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February 05, 2014

Screaming Eagle 2011

Screaming Eagle white

Screaming Eagle is axiomatically the defining cult wine of the US. It is also the most expensive American wine and arguably the most critically acclaimed. All 500-750 cases produced annually go to the lucky recipients at the top of a long queue of subscribers. It is nearly impossible to secure older vintages and the cheapest bottle in the UK market costs £1,220 while many of the 1990 vintages are already £3,000 – £5,000 per bottle. Today we are releasing the latest vintage, 2011, for £1,067 per bottle in their famous three bottle wooden case.

A little background on the mythical Screaming Eagle
Screaming Eagle is located on the stony valley floor of the Napa Valley in Oakville between the Vaca and Mayacamas mountains. Oakville AVA is considered as one of the premier wine appellations in the world and known for producing superb Bordeaux varietals. The Estate was originally purchased by owner and founder Jean Philips in 1986 who appointed Heidi Barrett (wife of Bo Barrett from Montelena) as her winemaker. She bottled her first vintage in 1992, subsequently releasing in it 1995 where it was awarded 99 points from Robert Parker: overnight it became the most celebrated wine in California. Philips replanted the 18 hectare vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon (which generally dominates the assemblage), Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, making the wine a true Bordeaux blend.

Philips sold Screaming Eagle to Charles Banks and Stan Kroenke in 2006 for an undisclosed sum, rumoured to be $30m dollars. In 2009 Banks left Screaming Eagle and Stan Kroenke is now the sole proprietor. The current winemaker Nick Gislason, formally with Harlan Estate, was officially appointed in 2012 and Michael Rolland is consultant Oenologist. Under the stewardship of Stan Kroenke the vineyard has been replanted and a new cellar has been built. He has introduced a second wine called Second Flight which produces 550 to 800 cases per year, it is a premeditated attempt to solidify Screaming Eagle’s Romanee-Conti-esque legendary status.

Market position
Screaming Eagle is now spoken of in the same breath as Petrus, Lafite Rothschild and DRC, with production and availability mirroring the latter. The price tag of Screaming Eagle continues to rise, with the average price per bottle across all vintages rising from £1,000 in 2007 to £1,600 per bottle to 2014. It is interesting to note that during this time it has been uncorrelated to the market overall, experiencing smaller volatility and low correlation to Bordeaux prices.

2011, £3,200 - 95-97 AG, 91-94 RP
2010, £4,050 – 95-97 AG, 100 RP
2009, £4,020 – 98 AG, 96 RP
2008, £3,700 – 95-97 AG, 95 RP

One would not say that Screaming Eagle offers value versus price, but like Romanee-Conti it exists in another league. There is so little produced, with most of the production remaining in the US to be consumed domestically, that the global market clammers for whatever it can secure. Despite the high price tag it continues to rise in value and due to its rarity and incredible cachet it is becoming favoured by the wealthy circles of China. This early curve interest from China is likely to push prices higher; one dreads to think what price Screaming Eagle will be in five years’ time. In any case the 2011 is under-priced on European release and Screaming Eagle is spectacular wine, a massive, fruit forward beast, with incredible dark fruits and power: it is a wonderful, special and breath-taking wine to drink, if you can afford it.

Antoni Galoni 95-97 points
The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon opens with highly expressive, spiced Cabernet Franc-inflected aromas. Espresso, rosemary, lavender, violets and spices all take shape in the glass. The 2011 is a surprisingly dense, powerful Screaming Eagle with less of the pure seduction of some previous years and more intensity, especially in the tannins. Savory herbs, blackberries, menthol, appear later, adding complexity and pedigree. Cool, graphite-infused veins of minerality provide the backbone for layers of dark, brooding fruit. I don’t expect the 2011 to offer its finest drinking before age ten, and even that will likely prove an overly optimistic assessment. In 2011, the blend is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, the remaining 25% split evenly between Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

Robert Parker 91-94 points
Made from a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Franc, the 2011 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon is a sexy, upfront, precociously styled wine exhibiting a dense ruby/purple color as well as lots of licorice, camphor, black currant jam, new oak and spice box characteristics. Dense, rich and impressive, the early drinking charm of the 2011 vintage gives it immediate appeal. It should keep for 10-15 years.

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