The Wine Baron's Ball


COPIA Toasts the late Robert Mondavi and Napa Valley Vintners

Cups, and wallets, ranneth over at the St. Regis Hotel on Saturday where COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts held its inaugural Wine Baron's Ball and Auction.

The evening honored the late Robert Mondavi, vintner and maverick innovator, who is credited with firmly establishing Napa Valley wines on the map of world-class wine-makers and in the tasting notes of oenophiles, everywhere.

Surveying the sumptuous, burgundy velvet-lined tent and tables that groaned with glistening wine goblets and gorgeous floral-and-grape centerpieces (a classically vintage look created by Stanlee Gatti), COPIA President Garry McGuire declared: "The entire tent looks like a fine cabernet!"

Indeed. A most fitting setting for the 240-gathered grandees, a swirling blend comprising the worlds of wine, art and technology.

The evening also honored 24 other storied Napa Valley vineyards and COPIA presented its first Wine Baron's Award for Philanthropy to Staglin Family Vineyard's Garen and Shari Staglin, who've raised over $83 million at their annual Music Festival for Mental Health.

"This thing is heavy," joked Garen, as he held up his medal for inspection. "It's a good thing I worked out today!"

Set on the banks of the Napa River, this center was first dreamed up in 1988 by Mondavi and his wife, Margrit Biever Mondavi, along with fellow winemakers, to educate and celebrate the excellence and innovation of home-grown achievements in the fields of winemaking, visual arts and gastronomic greatness.

COPIA is home to a three-acre edible garden, Julia's Kitchen, chef demonstrations and classes of all kinds; as well as host to such enticing events as concerts, lectures and exhibitions, currently featuring the works (through Nov. 10) of beloved Napa Valley artist (and noted raconteur) Ira Yeager.

"Life, of late, has been bittersweet," said Margrit. "Perhaps a little more bitter than sweet."

But her spirits brightened as she raised a glass of one of her late husband's finest, a 1999 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet.

"He's here in spirit," said Robert Mondavi Winery Estate Manager Christopher Barefoot.

"He's in our hearts," Margrit toasted back, with a devilish aside: "And if he were here in this room he would say, 'How much did you have to pay Gatti for this beautiful tent'?"

Fortunately, a cool $1 mil was handily raised during the lively (very lively!) live auction (25 luxury lots of of rare wines, exotic travels and delish dinners) for the COPIA Foundation's nutrition and education programs for children.

Top get? Vintner and COPIA Trustee Stanley Cheng raised his paddle to the tune of $100K for Time in a Bottle: a private dinner at the home of Judi and Wilf Jaeger featuring a tasting of 1864, 1865, 1870 and 1877 vintages of Chateau Lafite Rothschild. Yum!

Dearest get? A dinner party hosted by Margrit Mondavi at her Wappo Hill home, as well as a Christopher Brown portrait of her husband and a James Galanos peach chiffon, one-shoulder Grecian gown which was won for $25K by Pillar Rock Estate vintners Teri and Ron Kuhn.

The onstage video description meticulously noted that said Galanos gown bore a few tears and wine stains on the hem.

What, we wondered, had happened to this gown?

"Oh, it was at a ball in Washington, D.C.," said Margrit, nonchalantly. "Some wine splashed on it at the inauguration, maybe it was the second one, of President Ronald Reagan."

As they reverently whisper up in the wine country, Terroir, sweetie. Terroir!


Artist Ira Yeager with Natalie Delrue-McGuire and her husband, COPIA President Garry McGuire

Bentley Sales Manager Vincent Golde with Jennie Allen and her parents, Robin and Gene Allen

Atherton Wine Imports CEO George Derbalian (center) with Tatiana and Serge Sorokko

COPIA Trustee and vintner Garen Staglin (and his wife, Shari Staglin), who host the annual Music for Mental Health at their vineyard, received the Wine Baron's Award for Philanthropy

Doug and Jennifer Biederbeck

Goretti Lo Lui with Hestan Vineyards vintner and COPIA Trustee Stanley Cheng

Honorary co-chairwoman Sandra Jordan and vintner Shari Staglin

Michael Mina Wine Director Raj Parr (center) with Mondavi family members who founded the new Continuum Winery (from left) Carissa Mondavi, Tim Mondavi, Chiara Mondavi and Tim's sister, Marcia Mondavi Borger

Artist Ira Yeager and Auction co-chairwoman and COPIA Trustee Valerie Gargiulo

Napa Valley Reserve Director Philip Norfleet and his wife, Carol Norfleet with Wattle Creek vintners Kristine and Christopher Williams

Renowned vintner and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars founder Warren Winiarski and his wife, Barbara Winiarski

Shirley Von Karl, Oliver and Karen Caldwell and Tom Von Karl

Songwriter Monty Powell, songbird Anna Wilson (who performed) and vintner Jeff Gargiulo

Stanlee Gatti designed Wine Baron's Ball centerpiece

Three Arch Partners co-founder (and wine aficionado) Wilf Jaeger and Stanley Cheng

Trevor and Alexis Traina (whose Swanson Family Vineyards was among the Wine Barons honorees) with Shelby and Carol Bonnie

Vintner Hugh Davies (Schramsberg), former MLB slugger Rusty Staub and vintner David Duncan (Silver Oak Cellars)

Walter Treiber and his wife, COPIA Trustee Carolyn Treiber (of Chicago)

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