Auction Napa Valley “is back”

The U.S. wine industry’s biggest charity event rebounds as sales soar over last year's.

The take-home buzz from last weekend’s Auction Napa Valley was that “It’s back.” After last year’s disappointing take—$5.7 million at the Recession’s height—sales brought in $8.51 million. That was short of the all-time record haul, $10.5 million in 2005, but nearly 50% more than sales were in 2009.

The highest bid, “Fund a Need”, was something unusual for a charity wine auction. It called for people to bid cash for no prize at all, except the knowledge that their money would go to children’s health and welfare programs in Napa County, including immunizations, literacy and mentoring programs, and protection from abuse. It raised over $1 million. That was closely followed by eight magnums of Colgin wines, together with wine dinners, divided among four bidders, each of whom pledged $250,000.

Other top lots included wines from Harlan Estate, Beringer, Shafer, Dalla Valle, Screaming Eagle and Spottswoode. The two auctioneers were longtime charity wine auctioneers Fritz Hatton and David Reynolds, who helmed the Napa event for the first time. The weather, unlike as in previous years, was mild, with threatened rainfall never materializing, although not far away, heavy rain was reported in Lake and Mendocino counties.

The auction was held, as it has been for 30 years, at Meadowood Resort, in Rutherford. The Saturday before featured the Taste Napa Valley and Barrel Auction, which was conducted for the first time in the caves of Rubicon Estate. Together, the two events raised the $8.51 million.

Terry Hall, Communications Director at the Napa Valley Vintners, described the joy when the crowd of several hundred auction-goers learned of the $8.5 million take. “When Beth Novak Milliken [of Spottswoode] announced it on the stage, people were thrilled. They stood up and applauded. It was a beautiful, warm day, the sun had come out, and it was like, ‘Okay, we’re back.’ I think everybody was prepared to spend money again to do good.”

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