John Legend’s Surprise Performance Helps Auction Napa Valley Raise $15.8 Million

John Legend joins auctioneer Fritz Hatton auction off Lot Number 31 at Auction Napa Valley 2015. Photo by Jason Tinacci
John Legend joins auctioneer Fritz Hatton auction off Lot Number 31 at Auction Napa Valley 2015. Photo by Jason Tinacci

Photo Credit: Jason Tinacci

Auction Napa Valley goers are probably still on a confetti-high today after a memorable Live Auction Celebration on June 6 that featured a surprise performance by Grammy-award and Academy Award-winner John Legend and a record-breaking $2.4 million lot for Opus One’s Chair’s Lot. The four days of fabulous festivities, which included elegant vintner dinners, a lively Napa Valley Barrel Tasting and online bidding, ends today. This year’s edition of the Napa Valley Vintners annual fundraiser raised $15.8 million for community health and children’s education.

Haute Living was on the scene for all of it. On Saturday, 850 casually-festive dressed guests gathered under the big tent at the Live Auction Celebration, taking place for the 35th consecutive year at Meadowood Napa Valley. After the final blast of confetti had fallen to the floor, we caught up with 2015 honorary Auction Napa Valley chair and CEO of Opus One David Pearson, who covers our May/June Auction Napa Valley issue, to get his thoughts on the Live Auction Celebration. Although this year’s $15.8 million take is down from last year’s record-breaking $18.7 million, the numbers are still beyond impressive.

“Yesterday someone asked me how much money I thought we we would raise,” Pearson said. “My answer was, ‘I have no idea.’ What I knew yesterday was that we would raise millions of dollars for the people of the community of Napa and that’s what we did. And that’s astounding. Whatever [the final number] is, everyone should feel such satisfaction and pleasure at having raised all of the money for the people who really need it. I’m very proud of what we’ve done.”

Once the final numbers were in, Pearson said,  “While $15.8 million is a number that reflects the abundance of giving that we will extend to families in Napa Valley, I am reminded of a singular example of how far these funds go in creating a strong, cohesive community. Just a day after the South Napa Earthquake last August, an immediate cash infusion of just a few thousand dollars to the American Canyon Family Resource Center provided essential food and emergency supplies to a multitude of families in dire need. Imagine what we can continue to provide for our community with this year’s Auction Napa Valley’s proceeds.”

In the past year alone, the NVV has invested $23 million in the Napa Valley community. Since its inception in 1981, the NVV has given more than $145 million in Auction Napa Valley proceeds to Napa County nonprofits. Every year, Auction Napa Valley funding enriches the lives of more than 90,000 clients in Napa County.

John Legend performs at the Live Auction of Auction Napa Valley 2015. Photo by Jason Tinacci
John Legend performs at the Live Auction of Auction Napa Valley 2015. Photo by Jason Tinacci

Photo Credit: Jason Tinacci

One of the weekend’s highlights was Legend performing his hit “All of Me” immediately prior to the sale of Live Auction Lot #30, a collaboration between Legend and Raymond Vineyards, whose always entertaining proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset took the stage to help Legend and auctioneer Fritz Hatton get the crowd going. The lot, which sold for a total of $850,000, includes a private performance by Legend for 30 at Boisset’s Wappo Hill home as well as dinner by Raymond Chef, Michel Cornu and six three-liter limited-edition etched bottles of LVE: Legend Vineyard Exclusive wines, a new collection of wines created by Legend in collaboration with Raymond Winemaker Stephanie Putnam and Boisset, to be released in Fall, 2015.

“What an amazing experience it was to sing at Auction Napa Valley,” Legend said. “I’m also so honored and excited to be a part of the Napa Valley community. It was a pleasure to contribute my time and energy towards something so powerful that will help to create a more positive future for the local community.”

The $850,000 made it the highest individual lot that day. However, that was not the top lot of the day – the Chair’s Lot, donated by Honorary Auction Chairs, the Opus One Team, and including a 35-year vertical wine collection of Opus One magnums, a two-week tour and visits with some of the world’s most renowned winemaking families, tripled and sold to three different bidders, raising $2.4 million and becoming the charity wine event’s top grossing lot of all time.

Paddle 150 won the lot for a 12-liter bottle of Screaming Eagle.
Paddle 150 won the lot for a 12-liter bottle of Screaming Eagle.

Photo Credit: Bob McClenahan

A Balthazar (12-liter bottle) of Screaming Eagle 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon went for a mind-blowing $500,000, the same amount a bidder paid for a similar lot in 2013. Every year, the cult wine vineyard produces only one Balthazar. The rare vessel, along with the other lots, was on display at Friday’s Napa Valley Barrel Auction at HALL St. Helena winery. The bottle was held in a cage made of salvaged steel from the Mare Island Naval Shipyard and created by the oh-so-talented Richard Von Saal of VonSaal Design Build.

