|Robert Mondavi, left, founder of Robert Mondavi Winery, with Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Wine Spectator.|
See the faces and big names at this year's fete.
|Napa Valley Wine Auction 2001
Despite Soft Economy, Cash Still Flows Freely at Napa Valley Wine Auction
|Napa Valley Wine Auction 2000|
The economy might be looking dicey, but Napa Valley winemakers and industry professionals were in fine spirits on Wednesday night at Wine Spectator's Bring Your Own Magnum party, which annually heralds the beginning of the four-day Napa Valley Wine Auction.
While most producers doubted that this year's event could equal the record-setting 2000 auction, which raised more than $9 million for local charities, optimism reigned. "This is like the art world, and the art world always deceives everybody," said Tom Rinaldi, winemaker and general manager for Chalone Wine Group's Napa Valley Cabernet program. "People will go crazy over a piece of art during a war or a depression. I'd never want to bet against this auction."
One factor helping load the dice this year is the participation of Robert and Margrit Mondavi, who are serving as co-chairs of the 2001 event -- 21 years after chairing the inaugural Napa Valley Wine Auction in 1981. Although much of the dot-com money that boosted last year's event has disappeared, Robert Mondavi was typically buoyant, explaining his choice of "Ode to Napa Valley: A Celebration of Life" as this year's auction theme. "The future is so much more exciting," he said. "Even though we've come a long way, we're still learning so much. We're making better, softer wines that harmonize better with food. It's still just the beginning."
Most of the guests set aside business and enjoyed the party, which is one of the most anticipated gatherings on the Napa calendar. "This event is the quintessential reunion of the wine industry," said Bob Foley, winemaker at Pride Mountain Vineyards and owner of Robert Foley Vineyards. "We're so busy we don't get a chance to visit."
Of course, it's easy to enjoy festivities when surrounded by spectacular wines. Guests had their pick of a dizzying array, including cult favorites such as Harlan Estate and Shafer Hillside Select, along with top-of-the-line Napa stalwarts like the Beringer Howell Mountain Bancroft Vineyard Cabernet, Mondavi Reserve Cabernet and Joseph Phelps Insignia.
The auction, which is sponsored by the Napa Valley Vintners Association, is expected to draw about 1,800 people. The charity events began on Thursday morning with a tasting of current releases and barrel lots. Wineries throughout the valley will host lunches, dinners, tours and tastings through Friday evening, when guest chef Wolfgang Puck will prepare dinner for a black-tie crowd. The auction itself, which includes 140 live lots and 77 barrel lots, takes place on Saturday.
Check back with Wine Spectator Online for more coverage of upcoming auction events.