Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bidders without Borders: Vote for your favorite photo!

Where are you placing your e-bid for Auction Napa Valley? We want to know!

Whether you're in Napa or live thousands of miles away, you can part of the global Auction Napa Valley community during the E-Auction by posting a photo of where you are when you bid and telling us the lot you're after on Twitter using #AuctionNV.

(If you don’t have a Twitter account, email your photo and a 130 character description to

During the E-Auction, we will invite the public to vote for their favorite photos. Winners of photo contests will receive Auction Napa Valley gift baskets.

Join us in voting during our first photo contest - choose your favorite photo/description in the poll above. Votes will be collected until Tuesday, June 1st.

Happy tweeting & bidding!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

‘Budding’ Florists at St. Helena High School Make Auction Napa Valley Centerpieces

This year there are some new florists in town working on Auction Napa Valley – the students in the Floral Class at St. Helena High School. Mary Ross of Five Star Productions, the Auction Napa Valley design team, enlisted the help of teacher Sarah Herdell and her high school class in making the centerpieces for this year’s Live Auction at Meadowood.

While the Auction is still a week away, the students are hard at work getting a head start on the more than fifty centerpieces. The project began with the painting of wooden utensils that will offer a little extra pizzazz (and you’ll know why when you see the photos!) to the arrangements. When we caught up with them, the students were getting a lesson in potting succulents – the perfect solution for creating arrangements that will look as good in a week as they do today!

As icing on the cake, the Friday before the Live Auction the students will have the opportunity to visit Meadowood and see their final arrangements in place in the Live Auction tent.

Thank you to Sarah Herdell, her students and Mary Ross for their contributions towards Auction Napa Valley – your arrangements will lend a special, personal touch to each and every table!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

From $140,000 to $90 Million: Auction Napa Valley's 29 years of giving

Auction Napa Valley
by John Shafer

It was the spring of 1981 at the monthly luncheon meeting of the Napa Valley Vintners membership held at the Lodi Farm Center and catered by Sally Schmitt, the founder/chef of the original French Laundry. As a new vintner it was an exciting time for me – lunching with such vintners as Louis Martini, Bob and Peter Mondavi, Hans Kornell, Al Bronstein, Jack Davies, and many other legendary figures in the Valley.

There was essentially only one item of business – planning for the vintners’ first Napa Valley Wine Auction. With the Hospice du Beaune auction in France as an example, it was decided that the Valley’s two hospitals, Queen of the Valley and St. Helena Hospital, would be the beneficiaries and thus the health needs of the county would be the priority.

With no prior experience, the vintners and many community volunteers agonized over the plans for the debut event – how many people would attend? How much would they bid on the donated bottles? How much money could we raise for the hospitals?

Meadowood Napa Valley’s golf course was (and is) the auction site and with a large local volunteer group, the first Napa Valley Wine Auction (today called Auction Napa Valley) took place. The total proceeds that first year, $140,000, was encouraging, and an annual event was born.

Now, almost 30 years later, everyone knows the answers to the questions that plagued the minds of the organizers that first year. So far, $90-million has been given – all earmarked for Napa County non-profit agencies involved with health, youth development and affordable housing. (With the financial success of the auction it was decided in 1999 to enlarge the scope of the giving to include agencies aimed at youth development and housing needs.)

Today there are approximately 45 non-profit organizations selected each year by a Grants Review Committee made up of vintner members of the Association.

The impact of Auction Napa Valley has made a major difference, not only in Napa County but throughout the United States. We have reason to believe that the idea of a wine auction as a fund-raising device in this country started with our first event in 1981. Today, the concept of an auction involving wines is widespread, with museums, symphonies, private schools, and many charities choosing it as a major way of raising money.

Looking back on these 29 years I have a real sense of pride – shared by all our vintners – in the generous contributions of the wineries. Their wine donations, elaborate dinners, expensive travels, and other hospitality activities, along with the wonderful community volunteers, have made our annual effort very fulfilling.

With proceeds varying in recent years, the Auction Board of Directors made an unprecedented promise to the community in 2007. Called the 5 x 5 Community Promise, the Auction committed to donate $5-million each year for five years to the nonprofits, regardless of whether the money was actually raised that year or not, making up the difference from the Auction Health Care Fund (a fund set up from the beginning as a “rainy day,” or reserve pot), as needed,

There are so many great examples of what this money has been able to do. I’ll leave you with just two that I found very moving.

-- Several years ago a little known problem faced by foster children came to the attention of the Auction – the issue of their emancipation. Napa, like many other cities, had its share of children who at age 18 were released to the community with little preparation for living on their own. A program called VOICES (Voice Our Independent Choices for Emancipation Support) was founded in collaboration with other Napa funders to help these young people set up their own facility and program in which they help each other.

