Unfiltered

Leno, lap dances and famous fistfights at the Napa auction; also, inside the magnum parties
Jun 8, 2005

• At Wine Spectator's annual, pre-auction Bring-Your-Own-Magnum party in Sonoma County, Mac (in his signature straw hat) and Lil McDonald of Vision Cellars are usually the couple to watch on the dance floor, and this year was no exception. But fans of Marcassin's Helen Turley and John Wetlaufer were happy to see the couple cutting the rug as well! Sadly, chef Charlie Palmer was nowhere near the dance floor, choosing instead to man the carving station in front of the outdoor grill, where he had a great vantage point of all the festivities. Meanwhile, at the next night's party in Napa Valley, at Tra Vigne restaurant, it took astute guests to recognize chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame outside of his chef whites. Enjoying himself as a guest for a change, he told Unfiltered he felt like he was "playing hooky" from a restaurant full of auction VIPs.

• Fashion may not be our usual area of coverage, but Unfiltered couldn't help noticing that the Hawaiian shirts that have been so prevalent among winemakers at past magnum parties had been replaced with finer threads at the Napa event. Linen shirts, pastel colors and stripes seemed to be all the rage. Unfiltered breathed a sigh of relief, however, that Gemstone proprietor Paul Frank was wearing a more conservative all-black ensemble--especially when a glass of wine ended up splashing him like a tidal wave. Note to self: black is stylish at any wine event, summer or not.

• Even though Sacramento-based attorney Joe Harbison, of Napa's boutique JP Harbison label, was on crutches from recent knee surgery, he and his wife, Pat, had plenty to celebrate at the magnum party. They recently won the bidding war on a 5-acre parcel next door to Screaming Eagle that has been the talk of the valley recently. (Unfiltered found out that the sale price was well into seven figures.) The Harbisons are already fixtures at many of Napa's social and charity events, but they look forward to planting the land, building a new home and becoming permanent residents.

Teri Hatcher gets friendly with the winning bidders, but not that friendly.
Auction Napa Valley's live auction on Saturday night was even more star-studded--and a bit randier--than usual, with television stars Jay Leno of The Tonight Show, Teri Hatcher of Desperate Housewives and Jerry O'Connell of Crossing Jordan providing on-stage antics. After his 30-minute opening monologue (mostly dated material about L.A. and Michael Jackson), Leno stayed on for nearly an hour during the auction, and his tongue was sharp. When one winning bidder stood up with his paddle, Leno congratulated him, adding, "And good for you, too, sir, in not giving into all that pressure from the Hair Club for Men." O'Connell, who appeared to pump up the bidding on a Chappellet lot that included a Cadillac STS-V luxury car, and Hatcher added to Leno's slightly racy running commentary. When Hatcher joined him on stage for the Frank Family lot, Leno made a number of suggestive comments, involving microphones and the like, that we won't repeat here. Some jokes are simply "of the moment."

What did you just say? Ursula balks at Leno's suggestion for a lap dance.
• Auctioning off lot 402, a three-day escapade in the valley sponsored by the Napa Valley Vintners, auctioneer Ursula Hermacinski balked when Leno asked if she would throw in a lap dance to spice up the lot. Unabashed, Leno quipped, "OK, I will personally give the lap dance." The lot sold for $110,000, lap dance to be scheduled for a mutually agreeable date.

• When Leno heard that lot 406--sponsored by Lewis, Shafer and Darioush wineries--included a morning of racing school taught by ex-Indy 500 driver Randy Lewis, Leno remarked, "Here's your chance to prove to the whole world that your ass will fit in a Formula One car."

No, there was no knockout blow. Peter Mondavi's just cheering on the bids for a lot he offered along with brother Robert.
 
• As the bidding got under way for Quintessa's lot 411, Leno commented that it included a meal at the French Laundry. "Ah, yes, the French Laundry," he said, "the only place you can spend seven hours doing lunch."

• Leno also got off a number of memorable lines during the bidding for lot 414, the collaboration between the families of Robert Mondavi and his brother, Peter Mondavi of Charles Krug. After Hermacinski said it was the first time the prominent Napa vintners had worked together since their famous falling-out in 1966, Leno yelled out: "Hang on, the two brothers just took a swing at each other!"

• Not all the humor was inside the auction tent. While driving north on Highway 29, visitors to Napa Valley this past week may have noticed this sign outside Trefethen Vineyards. Recalling one of the most famous lines uttered by the character Miles in Sideways, the sign shows that aftershocks from the movie are still being felt, even in Napa.


Unfiltered

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