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Auction tests demand for cult California

A Wally’s wine auction in New York this Friday could be a bellwether for the popularity of cult Californians.

wallys wine auction
Cult Californians such as Screaming Eagle are growing in popularity in the auction market

Speaking to the drinks business yesterday, Michael Jessen, president and CEO at Wally’s Auctions said that a sale on October 24 featuring an impressive collection of prized Californian wines, such as Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate, would highlight just how appealing this part of the fine wine market really is at the moment.

“Our auction this Friday is featuring a collection from someone who has had access to a lot of Californian cults and we will be offering a pretty exceptional collection of Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate,” he told db.

Continuing he said, “The sale could be an interesting bellwether for the attraction to the cults.”

Already, he said that Californian wines – “especially the cults” – are “getting more attention than usual”, although he added that buyers are seeking out “mature, older vintages, especially the sweet spot of Cabernet based Californian wines from the late 60s to the early 80s.”

Explaining the upsurge in demand for Californian fine wines, he said, “Their value has gone up quite a bit as more collectors realise how well these wines were made, and how well they have aged.”

Looking ahead to this Friday’s sale, he then picked out two Californian lots, each of which he described as “one of a kind”, and both from the same aforementioned collector, who Jessen said was a well-known buyer of top end Californian brands, but had offered the wines for sale anonymously.

“We have a one of a kind lot comprising a special three-litre set of bottles released by Screaming Eagle of their first three vintages: 92, 93 and 94. It was purchased by the collector in the late 1990s at the Napa Charity Auction and the bottles and original wooden case are signed by the winemaker – it is a unique piece,” he said.

The lot, which is number 473, Jessen said he expected to sell for over US$100,000.

He also mentioned another lot – number 397 – from the same collector, which also features a trio of three-litre bottles from the 92, 93, and 94 vintages, but this time from a different cult label: Harlan Estate.

“It was purchased by the same gentleman at the Napa Charity Auction and the wines come in a leather bound briefcase – and there may only have ever been one of these issued by Harlan,” said Jessen, adding that it comes with an estimate of $8-12,000.

Aside from these lots, Jessen also mentioned the presence of “interesting spirits” in the upcoming sale, noting that Pappy Van Winkle old Kentucky Bourbon, which features prominently in the auction, is “hot” at the moment.

However, he picked out a Scotch as a star spirit in the sale, drawing db’s attention to lot 907: a Macallan 50 year old Malt Scotch in a Lalique Decanter.

Considering the general state of the auction market for alcoholic drinks he observed a high level of demand for fine and rare wines.

“The results have never been stronger for the top-end: those wines with scarcity that are must-haves,” he said.


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