Auction Napa Valley has doled out an astounding $185 million for health care and other services for the neediest among us, but its most important legacy has been the culture of generosity that has come to permeate the valley.
Now in its 39th year, next weekend’s auction celebrates the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Napa Valley Vintners, which deserves credit for creating that culture and sustaining it into the 21st century.
The extended weekend of May 30-June 2 will bring people from around the world to the Napa Valley – and specifically to St. Helena – to enjoy world-class wine, hospitality and entertainment, and to bid on extravagant auction lots.
Tickets are well out of the price range for the average local, whose best shot at experiencing the auction is as a volunteer. And we should be celebrating that exclusive price point – the more the auction raises, the more will be granted to local community health programs and children’s education.
Behind the celebrities (Katy Perry and Ayesha Curry this year) and the jet-setting auction lots are down-to-earth, no-nonsense facilities and programs for working Napa Valley residents. Ole Health’s new south Napa center, the soon-to-be-refurbished Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Queen of the Valley Medical Center, and Adventist Health St. Helena’s JobCare Center are a few of the most recent beneficiaries of auction funds.
This year’s auction is co-chaired by 28 former chairs of the Napa Valley Vintners board. It starts Wednesday with a kickoff party for vintners and ramps up Thursday and Friday with an array of small dinners for VIP ticketholders and major bidders of the past.
The crowds will reach their height of about 2,500 visitors duwring Friday’s barrel auction at Louis M. Martini Winery, where consumers will get their first taste of the much-talked-about 2017 vintage. That event also features the Fund-the-Future lot, where bidders can give kids across the valley new bikes for $250 apiece, to be delivered to kids at Cope Family Center and local Boys & Girls Clubs.
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Yet the real climax of the weekend is Saturday night’s even more exclusive live auction at Meadowood, where about 900 guests will bid on 30 live lots, egged on by auctioneers Fritz Hatton and Ursula Hermacinski and pop star Katy Perry.
One of the most enticing lots has to be courtesy of Ovid, whose general manager Jack Bittner filled us in on the details of the auction alongside the Napa Valley Vintners’ Korinne Munson.
Ovid is offering a private pick-up baseball game with retired San Francisco Giants “Legends” players at AT&T Park, followed by dinner prepared by Christopher Kostow at the Giants’ swanky Gotham Club. In addition, the lucky bidder will spend two nights at Meadowood judging the Robb Report’s Car of the Year competition and driving fancy cars around. And then there’s a private tour, tasting and lunch at Ovid. And, of course, plenty of wine.
All that glitz would be mere ostentation if it weren’t for the auction’s grants. It not only funds programs that serve the community but also rigorously monitors how the money is spent. Over the decades, that process has weeded out less efficient initiatives and helped the remaining nonprofits optimize their services.
That culture of mindful philanthropy has seeped into all corners of the Napa Valley, right down to the school fundraisers, nonprofit galas and commercial underwriting that sustain our community.
A lovely booklet that’s being handed out to Auction Napa Valley attendees recounts the history of the Napa Valley Vintners and the chairs of the early wine auctions: local legends with names like Mondavi, Martini, Daniel and Raymond.
Auction Napa Valley is a time for us to honor their legacy of great wine, smart giving and healthy communities – and to thank today’s vintners who carry it forward.