Saturday, February 29, 2020

Screaming Eagle? Screaming Deal?

I was looking over the wine list at my favorite local Italian restaurant when the owner's selection caught my eye.
2011 Screaming Eagle $3,900

Credited as the trailblazer for Napa cult wineries, Screaming Eagle was founded by Jean Phillips, a former realtor with a knack for good soil. In 1986, she bought a 57-acre vineyard in Oakville. While Phillips sold most of her grapes to nearby Napa wineries, she kept an acre of Cabernet Sauvignon for her personal winemaking.

Screaming Eagle, the most expensive Napa wine

A few years later, Phillips decided to go into commercial winemaking and hired Heidi Barrett to be her winemaker. Barrett is a second-generation Napa winemaker and wife of Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena fame. At that time, she was already a rising star with a couple of Robert Parker 100-points from a consulting gig with Dalla Valle.

In 1995, Phillips released the first vintage of Screaming Eagle. The 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon was a hit, scoring 99 points from Robert Parker. Both ladies became an overnight phenomenon.

The winery is not open to public
With continued accolades and production kept low at around 500 cases per vintage, the demand for the celebrated wine sky-rocketed. A mailing list was quickly established, and only members of the list were able to purchase the wine directly from the winery. The members-only price started at $75 per bottle, which was high at that time. It then increased to $125 a bottle, making Screaming Eagle the most expensive wine in the Valley.

By the time Phillips sold the winery to Stan Kroenke and Charles Bank in 2006, the members-only price was $300 a bottle. Today, the wait to get on the Screaming Eagle mailing list is rumored to be a few decades long. If you are patient enough to get on the mailing list, you get to purchase Screaming Eagle at $850 a bottle, a screaming deal since the aftermarket price averages three to four times that. And the restaurant price... you do the math!

Personally, I have not tasted Screaming Eagle. At that price, it will be a very special day if I do. My friends, who were fortunate enough to have it, definitely thought highly of it.

So what you would consider to be a screaming deal for Screaming Eagle? I have my number. What is yours?