free run juice

big bottles, bigger bids: auction napa valley

Amazing weekend in Napa! Was there for Auction Napa Valley, which raises money for health and education charities in Napa. Winemakers from Napa Valley Vintners donate tons of their wine – some from the barrel, some finished bottles – and lot of over the top experiences for people to bid on. The weekend unofficially starts with vintner dinners each night, but I’ll cover those tomorrow. On Friday, the festivities kicked off with a flash mob orchestra at Hall winery. The conductor jumped on top of a barrel and everyone burst into “Ode to Joy” – pretty fitting!

Then the auction officially begins with barrel sampling. You get to taste through some pretty insane wines, even though sampling very young Cabernet is pretty tough. Every twenty samples or so I had to go eat something otherwise my teeth got completely coated with tannins. Rough life.

IMG_0733IMG_0735The guy at the Rombauer barrel told me to look for palate weight, and then to try to see what the balance of the basic elements of wine (fruit, earth, oak etc) is. Still learning how to do this, and always amazed by winemakers’ talent to tell what a wine will become in the future.

IMG_0745While tasting, people start bidding to win a case from the barrel. The bidding starts at $200 each but some of the bids end up in the thousands for the cult wines like Staglin, Realm, and Melka (the Atelier Melka 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon wound up getting the highest bid of the day).


the first bids


the boards fill up with higher and higher bids all day

The next day, there’s a huge lunch with an absurd amount of wines that all clock in around $100-300 a bottle. Yes, a bottle. And you can have as much as you want. I liked the 2005 Bond Cab the best, it’s a mere $250 if you can even find it still available anywhere.

IMG_0861 IMG_0866IMG_0872The 49ers drumline then marched in to lead everyone to the auction tent. They were sick!


IMG_0895In the tents, you get a few more crazy bottles on your table, and everyone walks around pouring out their bottles and trying the ones on other people’s tables.


IMG_0906Big ballers get these tables in the middle of the room, and they have all the Dom and Opus One. We had a magnum of 2005 Rubicon, I wasn’t complaining. IMG_0897IMG_093150 lots of wine and crazy experiences like a trip to Dubai, being a Navy Seal for a day, or having a private performance by John Legend got auctioned off, and went for $100k to $850k each. After the gavel drops, they fete the winning bidder with this:

The auction wound up raising $15.8 million this year, and will go toward health and education needs. Napa isn’t exactly the most impoverished area in the world, but we heard stories of children with health and mental disabilities who were helped by the money raised every year. And this past fall, the foundation was immediately able to provide $10 million in relief for people who were affected by the earthquake. More about the organizations they give to is here.

Cheers to the passionate winemakers who donated their time and their wine!




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