Auction Napa Valley is one of the biggest events in Northern California each year, drawing vintners together for a good cause. But before the official festivities begin, vintners get together to enjoy wine, food and each other’s company at Wine Spectator’s annual Bring Your Own Magnum parties.
The parties are held on consecutive nights in Sonoma and Napa. Things kicked off the night of May 29 in downtown Healdsburg at the Hotel Healdsburg and chef Charlie Palmer’s adjacent Dry Creek Kitchen. The party list was a who’s who of Sonoma vintners, including Tom Dehlinger, Merry Edwards, Joel Peterson of Ravenswood, Michael Browne of Kosta Browne, Jim Pedroncelli, Mike Officer of Carlisle and Kendall-Jackson’s Barbara Banke. There was also a healthy contingent from Mendocino County in attendance.
The selection of wines certainly helped the festive mood. There were plenty of choices, from a Peter Michael Les Pavots 2009 to a 1987 Cabernet from Dry Creek Vineyards. Being in Sonoma, many of the party's highlights were Pinot Noirs from Kosta Browne, Marcassin, Martinelli, Chasseur, Lynmar, Rochioli and others. There were also some new attendees and wines added to the mix, including Claypool, Argot and Vaughn Duffy.
Chef Palmer’s spread was equally impressive, with wood-fired pizzas, Kobe beef and foie gras sliders, oyster shooters and an encrusted halibut that was a crowd favorite.
On Wednesday night, the party moved to Napa, where St. Helena’s Tra Vigne restaurant hosted 600 wine industry members, including Margrit Mondavi, Garen and Shari Staglin, Naoka Dalla Valle, Doug and John Shafer, Craig and Kathryn Hall, Beth Novak Milliken of Spottswoode, Delia Viader, Tim Mondavi, Bill Harlan and Auction Napa Valley honorary chairs Molly and Carissa Chappellet. First time attendees and new vintners included NBA star John Salley and race car driver Scott Pruett and his wife, Judy.
Wine lovers made their way among the different pouring stations to sample the magnums that guests brought, which included sought-after names like Schrader, Staglin, Harlan, and multiple vintages of Shafer Hillside Select. The food was as plentiful as the wines, with suckling pig, bucatini amatriciana, grilled asparagus and ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spring peas. When it was time for dessert, the carved-ice gelato station became popular.
Throughout the night, there was plenty of energy, punctuated by a live band, active dance floor, and guests puffing on cigars. For Napa vintners, the parties are a chance to relax and get together before an intense weekend of hosting auction events. Vintner David Long of David Arthur summed up what makes the parties special to him: “It’s simple. You pick a magnum, show up, and have fun.”
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