Even those with just their big toe in the wine world know the name “Screaming Eagle.” It's easily recognizable for its reputation as Napa Valley’s top dog in the Cult Cab circle.
Nestled in the heart of Oakville, California’s Cab country, the 54-acre Screaming Eagle Estate was started by real estate broker, Jean Phillips and set on course by renowned winemaker, Heidi Barrett. The first vintage of Screaming Eagle came in 1992 and was released in 1996.
Right out of the shots, Screaming Eagle packed in the points from the likes of Robert Parker (99 to be exact). As the cult wine supply and demand story goes, quantities were limited and prices went skyward and continue to do so today.
Built on a Bordeaux blend, Screaming Eagle carries significant Cab components alongside a healthy dash of Merlot and a touch of Cab Franc.
Screaming Eagle Wine Waiting Lists
Screaming Eagle’s current production still rides around 500 to 850 cases a year. The mail order list is curbed at three bottles a person and a lengthy waiting list that hovers over 5,000 strong. With such limited production and so few spots available to purchase wine from the winery, Screaming Eagle is ripe for auction house inflation and high-end restaurant reserves.
Online or on-site auctions are precisely where the majority of those with the discretionary income to splurge on Screaming Eagle’s celebrity status get their hands on a bottle. Though the price for recent vintages has ranged from $1300 to $2500 a bottle, it is not unheard of for a bottle to reach $7000 once it hits the auction market.
Considering all of this, it can still be difficult to get a bottle, let alone a case.
Shakin’ the Eagle’s Nest
After more than 20 years of tenure, the Screaming Eagle Estate transferred ownership in 2006 and sold to business partners Stan Kroenke and Charles Banks. They, in turn, brought on distinguished winemaker, Andy Erickson, to take the helm and David Abreu to handle the vineyard management.
Changes continued with Kroenke assuming full ownership in 2009 and Andy Erickson leaving the winery in 2010 to pursue new viticulture ventures. At this time, Nick Gislason was brought on and the winemaker's first vintage began production in 2011.
While those details are known, much of the inner workings of the winery are not. It seems that this mystery adds to the appeal of the wine itself.
For instance, reporters in the wine industry rarely find an opportunity to interview the owner or winemaker and the estate is not open to tours, even to the press. The Screaming Eagle website is barebones, with no mention of the wines or the personalities behind it, only a few simple questions about signing up for the mailing list and authenticating bottles.
All of this has led to many questions that are left unanswered. It also seems to affect the wine's price and may be one of fascinating marketing plans in the wine world: keep them guessing and they'll want more.
Jonata: Screaming Eagle’s Sister Winery
Those in the know that don’t want to part with some serious cash for the almighty Eagle, have found a nice match in Screaming Eagle’s sister winery, Jonata.
Jonata is owned by the same folks that steer Screaming Eagle and is priced at a fraction of its big sister’s label. Jonata’s wines are carefully crafted by winemaker Matt Dees to maximize the tannin structure while keeping a fine focus on the Bordeaux and Rhone blends.
The Jonata Winery makes its home in the Santa Ynez Valley on over 600 acres. The 2013 Jonata vintage release includes the La Sangre de Jonata (Syrah dominates), the El Desafio (Cabernet Sauvignon heavy in new French oak), and the El Alma (Cab Franc). All of these are well-ranked and worth trying.
Whether you dream of scoring a bottle of Screaming Eagle for yourself one day or just enjoying a sip of her sibling Jonata, there's plenty to appreciate about the winery's storied start and enduring evolution. It's certain that her future is far from finished.