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Star editorial: The real magic of Auction Napa Valley

Star editorial: The real magic of Auction Napa Valley

  • Updated

Those who attend this weekend’s Auction Napa Valley (ANV) will experience something every bit as luxurious and exciting as they could hope for, and a handful of lucky bidders will go home anticipating the experience of a lifetime — VIP trip to Dubai, anyone?

But for the rest of us, the Napa Valley Vintners’ (NVV) gala fundraiser promises even richer, more lasting rewards: healthy families, well-educated kids, and a network of nonprofits with the funding and expertise to help us in our times of greatest need.

Alycia and Angelina Mondavi, two of the four sisters serving as honorary co-chairs of this year’s auction, and Patsy McGaughy, communications director for the NVV, gave us a preview of the event, which runs Thursday, May 31 through Saturday, June 2.

The Mondavis, the youngest people to ever chair the event, display all the youthful energy you’d expect. They come across as smart, hard-working, down-to-earth young women who’ve organized an event that blends a contemporary sense of style and fun with a deep respect for their own family heritage.

Saturday’s post-auction dinner, prepared by Chef Nancy Oakes of Boulevard restaurant in San Francisco, features dishes inspired by the Mondavis’ great-grandmother Rosa’s own recipes, hand-written in Italian.

That mix of contemporary and traditional is reflected in this year’s auction lots too. At one end of the spectrum, there’s a chauffeured trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, by invitation of the royal family of the United Arab Emirates, with VIP tickets to the 2018 Beach Polo Cup and exclusive tours of the royal stables, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and the new Louvre museum.

That lot is balanced by more down-to-earth ones like a guided tour of Napa Valley’s Ag Preserve, which will give the lucky bidder a deep sense of historical context to go along with the 300 magnums of Napa Valley wine they will receive.

But for most of our readers, ANV isn’t ultimately about luxury, wine or even local history. It’s about the $180 million that’s been donated to local charities since 1981 – including $68 million in the last five years.

It’s about the $2 million donation for the Boys & Girls Clubhouse in Calistoga, another $2 million for an American Canyon clubhouse, $6 million for the Ole Health campus in south Napa, and $5 million for the Napa Valley Early Learning Initiative.

And then there are the smaller grants to 25 local nonprofits, each carefully monitored to ensure that funds are used efficiently and no needy population is left out.

Most important of all was the $10 million donated by ANV for disaster relief after the 2014 earthquake. After every need was met, the $2 million that was left over funded a massive disaster preparedness plan that resulted in an organized group of nonprofits that was trained and ready to work together in responding to the next disaster. They established the Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD), which offered a forum for nonprofits and government agencies to communicate and coordinate their work.

The COAD, coupled with the support of the Napa Valley Vintners and many other donors through the Napa Valley Community Foundation, played an invaluable role during and after last year’s wildfires, coordinating short- and long-term relief efforts and inter-agency communication.

None of that would have happened without the Napa Valley Vintners or Auction Napa Valley.

For those of us who live Upvalley, the event is even more special. Population trends in Napa and American Canyon, new hotels in Napa, and the Culinary Institute of America’s new programming at Copia are moving the economic locus of the Napa Valley south, but Friday’s barrel auction at Charles Krug Winery and Saturday’s live auction at Meadowood are continuing reminders that the true heart and soul of the valley, including the Ag Preserve, is in the north.

So as guests arrive from around the globe to bid on far-flung vacations and exclusive experiences, let’s keep in mind that the real magic of ANV happens right here at home.

(Peter McCrea, a member of our editorial board, also serves on the boards of the Napa Valley Vintners, which organizes Auction Napa Valley, and the Ole Health Foundation, which receives auction proceeds. Norma Ferriz, another member of our board, works for the UpValley Family Centers, which receives auction proceeds.)

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