Sixteen Million Dollar Weekend – Napa Valley Wine Auction 2013 4 min read

Much has been written about this past weekend in Napa Valley. In the world of wine & charity, a historic auction took place on June 1, 2013.


Napa Valley Wine Auction is an annual community fundraising event that takes place the first weekend in June. It raises funds for healthcare and youth programs as well as affordable housing. Over the years it became a powerful ambassador of the finest Napa Valley has to offer in the world of wine, food and gracious hospitality.


Closing its 33rd year with a triumphant total of $16.9 million, it shattered all existing records & left many mystified,  laboring to identify the determining factors of its astounding success. At the very core of human nature lies the need to comprehend & assign value to all things, however enigmatic or random.


Logic & experience tells me that the constants remained. Having attended this event in the past, I don’t believe that the efforts of vintners, staff at Napa Valley Vintners Association or the volunteers were any different this time around. The effort made for every single auction is gargantuan and it would be fundamentally unfair to correlate it to the bottom line.


Let’s just say that if the country was run half as well as Napa Valley Wine Auction, we’d all live in paradise. Linda Reiff for U.S. President!


Saturday host of the live auction, Meadowood Resort, as well as the barrel auction annually changing venue were impeccably well-organized, with no detail left to chance. (One must give some serious credit to Jean Charles Boisset of Raymond Vineyards legendary hospitality along with his spectacular designer outfit, complete with red silk socks. That may very well have contributed to its runaway success


These factors were constants, the variables are perhaps the unnerving part of the happy mystery that unfolded. The bidders just couldn’t get enough of the charitable giving that glorious balmy Napa afternoon.


Brian Banducci, Napa County’s  under sheriff, who has been keeping a watchful eye on the grounds and maintaining safety & security of the event’s valued guests for several years running & I happen to discuss that very subject prior to the start of auction. We mused & pondered the fate of NVA 2013 relative to prior years with a degree of insider knowledge. Was that conclusive?  Probably not, but it was a spirited discussion.


With that in mind, I’ll let my colleagues sort out why this particular charity event smashed all previous records.  I merely aspire to take you into the world of euphoric glamour, overflowing with wine, wealth & goodwill. The world that soared a la Screaming Eagle to a whole new set of heights right before my very eyes.


Some Observations:


Nowhere else in the world will one find the following:


  1. The most prominent in domestic wines, such as the only Screaming Eagle Balthazar ever made, offered this generously—often in large format.
  2. Very few vintners sat at their assigned tables. Many “meander with magnums.” If your glass is handy—voila! The next thing you know, the wine of your dreams is in it.
  3. The biggest American & many international winemaking celebrities gathered under one roof.
  4. An unparalleled level of hospitality, from vintner-hosted dinners that exceeded the standards of the most glamorous Hollywood affairs. They arrived complete with eye-popping flower arrangements & world-renowned Chefs flown from across the country just to please your palate for the evening. The wines served were the sort of which merit multi-year waiting lists & 3-bottle per annum allocations should you be lucky enough to call yourself a patron.
  5. Sense of family and intimate feel despite the event’s relatively significant size.


The grounds were awash with prominent vintners, winemakers, consultants, and viticulturalists. Where else will you find Bill Harlan walking the tent with Garen Staglin? Or Carlo Mondavi in a volunteer’s apron sharing a laugh with Michael Rolland, the consultant of the most prominent wineries on planet Earth? Or perhaps you’d care for a chat with Marquis Piero Antinori, one of the most important wine personalities of our time (whose family has been making wine for six centuries)? He not only donated a high-profile lot but was on hand to fill you in on his wine wisdom.


There are many more observations, those are just a few that wrote themselves first. If you are not only a lifestyle connoisseur, but a value-minded one such as myself, consider this: for a price of a nice vacation, you’ll have your senses lifted to the highest possible level. I’m talking staggering heights. Just ask the Winkles, brand new attendees from Illinois, who simply couldn’t wipe the huge smiles off their faces for three days running. “This is just incredible,” Tina Winkle gushed, “it’s the most amazing feeling I have ever had. Being here is nothing short of magical!”


Ilona Thompson

Ilona Thompson is Editor-in-Chief at PalateXposure, a destination site for oenophiles, gourmands and luxury travelers. She also recently launched #Wine, a site dedicated to wines and spirits reviews, and #Photography, a site devoted to high-quality wine, food, and travel related photography.

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