"This has been a sentimental journey beyond my expectations," said auction chairman John Shafer of Shafer Vineyards, referring to this year's auction theme, "Sentimental Journey," celebrating Napa Valley's winemaking history.
Bidders and guests rubbed shoulders with Napa Valley winemakers at a series of winery luncheons, dinners, barrel tastings and intimate parties prior to a gala dinner for 2,000 prepared by celebrity chef Alice Waters at Napa Valley's exclusive Meadowood resort. Among those in attendance was Michael Jordan, basketball virtuoso and restaurateur, who shared a table with Peter Mondavi Jr. of Charles Krug Winery.
Saturday's 159-lot live auction progressed uninterrupted from noon until 6:30 p.m. and featured a surprise appearance by actor, comedian and Napa Valley grape grower Robin Williams. In a hilarious performance, Williams picked up the auctioneer's gavel for lot 146 -- a festive package of Napa Valley Vintners Association events at locations stretching from Hawaii to Vail, Colorado -- and drove the bidding to $130,000.
"Robin's auctioneering technique sold me," said winning bidder Ronald Kuhn, a Chicago-based road-construction executive who recently purchased a vineyard in Napa Valley.
The biggest bid of the day, $189,000, was shared by a group of vintners and their friends. Internet executive Chuck McMinn of Los Altos Hills, Calif., contributed $80,000, and 109 others each paid $1,000 to celebrate Auction 2000 chairwoman Nancy Andrus' 50th birthday in her caves at Pine Ridge Winery.
Other top bids included $161,950 for 10 cases of Staglin Family Vineyard's 1996 Auction Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, $160,000 for a tasting and dinner at Opus One and $130,000 for a collection of four vintages of Diamond Creek Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon going back to 1987.
Proceeds from the event are donated to various health care organizations in Napa Valley. Next year's auction is scheduled for June 1 through 4. For more information, call the Napa Valley Vintners Association at (707) 942-9783 ext. 901, or visit its Web site at www.napavintners.com.
Top 10 Bidders at the Napa Valley Wine Auction:COLOR>
1. Dee Lincoln, Wichita, Kan.
2. B.A. "Red" Adams, Morgan City, La.
3. Ronald J. Kuhn, Wheaton, Ill.
4. John Gorman, Austin, Texas
5. Frank Husic, San Francisco
6. Ona Roth, Santa Barbara, Calif.
7. Halsey Minor, San Francisco
8. Chuck McMinn, Los Altos Hills, Calif.
9. Charles F. Perrell, Los Altos, Calif.
10. Daniel C. Lynch, Los Altos Hills, Calif.COLOR>
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