The Napa Valley Vintners Are Throwing An Auction To Remember

Charles Krug barrel room is packed with 2018 Auction Napa Valley bidders

Photo Credit: Alexander Rubin for Napa Valley Vintners

Seventy-six years ago, 56-year old vintner, Louis M. Martini was chatting with three of his friends and fellow winemakers. Martini had immigrated to San Francisco with his father when he was 12 and had spent much of his life growing grapes. His family owned vineyards in both St. Helena and Sonoma, and despite being one of the first wineries to open after Prohibition, Martini was struggling. There was a shortage of labor and bottles and shipping wine east was not easy. Martini and comrades, John Daniel Jr., Charles Forni, and Louis Stralla, discussed starting an association in which they would come together and find solutions to these problems while helping promote the region as a whole. One year later, in 1944, the foursome, along with three other winemakers, Fernande de Latour, Felix Selmina, and Robert Mondavi, formed Napa Valley Vintners (NVV).

Vintners excited for the 2018 barrel auction

Photo Credit: Alexander Rubin for Napa Valley Vintners

Today, with 550 members, NVV is the most prominent and essential organization in the local winemaking community. NVV’s mission is simple: to promote, protect, and enhance the place they call home—not just the wineries, but the community including the schools, medical facilities, and everything in between. They do this through several programs, but the most well known is Auction Napa Valley (ANV). This year’s event takes place Wednesday, May 29 through Monday, June 3. It commemorates NVV’s 75th anniversary and promises to be a celebration unlike any other.

Danica Patrick and Michael Franti at last year’s live auction celebration

Photo Credit: Alexander Rubin for Napa Valley Vintners

ANV features week-long parties and tastings but officially kicks off on Wednesday, May 29 at noon with the opening of the e-auction. Anyone from around the globe can bid on 150 lots of Napa Valley wine and experiences. On Friday, May 31 is the barrel auction. Over 100 lots of wine futures will be available. Guests at the auction can taste from the barrel and bid on their favorite reds. The main event, a bacchanal extravaganza at Meadowood Napa Valley, is on Saturday, June 1. Pop star Katy Perry will kickstart the live auction with a performance of her greatest hits. Then the creme de la creme of wine lovers will bid on 30 unique lots that involve wine, vacations, and luxury experiences. Afterward, guests will enjoy a meal cooked by culinary personality Ayesha Curry.

Louis M. Martini’s new wine cellar

Photo Credit: Louis M. Martini

The party that locals look forward to the most is the barrel auction, which in a full circle moment is being hosted at Louis M. Martini winery. Earlier this year, Martini debuted a remodeled facility and tasting room, so many people will be experiencing the new winery for the first time. Howard Backen of Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects oversaw the restoration which preserves structural elements from the original 1933 building. “My primary role is to share a barrel of wine with some folks and hope they get excited about it,” Martini’s director of winemaking, Michael Eddy, recently told Haute Living. “I’m not involved a lot in the organization or logistics, but we’re pretty stoked to be hosting it. The opportunity to have a new house and host a bunch of peers that we respect and enjoy being in a community of winemaking with is pretty thrilling for us. To be able to have a place that you’re proud of and also provide a new forum for other people to show their wines is pretty cool.”

Hugh Davies

Photo Credit: Schramsberg Vineyards

As chair of the barrel auction, Hugh Davies, the winemaker at Schramsberg Vineyards, is one of the people helping to plan Friday’s event. “I think the title may sound bigger than it is,” Davies told Haute Living. “There’s a team effort that makes this happen.” Since its the 75th anniversary of NVV, the entire event will highlight the best of the region.

Auction Napa Valley’s 2018 barrel auction

Photo Credit: Alexander Rubin for Napa Valley Vintners

“For the Friday festival, we wanted to showcase restaurateurs from around Napa Valley,” Davies says. “There are many, and it’s natural for the winemakers to partner with the restaurateurs, so that was the concept. Twenty-five different restaurants will have stations at Martini, each one preparing something different, and we’ve got a pretty delicious menu laid out.”

The crown bar at Martini

Photo Credit: Louis M. Martini

Both vintners look forward to the event because it is a way to spend time with their peers. “I like being part of the fabric of the community. It may sound a little corny, but it’s that sense of camaraderie and being part of the team, that I feel proud of,” Davies explains. “We’re lucky we live in a great place, and we’re all working hard to keep that good community spirit going well into the future.”

Baldacci Family Vineyards and William Cole Vineyards vintner hosted dinner

Photo Credit: Alexander Rubin for Napa Valley Vintners

Having grown up in Napa, Davies has experienced the auction from a young age and understands how important it is to the people of Napa. In the 39 years since NVV began hosting Auction Napa Valley, over $187 million has been raised to support local causes. “It is by far the most significant fundraising effort that we have to help support youth education and healthcare in the Napa Valley,” Davies says. “Over the years, I’ve learned that we can work together as a community to do positive things for other people.”

The wine flows freely at Auction Napa Valley

Photo Credit: Alexander Rubin for Napa Valley Vintners

As Davies and the other vintners look toward the future of the valley, there is also tremendous respect for the past. “As I learned the history of Martini, I realized how meaningful it was to be connected to a story,” Eddy says. “That history lends a different motivation or attitude, and we want to be linked to our history, but we also are looking forward.” Davies looks at it like this: “How could you possibly organize something that would be this beneficial? It starts as a smaller thing, and if people work together on it, and if they work together on it for years, and years, and years, it will snowball and become very impactful. You realize that it’s not just one fell swoop. There’s not this one moment. It’s all of us together, pushing it, that makes it work. Put a group of people together, behind an effort, and with time, very positive things can happen.”

Be a part of Napa Valley’s history by attending this year’s auction. Tickets are available at auctionnapavalley.org

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