Napa Valley's biggest event of the year -- the four-day Napa Valley Wine Auction -- kicked off on Wednesday night with Wine Spectator's annual Bring Your Own Magnum party at Tra Vigne restaurant in St. Helena.
Many of wine country's most-recognized names -- including Bill Harlan, Delia Viader, Chuck Wagner, Mia Klein and Doug Shafer -- showed up bearing old and new vintages of Napa Valley Chardonnays, Cabernets, Merlots, bubblies and blends. Guests sampled top bottlings from Joseph Phelps, Far Niente, Sterling Vineyards, Peju Province, Niebaum-Coppola, Stags' Leap and many more.
Over the years, the Napa Valley Wine Auction -- which takes roughly 1,000 local volunteers to pull off -- has donated $20 million to local non-profit health care, housing and youth development organizations. Last year's event brought in $5.5 million.
The 20th annual event, sponsored by the Napa Valley Vintners Association, runs from June 1 to 4 and is expected to draw about 1,800 attendees. This year's theme is Kaleidoscope 2000, reflecting the role that glass plays in winemaking, according to auction chair Nancy Andrus, co-founder of Pine Ridge Winery.
On June 1, the charity event gets underway with a preview of the 160 wine lots for the live auction, a barrel tasting of the latest Napa Valley wines and auctions of barrel lots and private donor lots. Over two days, wineries across the valley will be hosting guests for special lunches, dinners and tours, giving potential bidders a chance to meet the winemakers and partake in vertical tastings. And the evening before the auction, celebrity chef Holly Peterson Mondavi will oversee a black-tie dinner for the entire crowd.
The serious action takes place on Saturday, June 3, when Christie's auctioneers launch the bidding on 160 wine lots, as well as special event lots. Throughout the day, top area restaurants will be showcasing their specialites, to take the edge off bidders' appetites.
Check out our upcoming coverage over the next four days as Wine Spectator staff bring you inside the exclusive private events, introduce you to key winemakers and the wines they have donated and wrap up the results of the heated bidding.
Check out our photos of and interviews with some of the Napa Valley Charity Auction attendees.