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Auction Napa Valley 2014 Chairs

From left, Jeff and Valerie Gargiulo, and Kary and David Duncan are chairing this year's wine auction.

Bob McClenahan photo

This week, as Auction Napa Valley unfolds, two families, instead of the usual one, have joined forces to host it: the Duncans, owners of Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars, and Gargiulos of Gargiulo Vineyards.

“People think that the wine business is really competitive,” David Duncan said, “but in fact, we all help each other. That’s why it seemed like a good way to show it by having two families host the auction — to promote the unity of the valley and the friendships and partnerships.”

Hosting this week’s Auction Napa Valley is not the first collaborative effort between the families Anyone who has caught a performance by the Silverado Pickups has seen David Duncan performing vocals while Jeff Gargiulo, patriarch of that family, plays guitar in the wine country cowboy band group.

The Silverado Pickups won’t be performing at this year’s main event on Saturday, although they have lent their down-home music style to the theme, “Sweet Home Napa Valley,” adapted from the 1974 Lynyrd Skynyrd hit, “Sweet Home Alabama.”

“We didn’t want to make it about us, but about the whole wine community — we’re trying to bring it back home,” Duncan said.

And, Gargiulo added, they’re ready to offer guests a good time. “It’s going to be fabulous,” he said.

After the success of last year’s auction, hosted by the Staglin family, which raised more than $16 million for nonprofits in the valley, Duncan said, “They did such a fabulous job, we said, ‘Why do things different?’”

While spectacular travel lots have become the vogue over the past few years, Duncan said, Napa Valley wines remain a part of each offering.

“It’s a question of keeping a balance,” Duncan said. “For example, our lot includes a trip to our family ranch in Colorado.”

Duncan grew up in Duncan, Colorado., the son of Ray Duncan, an oil executive who founded Silver Oak Cellars in 1972 with Justin Meyers, a vintner, enologist and former monk, named one of the legends of the Napa Valley” by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Duncan studied English at the University of Notre Dame and earned an MBA at the University of Denver. While working for his father’s Duncan Oil firm, made visits to the Napa Valley to learn the wine business. After Meyers sold his interests in Silver Oak to the Duncans in 2000, Duncan headed to Napa to run the family wine business.

Today, he is the president and CEO of Silver Oak and managing partner of Twomey Cellars. His wife, Dr. Kary Duncan, is a dematologist with a practice in St. Helena. His brother, Tim Duncan, is executive vice-president of the company.

“We have helped with the auction quite a lot,” Duncan said. “We always knew we wanted to host it one year.”

Jeff Gargiulo discovered the Napa Valley 30 years ago when he and his family came to visit his wife Valerie’s cousins, Barney and Belle Rhodes. The Rhodes, like Meyers, were instrumental in the growth of the Napa Valley wine industry in the 1960s and ‘70s, and they provided invaluable help for the Gargiulos, who decided to find their own place in the valley.

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After purchasing their first vineyard in Oakville in 1992, the Gagiulos maintained close ties to their home state of Florida, where he had worked for the Naples Fruit and Vegetable Company, and then Sunkist.

They were founding members of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, and according to the festival web site, Gargiulo, as CEO of Gargiulo Inc, as “one of the largest producers of fresh fruits and vegetables in the U.S.”

After selling Gargiulo, Inc. was sold to Monsanto, Inc. in 1997, he serves as chairman and CEO of Gargiulo Landco, interests of which include agricultural land leasing and real estate development.

Like Silver Oak, Gargiulo is known for its cabernet sauvignon, which will be the star attraction at Saturday’s live auction.

“After the success of this year’s Premiere (the Napa Valley Vintner’s trade auction held in February), we’re pretty excited,” Duncan said.

Saturday’s auction, Gargiulo added, “is basically sold out, and (we’ve planned) the best hospitality only Napa Valley can provide.”


Features Editor

Sasha Paulsen has been features editor at the Napa Valley Register since 1999. A graduate of Napa High School, she studied English at UC Berkeley and St. Mary's College and earned a Masters in Journalism from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.