For the first time in its 31-year history, rain fell on the main event of Napa Valley’s renowned charity wine auction held on the lawn of Meadowood Napa Valley in St. Helena on June 4. The fundraiser has been hosted annually by the Napa Valley Vintners since 1981 under Robert and Margrit Mondavi and has since grown to a four-day celebration of wine, food and fundraising.
The most heartfelt lot of the day was the one with no tangible prize – the Fund a Need Lot 24 -which helps provide for children’s health and wellness programs in Napa.
Despite the weather, all of the planned 800 attendees joined the festivities and bidders rallied together, pouring $7.3 million into auction revenue that will provide for the region’s charities. The member vintners offered up forty lots at the Live Auction on Saturday for bidding, following the ultimate Napa Valley picnic prepared by local chef Cindy Pawlcyn with inspiration from her three eateries – Go Fish, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen and Mustards Grill. The Live Auction opened with a bang as professional dancers took to the stage, enticing bidders to raise their paddles for a collection of wine from dozens of Napa Valley producers, packaged with other prizes like professional ballroom dance lessons and a trip to the next season’s finale of Dancing with the Stars in Hollywood – which sold for $70,000 to a bidder from Menlo Park, California.
But the most heartfelt lot of the day was the one with no tangible prize – the Fund a Need Lot 24 -which helps provide for children’s health and wellness programs in Napa. Carrying balloons and cupcakes for a high stakes bake sale were 25 children, all of whom benefitted from the funding. Taking the stage with the youngsters were the 2011 Auction Napa Valley honorary chairs, led by Koerner Rombauer. A total of 132 bidders brought in a sum of $1.1 million, which included five $100,000 bids.
In addition to the auction, a family-style dinner inspired by Napa Valley Chef Michael Chiarello’s Italian heritage made for a memorable culinary experience, then dancing under the tent as fireworks flashed across the sky.
The highlight of this year’s auction was knowing, even before the auction began, that this would be the year the Napa Valley Vintners would exceed the milestone in giving $100 million to the community for healthcare, youth service and affordable housing non-profit programs in Napa County.