V Foundation Wine Celebration Raises $12 Million for Cancer Research

Plus, Must! Charities launches its first philanthropic wine event in Paso Robles to fight poverty and hunger

V Foundation Wine Celebration Raises $12 Million for Cancer Research
Justin Smith of Saxum Vineyards gets ready to saber some Champagne for the crowd at Must! Charities' wine auction in Paso Robles. (Courtesy of Must! Charities)
Aug 18, 2021

Big bids were at the center of the V Foundation Wine Celebration this past weekend. The 23rd annual event grabbed a spot as one of the top charity wine auctions in the country, raising $12 million for the V Foundation for Cancer Research. The V Foundation, started in 1993 by late North Carolina State University basketball coach and ESPN commentator Jim Valvano, has funded more than $260 million in grants for cancer researchers and therapies.

The live auction was held Aug. 7 in Oakville, Calif., and hosted by Duke University men's basketball coach Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski, ESPN anchor Sage Steele and ESPN analyst Jay Bilas. Campaign strategist and CNN commentator Paul Begala was a guest speaker. The auction raised $4.36 million in live bids, thanks to more than 450 guests battling for once-in-a-lifetime lots. Most of the 25 auction lots included wine and travel experiences combined with prized bottles.

"I have found that wine-only lots are not as likely to achieve the desired level of engagement," Max Duley, V Foundation senior director of auction and community outreach, told Wine Spectator. "Our attendees are world travelers, founders of major companies, C-level executives from many branches of media and entertainment, and they all go to top-level events and auctions around the country."

The top wine-related lots included a luxury getaway to Pebble Beach donated by the owners of Alpha Omega and Frank Family Vineyards, which included three magnums from their wineries and sold twice for a total of $800,000. "Taste of the Tuscan Sun" sold for $360,000 and included private trips to Napa, Florence, Chianti, Bolgheri and Umbria hosted by Marchesi Antinori and Antica Estate, along with a large selection of large-format and 750ml Antinori bottles.

The "40-Love of Wine & Tennis" lot sold for $180,000 and gave winners tickets to the semifinals and finals at Wimbledon 2022 with vintner Beth Nickel of Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel and a collection of magnums from both wineries. Another tennis-inspired lot offered four tickets to the semifinals and finals of the 2022 Australian Open in Melbourne, along with 11 bottles of Penfolds wine. The lot sold for $125,000.

The top lot of the night did not feature wine. "The Legend’s Last Legacy" featured seats near the Blue Devils bench when Duke hosts rival UNC for Coach K’s final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. That sold for $1 million.

"We craft the event every year to reflect our messaging, place-in-time, targeted type of cancers our doctors are focusing on, guests and hosts, along with a constant mission to keep the message, heart and soul of Jimmy Valvano at the center of the event," Duley said.

Purpose in Paso

Farther south, Must! Charities made its wine auction debut in Paso Robles with their Purpose event, raising $1.3 million to address youth mentorship, poverty and hunger in the San Luis Obispo community.

The Aug. 7 live auction was held at Booker Vineyard, the Paso Robles winery founded by Eric Jensen, who is also a founding member of Must! Charities. The in-person auction hosted 180 guests and featured 16 lots, raising a combined $484,000 in live bids.

A collection of Napa magnums from Juan Mercado, proprietor of Realm, sold for $14,000 and included bottles from Staglin, Amici Cellars, Continuum Estate, Hourglass and more. Another top lot sold three times for a total of $98,000, and included a three-night adventure and private dinner in Paso Robles wine country with winemakers Justin Smith, Stephan Asseo and Jensen.

"This is our first year, and the professionals coordinating the event are seasoned event directors who have waited for Paso to be poised to kick off a high-level auction," Becky Gray, executive director of Must! Charities, told Wine Spectator via email. "Collective giving and the power of people investing in social good give us the most satisfaction. We can move the needle faster with everyone working together."


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