Realm x Nine Suns is the wildcard. And I consider $295 a big boy. LOL
I can see why it’s a difficult vintage due to heat, but we’ll have to see when 2022 gets bottled.
I’m hoping going light on the 22’s in order to load up on the 23’s doesn’t hurt my guaranteed allocations next year.
I’m deliberately holding back so I can go deep next year.
I did not take my Nine Suns. I had it at the winery in Oct but it was not at the level of the other Realm offerings. It was good but not at that price point. Co-branding on the label is cool and getting it for that reason was tempting.
Took the lone Fidelio I was allocated and wished for a few more Fidelio and Rose. Skipping the reds in this offer, will go longer later this year.
@Ted_R the allocation methodology can vary slightly from year to year based on volumes, circumstances, etc. Generally we take an average of prior years (2-3 years), sometimes we will allocate the max from prior years, sometimes we must use the min or even cut allocations by a % if the following year’s volume is down. We never wanted it to be a “one and done” model, meaning you skip once and you lose your allocation, because that never felt member-friendly. Likely the 23 allocations will be based on some sort of average or ratio based on 19, 21, 22 vintages. Long winded answer to say…if you skip this year, you will still have a guaranteed allocation next year. I can’t say it will be the same but it won’t be zero. And given the larger volumes of 23, I would guess going light or skipping 22 will play less of a role in this particular circumstance than in some prior years. From our perspective, we try to balance loyalty and tenure with consistency.
I appreciate the discussion around 2022 vintage. @CraigT We don’t show our wines for review until they’re bottled. I’ve never been a fan of submitting barrel samples - is it a composite sample, is it one barrel, are there any final modifications, fining, filtration, etc that need to occur, how does a few extra months of barrel aging or concrete egg aging integrate with the wine? When we submit a wine to the critic, it’s the exact same wine from bottle that our customers will be drinking.
We accelerated the release of our two Beckstoffer wines to help plug a gap left by the missing 2020 vintage. I recognize it’s not ideal from the member’s point of view to offer a wine that no one has tasted yet. We will explore ways in future years to slow down the release schedule for some wines…we just aren’t there yet.
I would expect most critics to say something along the lines of be selective about the 2022 vintage. That sentiment was even more warranted in 2020. I’ve come to really cherish these more challenging vintages because it’s when you can really see differences between various domaines - their choices, their philosophies, etc. In some ways I’d like Realm to be judged by our wines (or lack thereof) from the “tough” vintages - 2011, 2017, 2020, 2022 - because they are a better reflection of who we are. Said another way, I can personally assure those of you buying our 22s you won’t be disappointed. Of course I’m biased and it sounds self-serving so let me call out that caveat directly - I’ll accept the necessary skepticism of me making that statement. Yet I know how far we have gone and are willing to go to only put something in bottle that we are proud of.
@Michael_Kane yes…generally speaking if this is your first release you wouldn’t have access to submit a wish request for Dr. Crane or To Kalon. There’s a balance for us in terms of managing expectations. If I know already we won’t be able to accommodate your wish request, should I still give you one anyway? That’s how we think about it. It’s possible you may be able to wish for To Kalon next spring. The wait for Dr. Crane tends to be a couple of extra years past To Kalon just based on volume.
I enjoy the wines, but at the pricing for the SVDs I am probably out. I will still buy some Bard/Tempest as the style does have a place in my cellar, and I think they offer fine quality at the price point.
Also, I really respect Scott coming on the board to explain Realm’s thinking about their journey and reply to customer questions. I wish them success in their quest as a “newer” label to achieve cult status, with all that entails.
Wish request limit seems to have increased.
Sharp eye @J_Liang…can’t get anything past you! Reminder email goes out tomorrow and we will call attention to the fact that we are able to increase wish limits for certain wines and formats (specifically Dr. Crane, Precious Twin, some magnums).
Guaranteed allocations remain the same - as the name implies. We tend to be conservative these days with wish limits at the start of a release. A few years ago we were in the unfortunate position to reduce some wish limits (thankfully not guaranteed allocations) because we just knew we would not be able to fulfill anything. We came close to over-selling and we sweated every last day of the release. It’s a much more member-friendly message to increase limits rather than decrease them. We increased wish limits for wines where we have a high probability of granting wish requests.
@MikeHill appreciate your comments and your support. We just bottled 2022 Tempest and I’m really excited about it. Quite frankly it’s better than our 2021. Not that the vintage was better, but I love the blend composition (more Cab Franc) and better oak integration. We will continue to do our best to make sure The Tempest and The Bard punch above their weight. One other thing stands out to me in your word choice…regarding the quest to achieve “cult status.” I wonder if today we can say we live in a post-cult world in Napa Valley? Would be curious to see what other folks on this board would say. I truly believe the cult era is over…but that’s probably a discussion for another day. I would instead suggest our quest today is to build something enduring and something meaningful for Napa Valley’s next generation. We have a long way to go to live up to that, and I guess “cult” to me is indicative of an era…a moment in time for both producers and consumers that has long since passed.
Some of Wine Independent’s scores for the 2021 vintage based on what I can see from wine-searcher.
