After a wobbly turn last year during the depths of the recession, Auction Napa Valley came roaring back for its 30th anniversary. This past weekend, the four-day event raised $8.51 million for local charitable causes.
The highlight of the weekend was Saturday’s live auction, which took place at Meadowood Resort in St. Helena. Competitive bidding for the lavish lots brought in $7.09 million, nearly 50 percent more than last year's $4.3 million. The take came in shy of 2008's final tally of $8.6 million, but nearly equaled the $7.1 million raised earlier this year at the Naples Winter Wine Festival auction, the top charity wine auction in the U.S. for six years running.
One big change from years past: Event organizers opted for a more casual daytime setting in place of the formal late-night fête. The event began at noon, with a walk-around luncheon prepared by 16 chefs from around the country, including Thomas Keller of the French Laundry, Richard Reddington of Redd, Michael Tusk of San Francisco’s Quince, Michael Mina of his eponymous restaurants and Frank Stitt of Highlands Bar and Grill from Birmingham, Ala.
The 900 guests then congregated in an air-conditioned tent for the three-hour live auction of 41 lots. Water pistols left on the tables added a playful element as vintners and attendees engaged in water fights throughout the afternoon. Even some of the celebrities in the audience—including Robin Quivers, co-host of the Howard Stern Show and golfer Annika Sorenstam—were seen joining in the fun.
Annika Sorenstam, who has her own wine label, attended the live auction.
Also in attendance was Eric Stonestreet, the actor who plays Cameron on the popular TV sitcom Modern Family. He came to promote a Frank Family Vineyards and Promise lot, which included a walk-on role for the show and a trip to Cabo San Lucas. “I will use this,” he teased, of the water pistol in his hand as he tried to get paddles up. Stratton Sclavos of Saratoga, Calif., paid $170,000 for the lot (Sclavos has also been the winning bidder on previous Frank Family lots, which included walk on roles in Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives).
For the second year in a row, Mary Miner, owner of Oakville Ranch Vineyards, placed the top bid. Miner purchased a lot of 10 magnums of Harlan and dinner for eight for $350,000. “I love Harlan. I’m a collector,” Miner said.
Though Miner's $350,000 bid was the highest single bid of the night, a lot from Colgin Cellars ended up raising $1 million. The lot--an eight-magnum vertical of the Cariad bottling and dinner for six--drew some fiercely competitive bidding with paddles still in the air when the price reached $250,000. Ann Colgin offered to replicate the lot so that four separate bidders could each pay $250,000.
Eric Stonestreet, of Modern Family, jumped on stage to promote the Frank Family Vineyards lot.
The charitable focus of the event was brought to the forefront when local children took to the stage to promote the Fund-a-Need lot. Over $1 million was tallied for children's health and wellness programs as vintners and attendees raised their paddles, donating in increments from $10,000 to $100,000. The kids then circulated the tent, serving lemonade to the bidders for a successful "lemonade sale."
After the auction, guests sat down outside and enjoyed a family-style dinner prepared by six female chefs from around the country, including Suzanne Tracht from Jar in Los Angeles and Gina DePalma from Babbo in New York. Auction Chairs Beth Novak Milliken and Mary Novak of Spottswoode Estate brought a strong female presence to the festivities, punctuated by girl-band The Bangles, who performed their hits, including "Walk Like an Egyptian" and "Manic Monday" while the guests danced.
There were many components to the fund-raising event, including a month-long Internet-only auction that wrapped up on Friday. Bidding for the 151 lots garnered a total of $277,000.
Local children sold lemonade after the Fund-a-Need lot.
On the Thursday and Friday before the live auction, vintners hosted various events throughout Napa. Friday's Taste Napa Valley and Barrel auction brought 2,000 people to Rubicon Estate in Rutherford, Calif., which raised more than $1 million. More than 100 wineries and 60 restaurants and artisinal food producers handed out sips and nibbles, while a trio of vintner rock bands performed for attendees. Masaharu Morimoto, of Iron Chef fame and a soon-to-open restaurant in downtown Napa, was personally handing out a pork belly appetizer to fans. Attendees could taste wine from barrels of soon-to-be-released wines from top Napa estates and then place bids for 10-case lots of those wines, including Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 and Joseph Phelps Insignia 2008. The top-selling barrel lot was for the Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select 2008, which brought in nearly $59,000.
To date, the Auction Napa Valley has given $90 million to non-profits, including Community Health Clinic Ole, Boys & Girls Clubs and Napa Valley Community Housing. Next year’s event is once again scheduled for the first full weekend in June, 2 through 5, 2011.
1. Colgin Cellars: $1,000,000 An 8-magnum vertical of Colgin’s Cariad bottling, dinner and tasting for 6. Winning bid was $250,000, paid by four separate bidders.
2. Harlan Estate: $350,000 A 10-magnum vertical of Harlan and dinner for 8.
3. Arietta and Hudson Vineyards: $250,000 74 bottles of Arietta and Hudson wines, overnight "camp out" for 6 in Airstream trailers at the Hudson Ranch, dinner for 12 and breakfast for six. Winning bid was $50,000, paid by five separate bidders.
5. Beringer Vineyards: $240,000 Tickets and a trip to Pepple Beach Food & Wine Festival for two, including three nights of accommodations, golf for two at Pebble Beach, and a five bottle 6-liter collection of Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve. Winning bid was $120,000, paid by two separate bidders.
5. Shafer Vineyards: $240,000 An 18-magnum vertical of Hillside Select and one-time-only bottling of the 25th Anniversary Sunspot Cabernet Sauvignon, 3-night accommodation for 6, including two dinners, lunch and wine tasting at Shafer.
Tom Miller — Vestavia Hills, AL — June 10, 2010 3:12pm ET
Thomas Matthews — New York City — June 11, 2010 8:25am ET
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