Your Ticket to a Napa Valley ‘Wine Experience’

silveroakLife is about not just about people or places or things, but their sum total. In a word: experiences.

That’s why, in the name of experiential marketing, some wineries no longer simply put their latest wares up for sale; they host elaborate “release parties.”

Many, if not most, also charge an admission fee. That’s right, they charge you a fee for the privilege of buying their wine. It’s not unlike the seat license deals concocted by many pro sports teams.

My memory is a little fuzzy, considering what I’m about to describe took place around 1987 or ’88, but it will be pretty close to a hundred percent accurate.

Two friends and I were driving around Sonoma County, and we had gotten lost thanks to one of those infamously inaccurate wine country maps. As fate would have it, we happened upon Silver Oak Cellars in Geyserville, and on that day, the winery was releasing its latest vintage of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

I don’t recall there being any kind of fee other than perhaps the regular tasting room fee. And I believe that fee came with a logo tasting glass to take home. The cost was probably $5, or $10 max.

I do remember liking the wine — I believe it was vintage 1985, one of the great years of the 20th century in that part of the world — and buying a few bottles. By doing that, the person who ran my credit card waived the tasting fee and I still got to keep the logo glass.

There weren’t nearly as many wine drinkers in America back then, which meant there wasn’t as much competition to procure those really great bottles of wine: Silver Oak Cabernet (both the Alexander Valley and Napa Valley renditions)… Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet… Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay… Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard Merlot…

But it’s different today. Emerging markets such as China have increased demand for limited supplies of wine, and that’s a formula for higher prices and a greater challenge in being able to buy the bottles one really wants.

What has happened with Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon is a perfect example. On February 6 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the Silver Oak winery in Oakville will host the Silver Oak 2011 Napa Valley Release Day.

It’s no longer simply a day on which a new vintage is released. It’s a big-time event, with a not-modest ticket price: $75.

What do you get for that tariff? Actually, quite a bit:

  • Tickets for four 3-ounce pours of the 2011 Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Food from La Toque, Cole’s Chop House, Morimoto, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, Charlie Palmer, Reddwood and Silver Oak Cellars.
  • A Silver Oak logo glass.
  • A keepsake professional photo.
  • Music by Sow Belly Trio and Mother Truckers Band.
  • An opportunity to purchase bottles of the new vintage. I have not seen individual bottle pricing yet, but I can tell you that the winery has a pre-release special going on: a dozen bottles for… are you sitting down?… $1,320.

I’m happy for Silver Oak’s success, but I do miss the days when supply still was more in line with demand, and I could afford to buy a few bottles without feeling like I was robbing my grandkids’ college funds.

That said, if you’re looking for a “wine experience” like no other, the Silver Oak 2011 Napa Valley Release Day should be a lot of fun. To purchase tickets, click here:

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Posted in Wine Buzz
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