Crane - 100
Abusrd - 99
Houyi - 98
To Kalon - 98
Farella - 97
Upon reflection, I agree that “cult status” is a loaded and a lazy word choice, rooted in a moment in time since passed. To rephrase, I do think there is something being strived for at these multi hundred $ price points beyond just the juice in bottle. The following thoughts are NOT specific to Realm but the newly higher priced Napas in general:
To me, is a great $150 wine twice as good as a well-chosen $75 wine? Maybe not 2x, but noticeable. Is a $300 wine twice as good as a $150 wine, or four times as good as a $75? Doubtful (to my yak palate), so what is the $$$ going towards if not what I am tasting? What I intended by the lazy word choice of “cult” was some sense of the exclusivity conferred by a price point that excludes many people, creating a sense of an “in group” with access to something special beyond what they taste in the bottle. This is common across luxury items/brands, so I guess what I was trying to say is it seems like you are aspiring to become one of the luxury brands in wine, such as First growth BDX, Grand Cru burgundy, and yes, what used to be called the “cult” wines of Napa. Or maybe I’ve just revealed that my palate is not discerning enough, which I’m reminded of every time I blind taste.
I would end with the most important points: that I enjoy your wines and will continue to buy the wines that make sense for me, and respect your engagement and transparency with this board, including this exchange and your broader dialogue on the quest to build something enduring and meaningful. I hope for your continued success in what is undoubtably a difficult business. But please keep Bard/Tempest for the people (an increased cut of Franc in Tempest sounds delicious!)
@MikeHill Love everything you shared and I certainly didn’t mean to call your word choice lazy at all. You are not alone in using the term “cult” and I still see it everywhere. I just wonder what it means anymore.
Absolutely appreciate your point about the ratio between taste and dollars. This is a real struggle in Napa Valley these days as everyone in this forum knows. At a later time I’ll try to lay out what I see as the basic economics of building a sustainable business based on today’s land/fruit/labor/construction costs. For now, just know I hear you loud and clear on Bard and Tempest!
Scott- Always appreciate you getting into the lions den with us. Trying to be more informed vs blind buying as prices keep rising (looking at you scarecrow…). I have To Kalon and Crane in both 19 and 21 resting. Is there one at the moment that will deliver close to what you’re aiming for so I can evaluate if I want to buy this allocation?
For context, I think the Bard is one of the best wines in California not just within your portfolio so that’s my style.
Jeff, the lions den makes us better, so I wouldn’t have it any other way. I still worry that sometimes when I jump in it shuts down the dialogue. I welcome the feedback - good, bad or indifferent - and I recognize my voice and palate may or may not resonate with others. I can offer my context for our wines but what really matters is what you taste, you experience, you feel…so thanks to you and everyone else here for letting me contribute. I learn a lot from these forums. Right now I’m exploring German Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and following that thread elsewhere on WB.
You’re asking me a tough question - not just because you’re asking me to choose between the two but also because I don’t know your palate, your preferred drinking age, your intent behind purchasing the wine, etc. But I’ll take a stab at it and I hope this helps.
Both To Kalon and Dr. Crane will be much denser wines than The Bard. When you overlay our house style on these two vineyards, I think they represent the densest wines in our portfolio. When I say density, I’m talking about mouthfeel, midpalate weight. It’s not that we intend them to be that way; that’s just the intensity of the fruit and the tannins we get from these two vineyards. Both of these are big wines. Here’s how I would separate the two.
If you’re looking for the wine with the most typicity or distinctiveness, I think that’s Dr. Crane. Every year, whether it’s warmer or cooler, wet or dry season, I find unmistakable notes of blue fruit, graphite, crushed rocks. To further abuse the most overused and ambiguous word in wine descriptions, I find this particular wine to have minerality in our portfolio. In a blind tasting, Dr. Crane typically stands out. 2022 will be no different.
If you’re looking for the wine that will deliver the most pleasure in the next 5 years, that’s probably To Kalon. It’s a very giving wine, extroverted, full of personality. I’m very glad we started blending the Cab Franc into this wine (instead of bottling it separately) because it adds more layers to this wine. There’s surprising freshness in the 2022 despite the heat.
If you care about the secondary value of the wine, I would guess that Dr. Crane has more upside potential. Much smaller vineyard (22 acres vs 89 for To Kalon). There’s much less of this wine produced (from us and others in the vineyard). I think this vineyard has established itself as a Grand Cru in Napa Valley and I see demand for it increasing significantly outside the US.
Which will get a better score? Your guess is as good as mine, and I say that realizing you haven’t tasted either wine from barrel! To reiterate a few comments I made above, I realize it’s not ideal to be buying these wines blind. We are kicking around some ideas internally on how to improve that going forward. There’s no ignoring the heat spell in 2022 but we (and many others) have learned how to handle those spikes - misting, shade cloth, heavy sorting, lighter extractions, etc. I’m very confident in our 2022s, and frankly it’s these kinds of vintages where you can over time separate the greats from the good.
Hope there’s a nugget of usefulness in here for you.
Scott. Thank you! I didn’t expect all that color but very much appreciate it. In the end, you’ve given me an excuse to open both and see how I feel but it sounds like the Dr Crane will be more unique so I’ll start there.
My wife just reminded me I could have just used the coravin but life is short so I’ll open both before Tuesday.
Thanks again for taking the time!
Your candidness and confidence in the 22’s made me go back and get my full Beckstoffer allocation (and a couple more Houyi’s, because why not?).
Let’s drink one together in 10 years and confirm the greats were indeed separated from the goods.
Nvm taking my allocation
Is gifting of allocations something that can be arranged through Realm? How exactly does that work? Can’t say I’m not interested.
@Ted_R great idea, I will gladly host that!
I’m always late with my order however it’s mostly due to the debate in my mind on what to get. In a perfect world, I’d just buy it all yet space is a thing I contend now with now more than 5 years ago. This year I went with a nice batch of Fidelio, some Rose as it’s new, Houyi, and some Nine Suns and dialed up To Kalon and Crane in the fall. @scott.becker and team area always super fair and transparent, and it’s cool he doesn’t mind jumping in to this thread to answer questions and give us a handle on what’s going on.