Wine X Staff
Wine X Online Edition
I recently had the good fortune to be able to try a bottle of 1999 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon. Coincidently, that’s the year I first submitted my name to get on their waiting list. I’m assuming my slot probably opens up around 2042. Or later….. Until then, I ride the coattails of friends’ poor judgment at their after-party nightcap. Someday it will be me, I keep telling myself.
This is one of the rarest wines in the world already, and to be given the opportunity to open and pour a 21-year old bottle was extraordinary. After decanting and swirling the wine for an hour and a half or so, the wine was absolutely beautiful, with incredible flavors of mint, boysenberry, black currant, and cigar box.
The tannins were soft and lush, but not so much that the wine was too rich feeling. And the oak was perfectly done as well, with integrated vanilla and baking spice flavors that lent complexity but never overwhelmed the palate.
I could go on and on, and I wish I could’ve tasted the wine every hour for 7-8 hours because as I went back to it and smelled and sipped it, it continually changed in my glass. It was not just a bottle of wine, it was an experience. And that is exactly what the client wanted, an experience. So was it worth the price they paid?
It is hard to gauge true worth when it comes to luxury products. Is the Rolex really worth that much more than the Casio? The Bugatti worth that much more than the Camry? The screwcap Red Blend worth more than the Screaming Eagle Cabernet? Sure, the luxury versions have nice touches, the materials are top-notch, and the craftsmanship impeccable. But when one might cost twenty or thirty TIMES as much as the other, are you really paying for those materials anymore? Or are you just paying for the privilege of being able to say you drank this, drove this, or wore that?
I often tell people that there is a limit when it comes to wine, at which point quality becomes equal regardless of the price paid. And that limit can change depending on the region and grape variety involved. I won’t try to write out rules for multiple places in this article, but for Napa in particular, I think Cabernets above $150 are all roughly the same quality. Stylistically they might differ, but the quality of the wines stays the same. Yeah, there might be a lemon here and there, and there might be one wine that is a notch above the rest, but realistically you are most likely getting a great wine whether you pay $200 or $1000.
The Screaming Eagle broke that rule a little bit, at least in my head. I wrestled with it for a few days. Was I just being swayed by the hype? The rarity? Was it really that good? I’ve had occasions before where I realized a week or two later that “it” wasn’t worth the cost, whatever “it” happened to be. And this time, I didn’t even pay for “it.”
And that is not something I would’ve said a few months ago. Something about that experience was genuinely worth it, and to be able to open my own bottle to ponder, mull over, sip on, and experience over as long a period as I wanted would be incredible.
Would it be worth it for you? Maybe not. Maybe you are thinking I am a nutcase right now whose money should be put in a conservatorship. And I doubt I could convince you otherwise…unless you, too, got to drink a bottle of 1999 Screaming Eagle Cabernet.
Good luck finding one, and let me know what you think if you do get to be so lucky as me.