Founded by a small contingent of winery owners in California’s Napa Valley in 1981, Auction Napa Valley is now considered the world’s premier charity wine event—and not just because of its iconic scenery and promise of rare wines and experiences for auction. The annual community fundraiser has generated more than $185 million in support of Napa County nonprofit organizations since its inception. With an emphasis on education and community health, Auction Napa Valley has distributed this money to nonprofit partners such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of the North Bay, On the Move, Planned Parenthood, and Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center.
Held from May 30-June 2, 2019, the 39th Annual Auction Napa Valley included several private parties hosted by various winemakers, a live auction at the exclusive Meadowood Napa Valley resort, and the world’s largest single-case barrel auction, which featured more than 100 barrels. Those who could not attend the auctions in person were able to register as an E-bidder and bid from almost anywhere in the world.
Friday’s Barrel Auction
“Auction isn’t complete unless you do the vintner-hosted dinners, daytime outings, barrel auction, and live auction—the weekend builds naturally,” noted 2019 Auction Napa Valley co-chair David Duncan. “Oprah did them all when she came.”
To that end, the 2019 event began with an outdoor dinner at Spottswoode in St. Helena on Thursday, followed by a poolside dinner at Cliff Lede Vineyards in Yountville on Friday. The top bidders from prior auctions, meanwhile, met for dinner at Press Restaurant. This year’s barrel auction, which featured 112 wines, was hosted at the recently renovated Louis M. Martini Winery.
Wines up for auction included Sauvignon Blancs, Cabernet Sauvignons, and red blends from wineries like Oakville Ranch Vineyards, Acumen, and Nickel & Nickel.
The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville Ranch Vineyards, for example, is comprised of fruits from three distinct blocks of a mountain vineyard. Each fruit was aged separately before being blended together to create a richly concentrated and unfiltered Cabernet.
The top 10 bidders of each barrel received a case of that wine. VGS Chateau Potelle drew the most money at the barrel auction, while HUNNICUTT and The Mascot ranked second and third, respectively. HALL Wines, meanwhile, raised the most money via the E-auction.
Saturday’s Live Auction
Roughly 900 people attended Saturday’s live auction, which featured 31 items on which to bid. These included rare Napa Valley wines and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The first lot included wine from Continuum Estate and trips to Tuscany, Florence, and Rome courtesy of the winery. The winning bid was $530,000.
One lot featuring a tour of the Normandy-based residence formerly owned by Christian Dior and lunch at the family home of Louis Vuitton went for $330,000. Other experiences up for auction included international travel to France and Switzerland, a private baseball game for 20 with former San Francisco Giants players, and four club seats at a Golden State Warriors home game during the 2019-20 season.
In all, this year’s event raised nearly $12 million for its partner nonprofits.
Headlined by Katy Perry
The live bidding process was kicked off by pop star Katy Perry, who professed her preference of Opus One during her five-song set that included renditions of her popular songs “Firework,” “Roar,” and “Last Friday Night.” She was handed a glass of Opus One from the winery’s CEO between songs. Perry’s fiancé Orlando Bloom was also in attendance, as was celebrity chef Ayesha Curry, who, along with chefs from the Michael Mina restaurant group, prepared dinner at dusk. Others of note in attendance included Michael Mondavi, former Napa Valley Vintners board of directors’ chair, and Bill Harlan, the winemaker referred to as “the most influential figure in the Napa Valley” by Town & Country wine critic Jay McInerney. The after-party took place at The Charter Oak restaurant in St. Helena.
Tribute to Late Founder John Shafer
Saturday’s auction also included a tribute to Auction Napa Valley founder John Shafer, who passed away in March at 94. A World War II veteran and Cornell University graduate, Shafer was a publishing executive in Chicago until 1972, when he decided to move to Napa Valley with his family. He purchased a derelict 30-acre vineyard, which, by 1981, was producing a Cabernet Sauvignon that received accolades from both consumers and critics.
He became more involved in philanthropy after stepping down as president of Shafer Vineyards in 1994. In addition to his work through Auction Napa Valley, he served as a board member of Clinic Ole, a medical facility, and helped lead efforts to develop the Napa Valley Vintners Community Health Center, which houses four nonprofit organizations that serve low-income residents.