New this year at the Live Auction Celebration was comfy, lounge-like seating with couches and coffee tables and flash lots, which started at $100,000 and went down.

The Top Ten Live Auction Lots were:
Opus One Chair’s Lot
Napa Valley Vintners: Fund-A-Need
Raymond Vineyards
Alejandro Bulgheroni Estate
Vine Trail
Screaming Eagle
Chateau Montelena, Joseph Phelps Vineyards and Quintessa
Staglin Family Vineyard
Dana Estates
Colgin Cellars
Hestan Vineyards

As a prelude to the last lot of the day, Fund-A-Need, where bidders give differing amounts of money purely to benefit the needs of children in Napa County, the crowd quieted to watch five-year old Mia dance touchingly on stage with her father. Mia, who lives with her family in Napa County, was helped in part by Auction Napa Valley funding to receive treatment for spina bifida when she was just a toddler.

The glorious day began with guests, many whom arrived to Meadowood in Lexus vehicles, greeted with a refreshing glass of sparkling wine as they picked up their paddles and strolled to the main tent for a “Wine Country Market Lunch” orchestrated by celebrity chef Michael Chiarello.


Guest arriving at Meadowood Napa Valley for the Live Auction Celebration.
Guest arriving at Meadowood Napa Valley for the Live Auction Celebration.

Photo Credit: Bob McClenahan

Chiarello’s lunch was reminiscent of strolling through farmers’ markets in Italy, France and Napa Valley. Guests feasted on small plates of Hog Island oysters with mignonette, fried chicken with wildflower honey, quiche Florentine, cassoulet, polenta antica, insalata di tomate e’ burrata and other delicious dishes. Wine poured freely at multiple stations.

Lunch at Auction Napa Valley
Lunch at Auction Napa Valley

Photo Credit: Kelly E. Carter

From there, it was time for the big show. The Niner Noise, a drummer corps from the Bay Area, serenaded the women, many who wore hats fit for the Kentucky Derby, and men as they strolled toward the spacious, clear-span white tent for a rousing auction of 51 extraordinary lots of Napa Valley wines and special experiences.

The Niner Noise
The Niner Noise

Photo Credit: Kelly E. Carter

As the Live Auction ended and guests strolled to a twilight dinner by renowned international Chef Pierre Gagnaire, Auction Napa Valley’s online E-Auction, which had opened on May 31, came to a close, netting a new record of $612,500. Gagnaire’s meal included tomatoes stuffed with eggplant purée, black olive and red peppers perfumed with rosemary and onion, and cod steak poached in olive oil on a Maine lobster rillette. After the feast, guests kicked up their heels on the dance floor.

The Top Ten E-Auction Lots:
Scarecrow Wine
Grgich Hills Estate
Kapcsandy Family Winery
Beaulieu Vineyard, Sterling Vineyards, Provenance Vineyards, Hewitt Vineyard and Acacia
Sherwin Family Vineyards
Crocker & Starr Wines, Outpost Wines
Clif Family Winery
Gamble Family Vineyards, Gemstone, Saint Helena Winery, Revana Family Vineyard
Parry Cellars
Dalla Valle Vineyards


Photo Credit: Olivia Hsu Decker

At Friday’s Napa Valley Barrel Auction, some 2,000 guests sampled 120 coveted Napa Valley wines, nearly 90% from the much-anticipated 2013 vintage, directly from the barrel, while having a chance to spend time with the winemakers and vintners themselves. The Napa Valley Barrel Auction raised a record $1.9 million through the sale of these Napa Valley wine futures. Friday’s guests also strolled the art-filled grounds at HALL, while enjoying sips of 100 current release Napa Valley wines and tasty bites from more than 40 of Napa Valley’s celebrated chefs and food purveyors. Melka Wines was the big winner at the barrel auction with a barrel of his 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon going for more than $100,000.

The Top Ten Barrel Auction Lots:
Atelier Melka
Realm Cellars
Mayacamas Vineyards
Shafer Vineyards
The Mascot
Continuum Estate
Arkenstone Vineyards
Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery
Larkmead Vineyards

One of Friday’s most crowd-pleasing moments was the first subtle, then enthralling flash mob performance of “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s immortal Ninth Symphony, a gift from the owners of HALL St. Helena, Kathryn and Craig Hall, and produced by Festival del Sole. More than 80 instrumentalists and vocalists from throughout the Bay area were conducted by Mike Ling poised atop an uprighted wine barrel.

Philippe Melka celebrates having the highest priced barrel lot at Auction Napa Valley 2015
Philippe Melka celebrates having the highest priced barrel lot at Auction Napa Valley 2015

Photo Credit: Jason Tinacci

Mark your calendar for next year’s Auction Napa Valley, which takes place June 2-5, 2016. Tickets go on sale in late January 2016, and we’ll be sure to remind you when they do. Until then, enjoy more images for Auction Napa Valley 2015.

Photos by Bob McClenahan, Jason Tinacci, Olivia Hsu Decker and Kelly E. Carter