In the year 2000, a bottle of 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet sold for $500,000 at a charity auction, making it the highest price ever paid for a single bottle of wine. Even considering the fact that the event was for charity, the price was nearly double the next highest price ever paid. What makes it one of the most sought after wines in the world? Quality vines in a location known for producing the best Cabernet were not the only factor contributing to the most expensive bottle ever sold. The secrets behind Screaming Eagle Cabernet continue to propel the brand forward as one of the most sought after wines of all time.
Decades Long Waiting List
You can buy a bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet on the secondary market for thousands of dollars per bottle, or you can wait. Through the Screaming Eagle website, you can reserve your spot on the waiting list and buy bottles directly from the winery. There’s just one small problem with the waiting list; it’s ten years long. At least. The winery doesn’t make too many comments about how long the waiting list actually is, but speculation is close to a twelve-year wait currently.
The winery initially began with a mailing list. Back in the late 1990’s founder Jean Phillips began accepting orders only from people who were signed up on her mailing list. She would limit purchases to just three bottles per year. Quickly there were thousands of people signed up, and she had to discontinue the mailing list concept.
Of course, that didn’t stop the requests from pouring in. Letters bombarded the winery with special requests. People pleaded their case as to why they deserved a bottle or two of Screaming Eagle. One letter requested a bottle as a gift for the doctor who cured them of cancer. Other letters begged for a bottle to replace one that had “accidentally broken.” In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Phillips commented on the letters of special requests, “the first ten you believe, but after you get 200 of those, you don’t believe them anymore.”
The owner of Screaming Eagle is known as “Silent Stan”
When Stan Kroenke purchased Screaming Eagle winery in 2006, it didn’t do any favors to anyone hoping to get a glimpse of the inner workings of the winery. It was a match made in heaven as they would say. The ultra-secretive winery was now linked with a mysterious billionaire known as “Silent Stan.”
Raised in Columbia, Missouri, where his hometown had a population of two dozen people, Stan Kroenke has developed a reputation as a secretive billionaire. He began his career working for his father’s lumber company sweeping floors when he was ten years old. Later he started his own real estate development company and married Ann Walton, an heiress to the Walmart family. Along the way, Kroenke purchased sports franchises such as the Denver Nuggets basketball team and Colorado Avalanche professional hockey team. He also owns the St. Louis Rams, Arsenal F.C., Los Angeles Gladiators, and various other sports and entertainment ventures.
“Silent Stan” just happens to be one of the largest landowners in the United States owning almost one million acres, so it’s no surprise to see wineries included in his vast portfolio. Kroenke rarely does public interviews and has been known to be a “hands-off” type of manager to his various enterprises. The fact that the owner of Screaming Eagle was already known as a very private person fits the secretive brand perfectly and adds to the mystique.
The limited production at Screaming Eagle is one of the keys to its success. The exact production numbers are unknown. The brand has no interest in providing yearly numbers, but it’s estimated the winery produces just 5,000 to 9,000 bottles in any given year. To put this production in perspective, the largest wineries in the U.S. produce tens of millions of bottles per year.
Influential wine reviewer Robert Parker awarded the Screaming Eagle Cabernet an almost perfect score of 99 out of 100 in 1996. Since then, the brand has been synonymous with the highest quality wine. Combine the fact that the brand scores perfect or near-perfect ratings on many of their vintages along with a tiny relative supply, and you will have astronomic demand and prices.
To take this story of limited supply one step further, you need to know about the 1 acre. Back in 1986, Jean Phillips bought the 57-acre winery, which would become Screaming Eagle. Most of the vineyard was harvested and sold to nearby Napa Valley producers. There was one particular acre that Jean kept to herself. This one acre, planted with 80 Cabernet Sauvignon vines, was personally cared for by Jean. It took years to develop small amounts of Cabernet from the one acre.
Running short on resources and debt piling up from her operation, Jean approached neighboring winery Robert Mondavi. She asked Mondavi if they would sell the Cabernet for her. They agreed, and she began bottling it by hand. By 1992 she was able to produce her first commercial vintage. History was made in 1996 when the Cabernet hit the market and earned an almost perfect score by Robert Parker.
A Cinderella Story
The 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet would eventually land the highest price ever paid for a single bottle of wine. It’s a fantastic tale of humble beginnings, extremely limited supply, and vines from one of the best places on earth to produce Cabernet. Crazed fans and wine enthusiasts trying to get their hands on just one bottle keep prices soaring. A billionaire owner known for his quiet personality and secretive business dealings only fan the flames of this incredible brand.