Auction Napa Valley: A Preview

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This guest post comes to us from Mira Advani Honeycutt, author of California’s Central Coast, The Ultimate Winery Guide: From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles. She frequently contributes wine and travel pieces to the Good Food Blog.

Shannon Staglin pouring Satglin wines at the 2012 pre-auction tasting at the Meadowood Resort.
Shannon Staglin pouring Satglin wines at the 2012 pre-auction tasting at the Meadowood Resort.

Auction Napa Valley rates high up in my wine event calendar. I advise wine aficionado friends that this is one event that should be on their bucket list! The auction is a four-day, non-stop food and wine extravaganza, where Napa vintners and top chefs lay out unparalleled hospitality.

So it was a pleasure to receive an invitation from Garen and Shari Staglin, founders of Staglin Family Vineyard and this year’s auction chair, to meet at Lucques restaurant for lunch. They were in Los Angeles to give an inside scoop on America’s premier wine auction scheduled May 30-June 2, 2013.

“This is a teaser,” said Garen, handing out the pre-auction preview booklet. “These booklets bring live lots to people early, so they know what to expect and don’t get sticker shock.”

The vintner was referring to high-end lots that offer exotic trips and lifestyle packages besides pricey Napa wines. This year the Staglin Chairman’s lot brings the glory and golf of Scotland, starting at Staglin Vineyard in Napa, then on to London’s Dorchester Hotel followed by private jet travel to Scotland for a five-night stay in Skibo Castle and golfing in the region’s various private clubs.

This year the live auction lots also include fashion: Colgin Cellars, Opus One and the Napa Valley Vintners Association’s packages offer trips to Paris that include fine dining as well as haute couture shows such as Chanel and Stefan Rolland.

There are more exotic (and expensive) trips: Dalla Valle Vineyards’ “Privileged and Private Art Tour of Japan,” Mithra and Viader Winery’s, “Argentinian Adventure” and Raymond Vineyards’ lot offering a trip to the celebrity-drenched Cannes Film Festival.

Shari and Garen Staglin in front of their 2012 live auction lot.
Shari and Garen Staglin in front of their 2012 live auction lot.

This is the first time, notes Garen, that members of the Napa Valley Vintners Association have hit the road, travelling from Hong Kong and Shanghai to New York and Naples (Florida) to get the word out on this year’s auction.

In its 33-year history, the auction has raised more than $100 million. Proceeds go to local healthcare and affordable housing for farmers in Napa and to youth organizations.

The Staglins have a long history of fundraising. Since 1985 when they founded their winery, they have raised and donated nearly $725 million to mental health charities. In fact, all proceeds from, “Salus,” a wine named after the Roman Goddess of health and well-being, are donated toward fundraising for mental health and research.

On its historic 61-acre property (originally planted in 1860) in Rutherford appellation, the family produces a mere 4,000 cases annually — 2,500 cases under the Staglin label and another 1,500 cases under Salus. Besides superb Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, they also make a small production of Sangiovese.

At the Lucques luncheon we tasted the 2006 and 2008 Staglin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, both wines echoing the complex and mature Rutherford notes that show firm tannins. The 2010 Chardonnay (no malolactic fermentation in this wine) was lush with tropical notes and just a trace of oak.

Proceeds from the annual Auction Napa Valley benefit local charities including youth organizations.
Proceeds from the annual Auction Napa Valley benefit local charities, including youth organizations.

Back to the auction: It kicks off with Thursday and Friday intimate vintner-hosted dinners. The barrel auction takes place on Friday afternoon at Raymond Vineyards where local chefs lay out the best of Napa’s bounty.

The Saturday live auction is staged under a white tent on the fairway of Meadowood Resort with a pre-auction brunch whipped up by some of Bravo’s Top Chefs. The auction ends with a gourmet style picnic.

More events follow on Sunday, as several wineries host open house events with entertainment, food and wine.

All I can say is this: Once in a lifetime, treat yourself to this Napa experience!