Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Lafite-Rothschild Opens at a Record Price

The Bordeaux 2005 en primeur campaign is starting to resemble more the high-tech IPO boom of the 1990s. Record prices are being set everyday. First growth Haut-Brion released at an all-time high, yet sold its initial offering in just a few days. From the looks of it, that offer still left a chunk of money on the table.

Witness Lafite-Rothschild now opening up at about $600 a bottle! And going by recent trends, this offering price would probably sell out in a few days. Meanwhile, the two hottest first growths, Latour and Margaux, have not yet offered.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Haut-Brion is First of the Firsts

The big news of the week from the Bordeaux 2005 en primeur campaign was the almost sneaky release of first-growth Haut-Brion late on Friday. The ch√Ęteau price of about $300 a bottle translated to $450 a bottle at retail. A record price by a long shot.

Still, Haut-Brion, which traditionally is priced at a premium over the other first-growths, may have left something on the table. London merchants are estimating wistfully that first-growth prices could hit over $7,000 a case. Apparently, this optimism is fueled by the overwhelming advance orders for these ultimate Bordeaux luxuries.

Meanwhile, right bank first-growths, Cheval Blanc and Petrus, which both report to have produced spectacular wines, seem to be taking it easy and appear to be in no rush to commit, though it's becoming very tempting now to do so.

If you're in the hunt for these highly sought-after first-growths, stay tuned early tomorrow Monday and throughout the weekl

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Bordeaux 2005: Big Classed Growths Finally Here

This week started with a sudden flurry of offerings of some of the big names in Bordeaux. After weeks of suspense and growing acrimony in the trade, media, and among consumers, for the delay and the high prices, the aristocratic chateaux have finally shown their hands.

Lynch-Bages, Leoville-Barton, Montrose, Pichon-Baron, Pichon-Lalande, Rauzan-Segla, Palmer, Grand Puy Lacoste, and L'Evangile have released their prices. To no surprise, they are all record highs; it's only a question of how shockingly high. In that regard, Palmer is the hands-down winner as its opening price is nearly $250 a bottle. Trailing closely is L'Evangile at almost $200 a bottle.

But I would say the surprise shocker of all is Pape-Clement, the Graves producer, with a price of nearly $150 a bottle, more than triple the 2000 price and over twice its 2004 offering!

Monday, June 12, 2006

The "Judgement" Gets Sillier

The Judgement in Paris belongs to the same reality show genre as tv's Iron Chef--highly entertaining, but short in meaning. Is Batali better than Flay? Flay better than Morimoto? Quite meaningless, isn't it? It's a show, not a contest.

Yet, the U.S. House of Representatives, three years after issuing its bizarre "freedom fries" resolution, passed another resolution last week that purports to honor the "victory" of U.S. winemakers, but is obviously another attempt to bash France and very little to do with wine. This silliness is a total waste of taxpayers' dollars.

The resolution's title is "Recognizing the 30th Anniversary of the Victory of United States Winemakers at the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting" and it was sponsored by California Democrat, MIke Thompson, who lives in Napa and is also a California grape grower.

So there's the real rub. And you think that our politicians are fighting against special interests!

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Int'l Wine & Food Society (Marin Branch) June Event

The International Wine & Food Society Marin County Branch has two fabulous back-to-back wine and food events in Beverly Hills at Spago's Restaurant on Friday June 23 for dinner and Saturday June 24 for lunch.

The Friday dinner features 1990 Cristal, 1961 Calon Segur in magnum, 1971 Chambertin Latour, and 1939 and 1944 Armagnac Monluc, among other things. For Saturday lunch, the highlights include 1949 Musigny Comte de Vogue in jeroboam and 1934, 1949, and 1959 Corton-Grancey Latour. Cost is $950 for share pour or $1,150 for full pour for non-members for each event.

If you are interested in attending these events contact Jack Rubyn, Chairman of IWFS, to sign up. or 415.332.6937.

All Bets are Off on 2005 Lascombes

As far as the 2005 Bordeaux en primeur campaign is concerned, the big story of the week so far is the offering of 2nd Growth Margaux, Lascombes, at a whopping price of $80-$90 a bottle! Of course, this is on the strength of widespread critical acclaim for this vintage. With such dizzying price, God forbid what the rest of the other top classed growths would be selling for.

To put the unbelievable pricing in perspective, compare the 2005 futures with the 2004 Lascombes futures, which also received high praise from critics, at just $40 a bottle. Or better yet, with one of the greatest Lascombes ever, the 2000 vintage, which wine critic Clive Coates described as a "Lascombes for the ages", at $50-$60 on retail shelves these days.

My suggestion is simple, skip this offering.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Melka Again to the Rescue

The lawsuit of Roy Estate LLC against cult-winemaker, Helen Turley, and her husband, John Wetlaufer, ended in a settlement, it was announced today in a press release. Details of the settlement were not disclosed.

The announcement did say that consulting winemaker, Philippe Melka,was hired by Roy Estate last year to take charge of the winemaking starting with the 2005 vintage. Melka's expanding portfolio of luxury brand wines in Napa is unprecedented. And if Helen Turly and John Wetlaufer get involved in more lawsuits, Melka's client list could keep getting longer.

Bordeaux 2005 Futures' Medoc Releases Validate High Prices

Last week's releases saw the 2005 Bordeaux Futures campaign kicked it up another notch with a slew of high-profile, prestigious Medoc chateaux offering their wines. Two of the most noteworthy releases were Gruaud-Larose and Sociando-Mallet.

The significanlty higher en primeur prices for both wines validate the expected premium pricing for this 2005 vintage. Gruaud-Larose is the first second growth to release and its price hover at around $60 a bottle, while Sociando-Mallet was offered at just over $40 a bottle. Despite the higher pricing both offers are selling briskly, especially the latter, an indication that there is good demand for these prestigious, well-praised wines within the $40-$60 price range. Whether buyers are willing to shell out more for the bulk of classed growths yet to be released is a big question mark.

Two of my favorite classed growths also released last week, but sadly I can not recommend them as their en primeur prices are just out of hand. Duhart-Milon and Haut-Bages Liberal are being offered at an unreasonable $35-$40 a bottle. I may pay these prices on actual release, but not for Futures.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Turley in Second Lawsuit in Two Years

Another lawsuit is shaping up in Napa involving celebrated winemaker "goddess", Helen Turley, and her husband, John Wetlaufer. Just two years ago, the couple was also involved in a lawsuit against a former client, Don Bryant of Bryant Family Vineyards, which they won.

This time around, though, Turley is the defendant as she's being sued by her client, Roy Estate LLC of Napa, for breach of contract. Roy Estate is claiming that it has a long-term contract with Turley to oversee winemaking and vineyard management and to help market its new high-end wine. Turley, for her part, is denying there was ever a long-term agreement.

Interestingly, in her prior lawsuit against Bryant, it was Turley who sued Bryant for prematurely ending their agreement.

At any rate, it's entirely possible that the two parties would end up shaking hands and starting anew. For Turley and her husband, it's been a remarkably lucrative deal so far as they've been paid a whopping $800,000 by Roy Estate between 2001 and 2005. As for Roy Estate, having sunk that much money already, not to mention for the vineyard and the upcoming construction of a winery, it would need someone as bankable as Turley to charge the luxury price its wine must command.

C'mon guys, this is Napa. Let's make money, er wine, not war.