For wealthy guests from around the world, the sold-out Auction Napa Valley is four days of lavish parties and access to some of the best food, wine and hospitality.
For the wine industry members who organize the annual event and the 500 or so volunteers who make it all come together, it’s the culmination of a yearlong investment of time, effort and talent.
And for the rest of us? It’s St. Helena’s time to shine as host to so many of the valley-wide events. Even those of us who can’t afford tickets have a good idea of the schedule: private winery dinners on Thursday, June 4, the Barrel auction on Friday at St. Helena’s Hall Wines, the big live auction at Meadowood on Saturday, winery open houses on Sunday, and an e-auction that started last Sunday and continues through Saturday.
But even if none of these festivities are on your radar, if you live here, you benefit from the results. In fact, it would be hard to overstate the beneficial impact Auction Napa Valley has had on the fabric of our community.
The generosity of both vintner hosts and high-bidding guests — this year and over the auction’s 35-year history — along with the Napa Valley Vintners’ stewardship of auction proceeds, have strengthened our communities in powerful ways. ANV helps fund a wide array of programs and organizations that make the Napa Valley an even better place to live.
Many ANV beneficiaries are right here in St. Helena. Jenny Ocón, executive director of the UpValley Family Centers, said her nonprofit received $300,000 in ANV grants last year, accounting for more than 25 percent of its funding.
Ocón visited our editorial board along with Patsy McGaughy from the Napa Valley Vintners, which organizes ANV, and David Pearson, Robert Fowles and Christopher Barefoot of Opus One, the honorary vintner chair of this year’s ANV.
Ocón said that thanks to ANV grants, the consolidated St. Helena and Calistoga family centers are able to provide “a safety net for families who need it.”
Last year the centers were able to serve more than 3,500 people through health and wellness programs, cultural activities, early childhood education, and English as a Second Language classes. The money also enabled the nonprofit to collaborate with more than 40 other agencies that serve families.
It’s one thing to marvel at the stunning auction lots. Opus One, for example, is offering a two-week tour in a private jet of Europe’s greatest family-owned wineries, along with a vertical collection of magnums from 1979 to 2013, dinner at Opus One, and two nights at Auberge du Soleil.
It’s also easy to admire the 18-plus months of energy and logistical know-how that go into organizing ANV each year. Pearson’s trips, for example, to Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Vietnam and Dubai have helped lure well-heeled bidders from around the world.
But for those of us who won’t experience ANV firsthand, all that glamour and hard work only matters as a means to an end: in ANV’s case, crucial funding for dozens of nonprofits that serve children and families, and special grants like the $10 million awarded last year for earthquake relief.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Helena and Calistoga, Napa Emergency Women’s Services, Legal Aid of Napa Valley, the Rianda House Senior Activity Center, NapaLearns and the Napa Valley Vine Trail are among ANV’s beneficiaries.
And rather than throw money at a problem, ANV takes a fiscally responsible approach to grant distribution, with a rigorous application process and detailed audits accounting for how each dollar was spent. The Napa Valley Vintners’ policies of strategic social investment of auction funds have done more than help those in need. They have provided a vision and a structure that has harnessed and nurtured a remarkable culture of philanthropy in the Napa Valley, 365 days a year.
So while you might get caught in event traffic this weekend, let’s not mistake ANV for a tourist-oriented nuisance. It’s a vital piece of our social fabric, woven by our friends and neighbors, that makes our community stronger.
(Two members of the editorial board are employed by beneficiaries of Auction Napa Valley: Shannon Kuleto of the Napa Valley Vine Trail and Norma Ferriz of the UpValley Family Centers.)