Inside Auction Napa Valley 2016

Napa Valley AuctionPhoto Credit: Briana Marie

There was revelry in the air this year at this year’s Auction Napa Valley, a Latin-themed affair that raised more than $14.3 million for community health and children’s education nonprofits following a red-hot weekend of generous bidding at the Napa Valley Vinters’ annual celebration.

Leading up to the actual auction–there were welcome parties were vintners invited guests into their wineries, vineyards and cellars for casual dinners before Friday’s Barrel Auction. Here, over 2000 oenophiles, including Courteney Cox and Johnny McDaid, sipped more than 100 current releases while nibbling on edible delights from some of Napa’s finest. New this year during the Barrel Auction was a Silent Big Board Auction, with lots such as rare wines, Napa Valley experiences and other bespoke adventures up for offer. Guests sampled and bid on limited-offering Napa Valley wines from vaunted 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages.

Martin Pittaluga of La Huella, Gilles de Cham- bure, Christopher Kostow and Francis Mallmann
Martin Pittaluga of La Huella, Gilles de Cham- bure, Christopher Kostow and Francis Mallmann

Photo Credit: Briana Marie

Friday evening, the crème de la crème of Napa headed to exclusive vintner-hosted dinners. Among the most exclusive was a Uruguayan affair at the new St. Helena winery of Argentine billionaire Alejandro Bulgheroni, offered a small crew the opportunity to be the first dinner guests at his beautiful new barrel room.

On auction day, prior to the big affair, guests made their way to different vineyards for morning activities, such as yoga at Hall Wines. Elsewhere, guests could choose from bocce, brunch, plain air art classes, or picturesque picnics.

After getting gussied up in their Saturday finest, Napa’s elite as well as a few celebrities, such as Kate Upton, Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob and Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt, headed to the gorgeous Meadowood resort in Lexus luxury sedans and stretch limos to bid on some truly amazing lots.

Private Dinner Napa ValleyPhoto Credit: Briana Marie

The 2016 honorary Auction Napa Valley chair Agustin F. Huneeus, who led the auction exactly 20 years after his father, Agustin Huneeus had done so, guided an exciting, confetti-filled event that included once-in-a-lifetime lots like a dinner for 50 guests at The French Laundry paired with Robert Mondavi wines in honor of its 50th anniversary; a jewel-encrusted Warriors NBA championship ring designed by Jason of Beverly Hills; signed jerseys from each of the team’s five starting players; an estate dinner in Napa; and a VIP curtsied experience at a Warriors home game courtesy of Amuse Bouche Winery and Tusk Estates; an intimate dinner at Opus One prepared by three-star Michelin chef Yannick Alleno of Alleno Paris and Justin Cogley, grand chef of l’Aubergine at L’Auberge in Carmel; a two-week journey to several World heritage sites on the world’s largest privately owned yacht, courtesy of Alpha Omega Winery; a private dinner for eight guests co-hosted by Courteney Cox (and attended by eight of her friends…Jennifer Aniston, anyone?) and Silver Oak Winery as well as Twomey Cellars’ CEO David R. Duncan and Dr. Kary Duncan; a selection of Scarecrow wines and the opportunity to take home not only a customized Chopard piece, but to also attend the luxury brand’s Oscar weekend party and a behind-the-scenes VIP weekend at Inglenook. The top lot of the day was donated by the Staglin Family Vineyard, which offered a deep immersion tour of the wineries of South Africa; the lot initially sold for $700,000 but expanded from two couples to three for a grand total of $1.05 million.

After a sweet tribute was made to Mondavi doyenne Magrit Mondavi, Huneeus then carried on a tradition started by Louis Martini in 1981 when he passed the golden paddle to next year’s auction chair, in this case to Eleanor Coppola, representing Inglenook winery.

The nearly 900 guests at auction then filled the grounds at Meadowood for an epic evening celebration. The highlight was a dinner prepared under the stars by great South American chef Francis Mallmann; an expert in open-pit gaucho-style grilling, he turned the Meadowood grounds into a massive fire pit. (Mallmann’s restaurants include Garzon, 1884, Patagonia Sur and Los Fuegos at the Faena Hotel Miami.) Racks of rib eye and whole chickens hung over flames and embers like Calder mobiles, while root vegetables cooked underground in fire pits lined with hot rocks and grapevine leaves. The evening ended with spicy salsa dancing, live music and, of course, wine.