ST. HELENA — The live auction that is part of the four-day Auction Napa Valley broke records Saturday afternoon at the Meadowood Napa Valley resort. Its 46 lots raised more than $14.3 million.  

Auctioneers Fritz Hatton, Ursula Hermacinski and Humphrey Butler raised the level in the tent at Meadowood for the estimated 900 attendees by calling the lots at a fast and furious pace. Many of the lots started low at $10,000 and quickly went through the roof. The top lots of the day were a comprehensive vertical tasting of Harlan Estate cabernet sauvignon from 1990 through 2009, which sold for $800,000, and the Dana Estates lot, called “Discover the Soul of South Korea,” which sold to two bidders for more than half a million each.

During the frenetic bidding for “Discover” — which started at $50,000 and quickly went to $360,000, then up to $500,000 — Hatton said that, at that level, the lot had been doubled, and the two trips were sold for $510,000 each. That was the auction’s only lot that surpassed $1 million.

The lot included a seven-day trip for two couples to South Korea, a trip for the same two couples to Jeju Island and dinner for the two couples in the Napa Valley. As with all the lots, it included bottles of Napa Valley wine.

As usual, the Fund-A-Need portion of the evening raised a ton of dough, and it, too, broke records, raising $3.7 million. The donated funds didn’t buy a fabulous trip or experience; instead donors spent money to help Napa County nonprofits implement a program to help detect the need for mental health services in students.

At the beginning of the lot, Auction Napa Valley Chairman Garen Staglin said, “I need your attention. This is about our kids.” Then he turned the microphone over to District Attorney Gary Lieberstein, who spoke about his late son’s struggles with mental illness before a hushed audience.

Hatton started the bidding at $100,000 and got a couple of takers. He received more when he requested a $50,000 donation, including one from Napa Valley residents Ginger and Bob Nemerever. More donations came in at the $10,000, $5,000 and $1,000 levels.

Last year, the Fund-A-Need auction lot raised $1.2 million.

Successful bidder Bill Moore from Laguna Beach spent about $740,000 on two lots late in the auction, one of which was the Staglin Family Vineyard lot, called “The Glory — and Golf — of Scotland.” It included a golfing vacation in Scotland, a stay at the Staglins’ Steckter House and two nights in London.

Moore spent $400,000 for the lot. That lot, sold by Butler, started at $50,000 and soared to $300,000 nearly as quickly as he could rattle them off. When it stalled at $380,000, Butler said he’d take $400,000. “No pressure whatsover,” he said, but then Moore stepped up and bought the lot.

Moore also bought the lot from Daphne and Bart Araujo and their Calistoga winery. That lot included a five-day trip to Montana via private jet and an imperial, which is 6 liters of their cabernet sauvignon from the Eisele Vineyard from the 2010 vintage.

Another large format bottle, a Balthazar (12-liter bottle) of 2010 cabernet sauvignon from Screaming Eagle got quite a bit of action during the auction. Hatton gave his famous “Screaming Eagle” yell and quickly the bidding went to $300,000, where it stalled before he worked hard to pull out another $200,000 from an anonymous bidder. In 2000, a 6-liter bottle of the ultimate cult cabernet sauvignon also sold for $500,000.

The names of many  bidders were not available from the Napa Valley Vintners personnel, as the bidders themselves requested anonymity and the NVV requested that the media refrain from taking photos of the bidders or interacting with them during the live auction.

Bidder Bob Van Dyk, who paid $170,000 for two lots, was a repeat winner. He spent $140,000 last year for the Silver Oak lot, where he and Elizabeth Alcott will get married in about three weeks. “I could buy this stuff at a fraction of the cost. It’s about giving back,” he said.

Van Dyk bought the lots from Vineyard 29, which offered a variety of outdoor experiences and, of course, Napa Valley wine, and the Signorello Estate lot, titled “Southern Charm.” It included a round trip for two to Nashville and a number of experiences there.

Jose Nazar from Chile was sitting next to Margrit Biever Mondavi, who represented the Robert Mondavi Winery and its lot celebrating the late founder and the 100th anniversary of his birth. The lot included 100 bottles of wine.

Nazar, who has attended the auction since 1985 and spent $260,000 for the Mondavi lot, said he was intrigued with it because it represented a touch of Europe. He added, “I don’t remember ever leaving here without buying something.”

(5) comments

napablogger wow fantastic wow....$16 million...incredible

I hope Napans (and Napkins as the case may be :)) appreciate how incredible and how unique this is for our community

on the volunteer issue, I am in no way connected with the vintners, other than that I know some of them, but think about the logistics of dealing with this event with a small staff and over 500 volunteers and thousands of people coming in here...the truth is that they do an incredible job


The Napa Valley Vintners is grateful for the service of our 500+ volunteers at this year’s Auction Napa Valley. We could not organize an undertaking of this magnitude without the help of so many. We are sorry to hear about anyone having a negative experience associated with an event that ultimately does so much good for the local community and we welcome your direct feedback. Please contact Patsy at the NVV at 707.963.3388 or so we can personally address your concerns. Thank you.


Thank you for your response NVV. I will contact Patsy to find out why there was no response to my volunteer inquiries and I will also tell others of your response so they can inquire as well. I hope all will be straightened out for next year's auction.


I'm happy for the success of this event as I previously attended this event several years ago and I love that the proceeds go to charity. But I have to comment that I have heard from many locals how "snobby" this event has become. I personally experienced this as I wanted to volunteer this year and sent 3 different e-mails to the organizers over the past 6 months. I did not receive even one response to my three e-mails offering to help. Not even the courtesy of a "no thank you." After speaking with several friends who had the same experience, I thought I would make this comment to the organizers. It is not wise to treat locals with such disrespect as no matter what you need our help with these events. I now have a sour taste in my mouth about possibly helping in the future and that is a great disappointment for me as a local professional and also a member of the wine industry.


The should use ping-pong paddles, the back side hand drawn Napa Valley artwork...a donating winery for example...year/date of the auction front side a number front side which they may bid for the lowest or hold it last year's highest bidder gets #1.. could raise another couple mil every gets to take something of value home..then make next years a little more and grwo....not to mention clean up the pic....or square up the pic if you're a Marine.

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