Aside from some technical tweaks and the usual variations in auction lots, there’s not much new to report about this year’s Auction Napa Valley – and that’s exactly as it should be.
There’s nothing even remotely broken about the Napa Valley Vintners’ annual fundraiser, so there’s no sense in fiddling with a system that’s produced $150 million in funding for local nonprofits over 36 years.
This year’s event is set for June 2-5 and is chaired by Agustin F. Huneeus of Quintessa and son of its founders Agustin and Valeria Huneeus.
It’s focused again on community health and children’s education. Again, programs that receive funding will be subject to a strict vetting and accountability process. Again, local vintners and an army of volunteers will expend tremendous amounts of resources, time and energy to put on an event worthy of its world-class reputation.
And, as usual, what a grand occasion it will be: vintner welcome parties on Thursday night, the barrel auction on Friday at Robert Mondavi Winery, vintner-hosted dinners on Friday night, the live auction on Saturday at Meadowood, and a farewell brunch at Inglenook on Sunday.
There are 100 barrel auction lots, 14 silent lots that will be auctioned off on the Big Board, nearly 200 e-auction lots (bidding is open to all from May 29 to June 5 at AuctionNapaValley.org), and of course 36 amazing live auction lots.
Amuse Bouche Winery and Tusk Estates are offering a Golden State Warriors 2015 NBA championship ring, VIP courtside seats, signed jerseys, dinner and bottles of wine signed by the players. Shari and Garen Staglin are taking two couples on a South African safari. Lokoya is offering a jet-set culinary odyssey to Michelin-starred restaurants in New York, Chicago, Santa Monica, the Napa Valley and Lyon, France. Robert Mondavi Winery is donating dinner for 50 at the French Laundry.
The post-live auction dinner is in the hands of South American chef Francis Mallmann, who will set up live fire pits on the Meadowood golf course. After dinner, the auction tent will be transformed into a Latin nightclub for a night of dancing and partying.
But for all the glamour and extravagance, Auction Napa Valley is ultimately about the local community. In 2014, ANV grants funded 100,000 nonprofit visits. Many were undoubtedly repeat clients, but the total number of people who were helped is still in the tens of thousands.
Calistoga kids need a Boys & Girls Club? Napa Valley Vintners ponies up $2 million. An earthquake forces hundreds of Napans out of their homes? NVV kicks in $10 million. A responsible nonprofit like Rianda House needs some help? The Napa Valley Vintners and ANV are there.
That’s not to say NVV just throws money around. Grant applications are painstakingly vetted, and every cent must be accounted for. When the Vintners decided a few years ago that its affordable housing grants weren’t bringing about the best results, it refocused its efforts on programs that got a better bang for the buck.
So next time you see a volunteer or a participating vintner, tip your cap. When you see the inevitable traffic jams on wine auction weekend, be thankful that just one busy weekend reaps such outsize benefits all year long. While the events are concentrated Upvalley, the benefits are seen countywide.
And be thankful that those planning Auction Napa Valley aren’t making any radical changes in 2016. After 36 years, the formula is still working.