Thousands of bidders, vintners and volunteers descended on the lawn of Meadowood resort in St. Helena on Saturday for the annual Auction Napa Valley; one of the largest wine fundraising events in the world.
Welcomed with glasses of Mumm and tissue-paper flowers made by local children, guests were guided through a three-hour walk-around lunch that included morsels made by eight of the past “Top Chef” winners — a butter and lobster soup with caviar by Kristen Kish and Harold Dieterle's polenta with ramps and morels were two of the best.
At the center of the tent was wine —plenty of it — showcasing, to a surprising degree the diversity of wines in Napa — Grignolino, Albarino, Sangiovese and, of course, plenty of Cabernet and Chardonnay —all made by the Vintners’ 400-plus member producers.
Lest the nearly 100-degree heat had anyone feeling wilted, a gospel choir and air conditioning energized guests for what would be over three hours of intense bidding on 45 lots that included ski vacations, a stage in The French Laundry kitchen and a Lamborghini.
The Staglins', who served as this year's honorary chairs, stated goal of making this the highest-earning auction in its 33 years proved successful. Fueled by fist-pumping, pom-pom waving and exploding tubes of confetti, paddles flew again and again, raising $14 million and bringing the total from the weekend—between the live auction, the barrel auction and the E-auction—to a record $16.9 million.
While exclusive vacations, private dinners and expensive cars dominated the packages, wine—“cult” wine at least—proved to be of great interest to the high net worth individuals in the room. Two of the highest-earning lots consisted exclusively of wine: A 20-year vertical of Harlan Estate fetched $800k and a single 12-liter bottle of 2010 Screaming Eagle went for $500k.
All of the proceeds are donated to charities in the Napa Valley, with a focus this year on children with mental health needs.