The Best of The Valley: Napa’s Dedication to Charitable Causes

Auction Napa Valley Returns To Celebrate Wine, Food and Charity

What distinguishes Auction Napa Valley from other similar festivals and events is its dedication to charitable causes.

This June, celebrities and average oenophiles alike will make their annual pilgrimage to the Mecca of American wine country, Napa Valley, to participate in the most celebrated wine and food festival in the country, Auction Napa Valley. Long renowned as the epicenter of wine making in America, Napa Valley is also home to more Michelin rated restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the world, which includes culinary superstars like French Laundry’s Thomas Keller, Bottega’s Michael Chiarello, Mustard Grill’s Cindy Pawlcyn, and Meadowood Napa Valley’s Christopher Kostow. Between the unparalleled culinary talent and artisanal vintners that have made Napa Valley their home, it is only fitting that the two should be paired together for a festival celebrating the finest of each.

But, what distinguishes Auction Napa Valley from other similar festivals and events is its dedication to charitable causes. Since its inaugural launch in 1981, Auction Napa Valley has raised and donated more than $100 million to charities that support healthcare, youth development, and affordable housing programs.  And come this June, guests will be invited to enjoy themselves to the fullest knowing the proceeds will benefit those in need. As 2011, Honorary Chair Koerner Rombauer of Rombauer Vineyards stated, “Auction Napa Valley continues to be the world’s most successful charity wine auction,” and, “This is where the best of the best gather and we will knock it out the park come June.” Rombauer’s words of approval can sure be bet on, after all, he comes from a family with food and wine in their blood, as Irma Rombauer is the author of the Bible of cookbooks, The Joy of Cooking.

Auction Napa Valley will officially commence on Thursday, June 2, in which attendees will choose from a series of intimate dinners hosted by winemakers in their private homes, and will feature meals prepared by a famous regional or national chef. On top of that, guests will have the rare opportunity to sample personal vintages from deep within the winemaker’s own cellar.

Following the relaxed and intimate kick-off to the weekend, Friday will host the Marketplace and Barrel Auction at the 19th century stone castle currently home to The Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. The venerable culinary academy will celebrate all things gastro and vino by hosting some of the areas top chefs and over 100 local winemakers to offer samples of their wares to all guests in attendance. But, if your palette was unsatiated by the offerings outside in the garden, be sure to head inside to the cellar where even more winemakers will offer tastes straight from their barrels that will later be at auction for bidding. All in all, what more can be asked of an afternoon than the sway and swoon of tasting some of the finest culinary and vintner delights of Napa Valley?

After the Barrel Auction has completed, Friday night once again will wind down with a series of intimate fetes hosted by local winemakers. Whether at their personal homes or wineries, each soiree will give guests the chance to make personal connections with their hosts, sharing tastes and wine preferences, in a way that cannot be duplicated in any other setting.

With the arrival of Saturday comes the pièce de résistance of the entire festival. The Live Auction, which begins annually on the lawn at Meadowood Napa Valley, treats guests to a one-of-a-kind luncheon prepared by master chef Cindy Pawlcyn. This picnic of picnics is quintessentially Napa Valley, taking advantage of the Relais and Chateau style of the estate as the perfect backdrop for a comfortable yet luxurious afternoon. After lunch, guests will have the opportunity to bid on more than 40 incredible lots at the Live Auction, including some of the rarest and most sought after wines in the world, as well as exclusive vintner excursions.

If you are unable to attend the Live Auction in person, don’t fret because Auction Napa Valley has created a global E-Auction supplement to the in person Live Auction. Beginning May 2, all Live, Barrel, and E-Auction lots may be previewed at to prepare for the real thing come June. During the festival, those who can’t attend the actual auction can place electronic bids for the same lots that others are vying for.

After the Live Auction, while guests either savor their recently acquired lots, or rue a missed chance, Chef Michael Chiarello, star of America’s Food Network and executive chef at Bottega, will prepare a world-class al fresco dinner in what never fails to be a memorable night of excellent food and wine, dancing, and lively conversation. Following the spirited night, guests can return to Meadowood on Sunday for a sparkling brunch before the weekend and festival come to an official close. No matter whether or not you come away with a rare vintage from auction, or if you simply came to enjoy the unique atmosphere and tastings, each guest will leave Auction Napa Valley knowing they have participated in a worthwhile and admirable cause to help those less fortunate. After all, that is true spirit of the festival.

Taking place on the weekend of June2-5, Auction Napa Valley takes place at locations throughout Napa Valley. Tickets for the festivities include: Full Four-Day Passports for $2,500 per person and include access to all event; Three-Day Packages for $1,000 per person and include a Thursday welcome dinner, Friday’s Barrel Auction and Marketplace, and Sunday Farewell Brunch. Ala carte tickets for Friday’s Barrel Auction and Marketplace sold it in a record seven minutes this year, so if interested, be sure to get a hold of tickets before they are all gone.