, because of the perceived status conferred on the wealthy purchaser. Then as now, the commodity was purchased to flip for profit, not for enjoyment. But of course that bubble burst, as soon it must on the delusional pricing that we have all agreed to acccept for cult wines. As a recent study from Stonebridge Research showed, the real-estate induced bubble is even now deflating, and its impact on the wine industry is inevitable. One wonders how much longer these exorbitant prices and overinflated oeno-egos can be sustained, especially in the face of peak oil, worldwide food shortages, impending rampant inflation and the declining dollar. Ah well, scream on, eagle, while you can.

Larry wrote:
05.10.08 at 10:14 AM

It's always amusing to notice how many people just dive in with their often redundant comments rather than reading the whole thread, seeing diverse opinions and then posting.

Kudos to Charles Banks for coming on and responding. Perhaps with only two bottles to offer, it may have been better to pass this year. But then imagine the hoots and hollers of their "arrogance" in that case. Maybe leaving an explanatory note on the table would have soothed hurt feelings. Maybe.

@Lenny Pepperidge: Bitter much? It's only vino, dude!

@Eric Murray: It's a great big world out there. The market for the top wines is worldwide. Russia, China and India are minting billionaires, to say nothing of the Arabs. A few thousand shrinking greenbacks for a prestige item is pocket change to them.

Lenny Pepperidge wrote:
05.11.08 at 10:00 AM

No bitterness, Larry. Just bemused detachment at an industry whose considerable arrogance is leading to its irrelevance. While there still may be a few suckers out there for some of the state's cult Frankenwines, the increasing sophistication of the American wine buying public--not coincidentally concurrent with the decreasing influence of a certain Baltimore lawyer--is increasingly leading them back to Europe and more balanced, food compatible wines

How else can one explain the phenomenon of imports GAINING MARKET SHARE in the context of a collapsing dollar. In economic departments all over the country, international trade theorists must be scratching their heads at this seemingly impossible phenomenon. Were the dollar to regain its strenght, or even parity to the Euro, this trend will only accelerate at exponential levels.

KSLaczko wrote:
05.13.08 at 1:04 PM

What's more interesting to me is how much discussion this article has created here, on eBob and WLTV forums, some excessive, sometimes aggressive, attacks - strange.

The article was written from personal experience and as such will always be subjective, but for a winery to turn up with less bottles than everyone else (as indicated), to run out early and then leave their stall unattended for the rest of the event is bad judgement at the very least, which is not good for PR.

Greg Dyer wrote:
10.14.08 at 9:41 AM

All this excitement over tasting a $1000 bottle of wine seems like a tempest in a tea pot. For $1000 that wine better be the best, or darn close to it, wine in the world every year. Given that the wine reflects the vintage, maybe 1 in 5 or 10 years could such a wine approach immortality on even the best terroir. Thus, most of the time it's an extremely poor value.

Among a flight of $100 Napa Cabs tasted blind I'd be willing to bet Screaming Eagle would not be correctly identified (or touted as the best) in any statistically meaningful way when tasted in a controlled setting by experienced tasters.

Thus, drinking SE is really about being in an elite group of insiders who either have the money or the insider access to taste the wine. The root of Alder's discontent is losing the opportunity to rave "oh, it's worth every penny" or rant "oh, it's way overrated." This just feeds into the whole cult wine as status symbol culture.

My personal opinion is that one should drink wine to appreciate it on a personal level, not to project an image. But I am not a wine journalist, nor am I wealthy. I think I can be happy, though, simply tasting wines that represent their terroir at a fraction of the price for the pure experience.

DAVID ANTHONY wrote:
12.11.08 at 2:23 AM

quit whining. buy the damn wine yourself if it's such a big deal. Crying Baby.

Anonymous wrote:
11.27.09 at 3:24 PM

I am a wine retailer in Michigan and like most in the trade (20+ years now), have lots of experiences with trade tastings all over the world. I am not on Screaming Eagle’s mailing list but have tasted several vintages of the wine and they are all great. Almost certainly not worth what they charge but like many of the cult wines out there –and I’ve had them all; at that price you’re really not buying just quality but exclusivity. It is nice that some of the cult wines out there will contribute there wine not only for tastings but for numerous non-profit groups. However, IT IS THEIR CHOICE what they do with their wines and how to market them is their business. Therefore I think your complaint is unfounded. I am disgusted but the snobbery of the wine trade at times and Screaming Eagle –as good as it is; is certainly not my favorite example of Napa Red, and I would put them in the “snobbery camp”. No. It’s not necessary for them to be the way they are and we don’t like it, but that’s the way of things. Hope you understand. -Pete

Chad wrote:
08.12.12 at 7:17 PM

Hears Screaming Eagle, one of the most sought after NV cult wines ever created will be there for a tasting. Arrives 30 minutes late. Is surprised there's none left.

I lol'd for a good 5 minutes. I would have been there an hour early. What a wasted opportunity many of us would have killed to show up early for.

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