-- Another agency supported by Auction funds is NEWS (Napa Emergency Women’s Services), aimed at helping women and children leaving an abusive relationship. For example, not long ago “Sandra” stayed at the NEWS shelter for three months while she worked at finding her way out of an abusive relationship. A court advocate helped her obtain a protective order and children custody papers. With the County’s Homeless Prevention program, “Sandra” received a rental subsidy so she and her children could move into a home of their own.

It has been thrilling to participate in the success of the Auction for nearly 30 years – both in its success as a leading philanthropic event and in its success implementing so many great programs that have enormously improved the wellbeing of this community. I look forward to another great event this year and raise a toast to everyone who works so diligently to make Napa Valley a better place to live.

Click here to view John’s video blog.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Forever Tango at VIADER...

A little taste of an Argentine classic: "Volver" by Carlos Gardel.

As Auction Napa Valley approaches - NEXT WEEK! - the many Napa wineries and families involved will be opening their doors to host small groups for parties, dinners, and fun. These hospitality parties are scheduled on the days leading up to the main events on Friday and Saturday, and are offered to guests with tickets to the full weekend's festivities. (Get your ticket!)

Our winery decided to go back to my mother Delia's roots in Buenos Aires, to create a look and feel of a colorful cafe in the tango neighborhood called "La Boca." A traditional Argentine dinner will prepared by my sister-in-law, the ever-fabulous Chef Mariela Viader (there's more to it than just grass-fed beef!). For ambiance, a pair of dancers will take cues from Mariela's immensely talented cousin Alfredo Caceres, who will be playing tango classics on the guitar. There may even be informal tango lessons!

Professional dancers

Remember, if you cannot seem to make it in person, you can participate online via the E-Auction. Select lots will be featured during four consecutive weeks. We already have two down, and two to go! VIADER's E-Lot #488 will go live with Week 4 on Sunday, May 30th at 6:00pm.

Hasta luego che!

Janet Viader, sales & marketing at VIADER

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Secrets to Building Top-Bid Napa Valley Auction Lots

The key to building a lot that will garner top bids in the live auction is in creating a winning combination of great wines and one-of-a-kind experiences that cannot be duplicated without special “access” to the people, places and things that are not generally available.

Collaborating is essential, and in the spirit of developing a unique event, we reach out to people for the access that makes it possible. Example: for the 2007 Auction Napa Valley, we connected with the CEO of Maseratti through a friend and requested that his company make two of his brand new coupes available for our use to drive all over Italy as one of the core components of the adventure we were building. His response was that it had never been done before. I asked him to think about it. Eventually he agreed, and it became the cornerstone of a lot that brought in $1.1 million!

Once the pieces of an exciting lot have been assembled, promoting it in advance is critical to building excitement that will carry into the tent on Auction day. We usually start this effort in January of the auction year because bidders need time to think about a complex lot, and many form consortiums with friends to share the experience and expense.

This year, our partners are Departures Magazine and CORE: club New York. Our lot is titled: “Connoisseur Collection – One-of-Kind Experiences in Napa Valley, New York City, Los Cabos, Mexico and the World.” (Click here to see a video description.) Departures has promoted the lot to its Platinum Card® and Centurion® members from American Express, and we’ve co-hosted two events at the CORE: club to help us connect with past top-bidders and people who would potentially be interested in it. So far, the feedback has been excellent, and we’re hopeful our lot will be a star on auction day.

Once the gavel comes down and the lot sells, the work begins to make the adventure happen. Schedules are always tight, and bidders are extremely gracious in understanding that it can take up to a year to align all of the people and places. And making the personal commitment to participate with the bidders in their adventure as their guide who takes the sponsor responsibility seriously is important. It brings a comfort level. The bidders know they can relax and enjoy the experience without concern.

So, as I write this, Shari and I are on a plane to Europe with the winning bidders of our 2009 lot, and we have an amazing adventure ahead. I look forward to sharing stories at the 2010 Auction Napa Valley in a few weeks, as we assemble again to offer great wines and experiences to raise money for great causes.

