A new preposterous level of wine tasting experience in NAPA?

Starting to plan our annual trip to Napa this summer.

While I get that experiences are getting pricy for many top spots in addition to the added pressure of buying addl. wines at the tasting, it is what it is.

I reached out to a specific winery that I currently buy annual as a mailing list member from, knowing likely that quantities would not allow a tasting, but figured I would try. The reply was as expected, but I was put in touch with another individual that handles tastings for several other brands. I actually tasted with them a few years back and enjoyed the wines, so figured why not.

The introduction was very nice, but the content of the email blew me away. Here is a snippet…

“Price points range from $909 per 3-bottle set to $1500 per 3-bottle set. We want to make sure that everyone is comfortable with those price points prior to the tasting as the purchase expectation is a 3-bottle set per person.”

While I appreciate the directness of the email, I’m blown away that the ask was spending a minimum of $2-3K to set up a tasting (before even tasting the wine and deciding if I liked it enough to buy). I get that each place has no obligation to offer tastings and I am free to decline, but this seemed to be a new level of craziness. If you want to charge 200+ for a tasting in the hopes I buy if I enjoy than so be it, but to represent a brand that I already buy from and then state that the requirement is to spend thousands before stepping foot in the door just seems insane.

Thoughts??

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F*ck ‘em. There’s so much other wine to buy. They can’t be THAT unique and special.

What winery is it?

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Dear Sir,

Thank you for your prompt reply. I have one question. If my party and I do not enjoy the wines we’re surely not going to purchase 3-packs. Are you going to refund our tasting fee?

Regards,
XXXX XXXXX

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I have to think about whether I want to say the name. Perhaps with a few more responses I will reconsider. I’m wondering if anyone in the wine community will defend their position? Again- I totally get that they don’t need to host anyone unless those that want to taste agree to their terms before hand and I do appreciate them being honest, but it’s ludicrous (to me), especially as I actually do buy their highest end label annually which costs several thousand dollars for just a handful of bottles.

FWIW- My response to the full email (which I only posted a sentence from) was the following:

"I appreciate the email as we spent a few thousand the last time we tasted with you and price point is understood as we are active list members of (X) and many other cult Napa wines.

That said, although we likely would have been delighted to purchase after the tasting, as we have done with you before, to be obligated to spend a couple grand before tasting wine is something that simply doesn’t make sense to me.

I appreciate the opportunity to enjoy your wine and while I’m sure we will have the chance to drink some in the future, I will regretfully pass. "

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Is it a tasting where you are expected afterwards to buy three bottles? If so, what is the tasting you are getting and for how many people?

Or are you committing to buy three bottles and those are what your group will open and taste?

Just curious. Thanks.

Heidi and I are going to Napa and are doing several tastings (just us). I have set up a few thus far and this was to be another. The expectation if we agreed to taste with them was that we committed to buy at least 2x 3 packs which range from $900-$1500 per 3 pack thus we would have to commit to spend $2000-$3000 up front in order to have a hosted tasting for 2.

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We want to make sure that everyone is comfortable with those price points prior to the tasting as the purchase expectation is a 3-bottle set per person.

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I was excited to visit Cimarossa based on some WB review, but ultimately passed as it required a $300 purchase per person I believe. But that was to spend 2 hours with the winemaker touring the facility and vineyard. That would have been a 2-3 bottle purchase, but having never had their wines before it wasnt worth the risk with our budget.

For someone who is already on the list and buying their wines, it seems unusual. Makes me wonder are they trying to get rid of some rough 2020s? Cant imagine a cult producer doing that.

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Thanks. What is the tasting? Is it just these current releases you are about to buy? Or do they make a bunch of other wines you also get to try? Or do you get to taste library bottles?

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See the 2019 Bordeaux thread. There are some class producers in Napa, and unfortunately a larger number of ridiculously overpriced producers. I can’t even imagine buying $300/bottle Napa wines, let alone $500/bottle. Just say no.

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Simply go and taste somewhere like Failla. $65 for a tutored tasting, refundable on a purchase of 4 bottles or more. Really good wines at fair prices.

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Pretty obvious to me that it is Harlan, but that is crazy that Bond and the like wants that coin for a tasting. Forget them, there is a reason I quit Napa Cab and just another illustration why.

Leoville Barton is $125-140 shipped to the boondocks of South Dakota, they can keep their $500 oak monster.

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Did you ask if you could land your helicopter? Hope you and Hedi are doing well!

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Not Harlan nor any of their related brands.

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I would go and prove a point by not buying a single bottle from them.
“not my style, next time, chill with the oak plz”.

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Caveat Emptor! The trend will continue for as long as enough silly suckers pony up the $$. I continue to be amazed by the mediocrity of so many higher-priced Napa cult wines. Now, I do realize that most are volume-limited, so the financials drive such actions. But unless money is of no object, I strongly (strongly) suggest finding lesser-known and more fun producers that you’ll enjoy for years, can share with friends without feeling obligation, and are free from the pretentious aura of such trappings. There are dozens of great producers awaiting you and your palate…(and this comes from an industry insider who has seen/tasted most of the high-end stuff).

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Exactly. We opened a 2019 D’Issan over the weekend. A stunning wine and currently in the $60-$70 range.

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Why not name the producer? I don’t get the civlity. Aren’t we consumer driven wine geeks?

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Instead of Napa tasting fees, I suggest we shift the conversation back to what is most important and most enjoyable. Philadelphia Eagles football and their amazing draft

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I’ve dropped my Napa Cab buying down to William & Mary, Elyse, and Beta. I’ve got no interest in supporting greedy assholes, big corporations, or conspicuous consumption. Even at that, I’m buying more than I’m drinking. I can’t imagine why young people aren’t drinking wine as much?

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