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Auction Napa Valley 2012

SATURDAY - JUNE 02, 2012 - ST. HELENA, CA - Bidders hold up their paddles at the beginning of the 32nd annual Auction Napa Valley at Meadowood Napa Valley on Saturday afternoon. J.L. Sousa/Register

J.L. Sousa

An intimate concert by country superstars Lady Antebellum and a guided deluxe tour of the African veld were just two of the offerings that sparked a flurry of bids at Auction Napa Valley 2012, pushing this year’s total revenues beyond the $8 million mark.

Saturday’s main event took place in a giant white tent on the fairway at Meadowood Resort where, for more than three hours, some 800 bidders, vintners and media chatted, cheered and chose to bid on more than 40 auction lots whose proceeds benefit health and youth programs from American Canyon to Calistoga.

The Napa Valley Vintners–sponsored four-day charity auction — the oldest in the nation — is continuing on an upward fiscal track, even though Wall Street and jobs performance numbers were down last week, auction observers indicated.

While there was a bit of nail-biting as the auction got off to a slow start Saturday afternoon, by the time it hit its midpoint, vintners and volunteers were all smiles as bidders were holding paddles high and bidding often.

Auctioneers Ursula Hermacinski and Fritz Hatton — who’ve coaxed bids from even the most penurious of regular attendees — were in their glory, securing high bids on more than half the lots stretching well beyond the $100,000 benchmark.

Saturday afternoon’s live auction raised more than $6 million, with the previous day’s barrel auction racking up in excess of $1.5 million. The extended online e-auction took in slightly more than $358,000, NVV officials said Sunday night.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” declared Cyril Chappellet as some 800 guests formed a second line behind a New Orleans band leading them outside to chef Emeril Lagasse’s three-course dinner and dance.

Chappellet said his family — which chaired this year’s auction — was “deeply touched by the generosity of people who came from all over to help us (with the auction’s bottom line). We had friends who came from Florida and San Diego, and the safari guide, Michael Lorentz, came here to help us promote the lot. We’re so pleased that everything went so well and that everyone was having a great time while also helping raise funds for our beneficiaries.”

The bidding reached a fevered pitch as a number of young women vied for a private fall concert in the valley with country supergroup Lady Antebellum. When the gavel finally came down, auctioneer Ursula Hermacinski told vintner Barbara Banke (widow and partner of the late Jess Jackson) she and 27 guests would be attending a private concert by Lady Antebellum scheduled at Napa Valley Reserve in October.

Banke said she went after the lot because the trio is Kendall-Jackson president Rick Tigner’s favorite band. In addition, Banke — or perhaps Tigner — will get to take a friend to London in July for a concert by the seven-time Grammy Award-winning trio at Hammersmith Apollo theater. The London visit includes accommodations and a tour of Abbey Road Studios. Dinner for all 28 Napa concert attendees was included in the lot.

Also hotly contested was the deluxe guided safari to South Africa and Zambia arranged by Cyril Chappellet and his wife, Blakesley, and Cyril’s sister, Lygia. Michael and Carole Marks, owners of Gemstone Vineyard, and friend Paul Jacobs, CEO of San Diego’s Qualcomm, were bidding against each other for the safari lot. When Jacobs was gaveled winner, Chappellet agreed to add a second couple to the trek if the Marks came in at the same bid. They agreed and the lot was doubled.

Fund-A-Need, the auction’s annual effort to address the health and well-being of Napa Valley’s children, took in more than $1.2 million, with 82 paddle holders pledging cash amounts ranging from $1,000 to $120,000.

Other top lots included Antica Napa Valley and Dalla Valle Vineyards, who teamed up to offer wine explorations of both Napa Valley and Tuscany, which brought in $300,000; and Bordeaux Premiere Classe, a two-night stay in Paris and four days in Bordeaux arranged by Darioush and Shahpar Khaledi that includes tours with the leading lights of the Bordeaux wine industry, which saw a top bid of $280,000.

Vintner Mary Miner was handed the keys to a fully restored 1960 Jaguar XK 150-S roadster, the lot from Bure Family Wines, Morlet Family Vineyards and Vineyard 7 & 8. She paid $220,000 for the classy addition to her garage.

Two lots focusing on the open seas each brought in $170,000. Tulane MBA student Hayner Rude III was encouraged by his parents, David and Roberta Rude, of Houston, to get in the swim of things at America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay later this year, while a six-night yacht adventure up and down the Pacific Coast offered by Harbison Estate Wines also notched a Top 10 bid.

With a few of the auction regulars noticeably absent this year, the bidding process seemed to welcome more relatively new participants, who, on occasion, also turned out to be top bidders on choice lots.

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Chris Edwards, vice president and general manager of Napa’s, a subsidiary of 1-800-FLOWERS, was top bidder on a pair of live auction lots for the first time this year. Edwards paid $80,000 for the Rombauer lot and another $40,000 for the joint lot from PlumpJack and Cade wineries.

“Blending a barrel of wine will be a great experience for some of our top customers, spending a couple of days in the vineyard and cellar at Rombauer Vineyards with the winemaker, blending our own barrel of wine,” Edwards said following the auction. “The Rombauer family has been so influential (in Napa Valley winemaking), so I felt it would be good to expose our customers to them and their efforts.” In addition to the barrel of bidder-blended Rombauer red, the lot included a

180-bottle collection of Rombauer cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and a pair of dessert wines.

The Cade/PlumpJack lot featured wine and ski experiences on Howell Mountain and Vail Mountain in Colorado, plus four 6-liter bottles of cabernet sauvignon from each winery.

“We appreciate the great wines and the properties from which they come,” Edwards added, “in that they speak to the best of the Napa Valley. In addition, (wineries partner and the state’s current lieutenant governor) Gavin Newsom has been supportive of my partner, Scott, and I for many years.”

Napa’s Stan Teaderman, himself a local vintner, bought one of the top lots of the afternoon. He paid $160,000 for the Lokoya lot, which will give him and a guest VIP access to the Monaco Grand Prix with noted driver Stefan Johansson, plus a helicopter tour of Lokoya’s hilltop vineyards followed by four days at the Four Seasons in Maui.

Auctioneers were eager to put on the block anything they thought would attract a flurry of bids. Young violinist Charles Yang serenaded the crowd at one point, at the invitation of auction co-chair Molly Chappellet. Auctioneer Hatton got a high bid of $55,000 for a private concert by Yang. Then he got guest Emeril Lagasse to doff his chef’s jacket, which he turned into a $9,000 bid to be added to auction coffers.

Last year, Auction Napa Valley surpassed the $100 million milestone in funds raised for local health care, housing and youth needs over the lifetime of the event. The total amount raised at last year’s auction was $7.3 million.

Chairs of Auction Napa Valley 2013 will be Shari and Garen Staglin and family.


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