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Screaming Eagle: The Importance
Screaming Eagle is easily the United States’ most iconic luxury wine. It is the ultimate “cult” Californian wine standing tall among the world’s most sought after bottlings, with a reputation – and prices – on a par with those of Pétrus and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Production is limited to just 500-800 cases a year, which are sold exclusively to a tightly-controlled mailing list before eventually filtering through to the secondary market in miniscule quantities. This exclusivity makes Screaming Eagle one of the rarest and most desirable wines on either side of the Atlantic. In the words of Jancis Robinson: “Screaming Eagle is a legend, and the legend is almost invariably told by people who have never tasted it.”
Screaming Eagle: The Insight
Screaming Eagle’s rostra is made up of three wines. The original and most iconic is the flagship Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, which celebrated its 20th vintage with the 2012. So rare is the opportunity to buy these wines and so quickly dramatic is the year-on-year increase in price, that just about any vintage is worth snapping up if it comes available. Wine Advocate’s "perfect" 100 pointers are a collector’s Holy Grail, these include: 1997, 2007, 2010 and 2012. However, with 99 points the 1992, 1995 and 2001 are also worth very serious consideration. As Robert Parker puts it: “…what makes these wines so stunning is the blackcurrant/cassis fruit. Screaming Eagle may be the most extravagantly pure and rich expression of cassis one can find ... short of drinking cassis liqueur. There is an unbelievable purity to these wines, as well as phenomenal concentration and richness, yet in no sense are they heavy, ponderous, or out of balance.” But there is also elegance to these “insanely beautiful” wines, according to Antonio Galloni: “Screaming Eagle is a bit more restrained next to Napa Valley's other heavy hitters.”
The winery also produces a second wine, the aptly-named Second Flight, which is a Cabernet Sauvignon containing a significant proportion of either Merlot or Cabernet Franc, depending on the vintage. Second Flight is widely recognised as an excellent wine in its own right, the winery themselves have called it “part and parcel of Screaming Eagle” and say that it is a perfect expression of “that signature freshness so typical of the estate”. The 2010 vintage of Second Flight was awarded a staggering 96 points, making it one of the highest-scoring second wines Robert Parker has ever reviewed and an excellent way to gain a window on this rare and incredibly sought-after brand.
Screaming Eagle have also started to produce a small quantity of Sauvignon Blanc and have a sister winery based in Santa Ynez’s Balard Canyon called Jonata, which also receives huge critical acclaim.
Screaming Eagle: The Background
Although it may be hard to believe given its status as one of the most sought-after wines on the planet, Screaming Eagle came from very humble beginnings. In 1986 former real estate agent Jean Phillips, bought the 57 acre Oakville vineyard, striking up a business from selling her grapes to various Napa wineries. The exception was a single acre that she kept aside to try her hand at producing her own wine. In the absence of any winemaking equipment, this was – as legend has it – made in a plastic bin.
Phillips took the result to her neighbours at Robert Mondavi Winery to gauge their opinions on the quality of her wine. Their response was positive and before long Screaming Eagle was born. The debut ’92 vintage caused quite a stir among the critics, with Robert Parker awarding it a staggering 99 points and describing the wine as “one of the greatest young Cabernets I have ever tasted”. Years later, one Silicon Valley bidder paid half a million dollars for an Imperial of the 1992 at the charitable 2000 Napa Valley Wine Auction.
The rest is history and within years Screaming Eagle attained the prestige and popularity that it is known for today.
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