Cheers! Garen Staglin

Round Pond - Bud Break Vintage 2010

Check out this video of Round Pond Estate's Vineyard Manager Chris Pedemonte explaining bud break and vineyard cover crops. Keep tuned to our blog, UNFILTERED, over the summer as wineries chronicle the changes happening in the vineyard in preparation for harvest 2010!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bidding at Midnight: A Blog Post from Stacey Bressler, Co-Chair of the Auction Napa Valley E-Auction Committee

Nothing warms the heart of a wine-loving Night Owl more than knowing that I can bid on incredible lots of Napa Valley wine “in the comfort of my own home” at any hour of the day – or night. That’s part of the reason why I agreed to co-chair this year’s Auction Napa Valley E-Auction. But I never expected the range and depth of the amazing wine offerings to bid on! More than 140 vintners have come up with a staggering array of wine and experiences that will be sold over a four-week period from May 9 to June 4.

Week One: Cellar Treasures in Bottles and Mags

The first weeklong auction opens on Sunday, May 9, featuring incredible wines in 750ml and 1.5L formats. Highlights include a 20-year vertical spanning from 1988 through to 2007 from Frog’s Leap and a rare collection of 24 bottles of famed Heitz Bella Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon honoring Napa Valley wine pioneers Barney and Belle Rhodes. For the art lover, acclaimed watercolor artist Eric Christensen’s lovely “Napa Valley Memories II” is recreated as a gorgeous giclée on the cover of a cherry box housing Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel. If you haven’t blown the entire budget on week one, hold on – there are more super lots coming in weeks two, three, and four.

Week Two: Jeroboams, Rehoboams, Methuselahs, and Nebuchadnezzars -- OH MY!

Running from Sunday, May 16 until Sunday, May 23, week two is themed around big bottles. I love the idea of trying the same wine in various formats (from 375 ml to 6L) as well as seeking a couple of the “big boys” for special occasions like milestone birthdays and anniversaries. There’s nothing like a 3L to get your guests’ attention at a dinner party. And we have 29 wineries who have contributed wine in bottles that are 3L or larger.

Week Three: Unforgettable Days of Wine & Adventure

From May 23 through May 30, you can bid on lots that include both wine and amazing daytime events. More than 20 Napa Valley winemakers are ready to sit with you to share a meal or lead a blending session—all one-of-a-kind for a perfect Napa Valley getaway.

Week Four: Nights to Remember: Wine, Food and Friends

Or perhaps you’d like to spend a night (or two) in a private winery guesthouse—this week is for you! Globetrotters will appreciate a stay at the luxurious Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona compliments of Blackbird Vineyards. Or maybe you fancy a walk down the red carpet at the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards, courtesy of Beaulieu Vineyard, Sterling Vineyards, Provenance Vineyards, and Hewitt Vineyard? It’s all here and thanks to our unbelievably generous vintners, you can place a bid at any hour of the day or night from May 30 until June 3 and then until 3pm on June 4 as bidders from around the globe vie for winning bids against bidders on-site at Taste Napa Valley’s Friday Festival Auction Weekend.

I’m sure my usual online purveyors (e.g. Rue LaLa, Ideeli, Gilt) will miss me, but from May 9 through June 4, my nocturnal shopping sprees are going to be centered on Auction Napa Valley. I hope you’ll join me.

Click here to view a photos montage of the e-lots, and here to register to bid.

Cheers, and happy bidding!

Stacey Bressler
Co-chair, E-Auction
Auction Napa Valley 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cheers to our Auction Napa Valley Volunteers!

What would Auction Napa Valley be without its volunteers? Simple answer: it would not exist.

Since the first Auction in 1981, volunteers from the Napa Valley community have been the glue and grease and grit that have made it happen. Covering jobs that span the gamut from greeter to garbage hauler, from barrel auction bid taker to bottle porter, and from ticket checker to table-top designer, they donate their time and energy in a massive collaborative effort that results in great fun for auction guests and generous support for dozens of local non-profit programs.

Auction 30 will be no exception, as more than 600 dedicated people take to the palazzo at Rubicon Estate the first week of June to produce Friday’s Taste Napa Valley festival, and to the rolling greens at Meadowood Napa Valley to stage Saturday’s Live Auction. Many of the volunteer faces will be familiar, and many new friendships will be forged.

New this year will be a green concierge team, charged with ensuring recyclables are disposed of appropriately in an effort to minimize the events’ impact on the environment. Their work, and that of their collaborating cohorts, will be achieved with smiles, more than a little sweat, and mutual support – all for little personal return except the pride of helping in a grand effort, and the chance to attend the legendary Volunteer Thank You Party hosted by the Napa Valley Vintners and Auction beneficiaries in October. What payback could be sweeter?

Click here to see a quick video about the community impact of volunteering from Mike Thompson, US House of Representatives, and long-time Napa Auction volunteer. And if you’re interested in joining the auction team, click here.

Thank you Auction Volunteers past and future! Your community is better because of your generosity!