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Napa Valley Wine Auction Tops $8 Million

Posted on  | June 4, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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Thanks to its own vintners’ open wallets, Napa Valley’s annual wine auction proved that giving begins at home. But those seeking signs that the world is parched for top-dollar Cabernet weren’t finding many under the big tent Saturday.

The auction tally edged just past $8 million. While that topped last year’s $7.3 million total, it fell shy of 2010′s $8.5 million haul, a tally interpreted at the time as a sign that the wine industry had sloughed off the recession.

“In this economy, to do this … is fabulous,” said Cyril Chappellet, managing director of Chappellet Winery and chair of this year’s auction.

The event has become one of the country’s top philanthropic blitzes – raising more than $104 million over 32 years to fund a wide range of Napa Valley causes. With the economy generally on the mend, hopes this year were for a strong showing.

“The lots haven’t been going for as much as we’ve seen in the past,” said Beth Novak Milliken, president of Spottswoode Estate in St. Helena. “I don’t know why.”

Some vintners attributed modest bidding to a dip in the stock market, but an equally logical explanation might be the absence of past high rollers, including entrepreneurs from Shanghai and philanthropist Joy Craft, who once spent $500,000 for a camping trip at the Screaming Eagle winery. This year’s tent was packed with a sea of local faces, perhaps because more tickets were available to the vintners themselves.

Still, Chappellet said, “We have several new bidders that have never been to the auction before.”

Two first-timers were Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, the Warriors’ new owners, who donated VIP access to games, plus a ride on the team’s jet.

After years of posh trappings for the auction, the Chappellets, who settled in the valley in 1967, wanted to highlight its Napa roots – not withstanding dinner by New Orleans chef Emeril Lagasse, who charged into the auction tent with a Dixie band.

Matriarch Molly Chappellet created several vineyard-inspired art installations to decorate the grounds of the exclusive Meadowood resort. It included a 15-foot-tall tangle of what might be, after being auctioned for $40,000, the world’s most expensive pile of metal end posts.

“This is all about Napa Valley, and she celebrated that,” said Tim Mondavi of Continuum Estate.

Napa vintners snapped up lot after lot. Within 10 minutes, Mary Miner, owner of the Oakville Ranch winery, spent $85,000 on the Warriors package and $220,000 on a lot that included a golf and spa getaway and the keys to a 1960 Jaguar. Later, she chipped in another $150,000 for 30 bottles of Oakville-area wines – including her own.

The day’s single biggest bid came from a vintner – from Sonoma. Barbara Banke, widow of wine tycoon Jess Jackson, ponied up $460,000 for a private concert from country group Lady Antebellum.

Then there was the day’s top overall lot, which featured a 12-day African safari. To promote it, the Chappellets shipped in a bit of nonnative wildlife – a cheetah – to greet bidders, who offered $720,000 after the offer was doubled. One lot went to two locals – Gemstone Vineyard owner Michael Marks and ex-Symantec CEO John Thompson – and the other to Qualcomm Chairman and CEO Paul Jacobs of San Diego.

“We’re lucky people, and it’s good to be able to give back,” Jacobs said.

Source: SF Gate

Jon Bonné

Monday, June 4, 2012


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