Friday, April 27, 2007

Screaming Eagle (Update)

After I posted my earlier blog about Screaming Eagle Sandra and I went for a walk. Quietly and persuasively she made an argument for not following the plan we had earlier agreed to, but instead to buy our allocation and stay on the list. Her main point: Why not keep our options open since there isn’t any serious downside?

So I’ve purchased our three bottles.

Changing my mind doesn’t in any way detract from the lessons I learned about myself. If anything, given how we resolved the issue it adds a useful dimension to the process.

Screaming Eagle

Yesterday the Wall St. Journal had a front-page story on Screaming Eagle, the Napa winery that for years has topped the cult-wine, hard-to-get list. The main point of the article is that it is virtually impossible to get on their mailing list, which is the only way you can buy the wine when it is released.

In reading the article and thinking about it afterward I learned something about myself. A little background first: In the mid to late 90’s I made sure we were on the mailing lists for every hot wine that appeared on my radar screen – Colgin, Harlan, Bryant Family, and yes, Screaming Eagle. I made it a priority because we were collecting wine and I wanted us to have access to the best.

I made the Screaming Eagle list in 1999, when the 1996 vintage was being released. I think 1992 was their first year on the market. Robert Parker gave that wine a rating of 99, which made it an instant celebrity. I got in under the wire; in 2000 the mailing list closed to new subscribers. The 1996 cost $125, a lot of money in those days. Since then, the price has gone up steadily to $500 where it is today.

Each year the allocation is 3 bottles, packaged in a special wooden box. We purchased our allocation every year, even though early on it became clear that it might be too valuable to drink. Is any wine worth $250 or $300 or $500? Even though I love great wine, I don’t think so. And on the auction market Screaming Eagle was going for $1500 to $3000 a bottle. We kept buying to retain our place on the list (no buy – bye bye list) and eventually to auction what we had.

Recently we participated in our fourth, and we think our final, auction. We sold everything we had in our cellar, Screaming Eagle included, that had appreciated to obscene levels. We have set up a travel fund with the proceeds, which we used for our recent trip to Asia and are using for a trip to Spain and London next month. There’s plenty left for several more long trips.

Now – back to the point. We fell into the game of buying wine that we intended to sell. It was not our original plan. It worked out very well, but we don’t want to do it any more. We have decided not to continue in the game 1) because we think prices will level off and it will take many years and some luck to realize big gains, and 2) replacing a serendipitous benefit with greed as the only motivation doesn’t have any allure.

The other day I received an email and letter from Screaming Eagle informing me that the 2004 vintage is being released and I have until mid-May to buy my allocation. Rather than rushing to make the purchase as I’ve done in the past, I set it aside not intending to buy. Then, when the Journal article appeared I noticed how I was still tempted to continue my elite status. After all, I was one of the lucky few. Should I voluntarily step aside even though I don’t want to pay $500 for a bottle to drink and no longer want to go the auction route? It makes no sense to reverse our decision, yet here I am – reconsidering it.

What caused my reaction? Vanity? Pride? Wanting to be special? Possessiveness? More greed? Losing something I can’t get back? Lack of certainty about the choice we’ve made? I’m not sure. I do see how strong the grip is. Will I let it change my mind? No. But I’ve realized one more time how easy it is to compromise with ourselves, even when we know it is not what we really want to do.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Asia Trip Pictures

To see all our Asia Trip Pictures go to the following website;