Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Auction Napa Valley Showcases Napa's International Wine Culture

Experiences showcasing exquisite wines, rather than lots of wines alone, took center stage at the 2015 Auction Napa Valley, the country's biggest wine charity auction, with prestigious, luxury brands offering bidders access and experiences money alone (outside the charity event) can't buy.

It's a heady, tantalizing list of amazing adventures blending wine, culture and travel.

Overall the auction raised just under $16 million, just slightly behind 2014's record.

Here's a brief recap of what top vintners (with organic vines) offered and what was raised for Napa Valley charities.

By chance, these four wineries highlight Napa's international connections, and include owners from France and South Korea as well as Vienna, with a trip to Austria in the company of the former U.S. Ambassador to Austria.


This 38 acre Biodynamic estate nestled under the Palisades in the Vaca mountain range at the eastern edge of Calistoga is home to one of Napa's most coveted benchland spots - the Eisele Vineyard. Renowned for its grapes since the 1970's when Ridge Vineyard made a legendary 1971 wine from its grapes, the vineyard converted to Biodynamic farming during the 13 year period from 1990 to 2013 when it was owned by Bart and Daphne Araujo.

Now the estate is owned by the French business magnate, Francois Pinault, who also owns the luxury brands Christie's, Gucci, Yves St. Laurent and more. He is also the owner of Chateau Latour in Bordeaux and other elite wineries in Burgundy and the Rhone. The estate technical director Helene Mingot continues the Biodynamic farming practices; Jeff Dawson continues in a consulting role.

The LotRaised $550,000

Araujo Estate contributed an two night stay at the estate, a vineyard tour for 6, an al fresco lunch at the estate, and a blending session with the winemaker who will make a personal blend for the winner bidder.

The bidder then takes home 6 magnums and one case each of the current release as well as the personal blend.

Capping off the day is dinner at the Pinault residence (furnished with modern art from Pinault's internationally famous collection) with Frederic Engerer, CEO of Pinault's wine brands (including Chateau Latour). The menu features organically grown garden produce from the estate and Eisele wines spanning five decades.


With consulting winemaker Philip Melka, Korean business magnate Hi Sang Lee has created an elite, superstar winery (at an estimated cost of $25 million) making wine from three distinct Napa sites. The winery rose to international attention and fame first for its 100 point scores from Robert Parker for 2007 and 2010 Lotus Vineyard vintages.

The Lots: NA

Three couples will enjoy a two night stay at DANA Estates in Rutherford, with dinner prepared by the famous "Iron Chef"  Masaharu Morimoto and wines from the estate proprietors' libraries.


The new kids in town, from Texas, have been making quite a splash in Napa over the last few years and this year had the honor of hosting the barrel tasting event. Long time Democratic Party supporters, the Hall's brought their personal panache to their lot, trading on Kathryn Hall's term as Ambassador to Austria to create a unique offering.

With 200+ acres of organic vines in Napa (and another 78 in Sonoma's Alexander Valley) and a Leed certified winery, the Halls have Texas-sized green credentials as well as a world class art collection and lots of Texas (read: Cab-drinkin') friends.

The Lot: Raised $120,000+

The winners of this lot get two trips - one to Napa to enjoy the HALL estate and wines and another to Austria to be wined and dined by Riedel, makers of premium wine glassware, and a stay in Vienna, where Kathryn Hall will take them on a walking tour of the city.


Another storied site that's been planted to vines for more than 150 years, Staglin Family Vineyard has been one of Napa's top Cabernet producers since 1988. It has a long history of wine philanthropy and has raised more than $160 million for health research through annual concerts and more.

Located in Rutherford below Mount St. John, the highest point of the Mayacamas Mountains, it's also home to one of the town's oldest homes - the Steckter House, originally built in 1864.

The Lots: $375,000

Ten bidders received an estate tour and tasting, a two night stay in the Steckter House, and nine liters of custom bottle wine, a special cuvee from the estate's oldest vines.

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