Onstage under the big tent on the lawn at Meadowood Resort, Katy Perry opened the live bidding at Auction Napa Valley 2019 with a remarkably specific opinion: She’s fond of Opus One. In fact, when a glass of said Cab materialized during her five-song set, she felt the need to confirm its provenance. “I just want to make sure no Two-Buck Chuck sneaked in through the backdoor,” she quipped.
In spite of the fact that Perry kept the bidding crowd waiting for very close to an hour (oh, the price of signing a celebrity), her renditions of “Last Friday Night,” “Firework,” “Roar,” and more led into an auspicious start for Lot Number 1—a combination of Continuum Estate wine and an experience-rich trip to Rome and Tuscany for three couples with the Tim Mondavi branch of the Napa Valley family celebrating 100 years in the wine business (and their Italian heritage). As Carissa Mondavi, Tim’s daughter, who covers marketing, hospitality, and sales for Continuum, put it before the bidding started, “This is a big deal for us. We’re celebrating 100 years, since it was actually the start of Prohibition that launched my great-grandfather into selling grapes for home winemaking.”
And with the winning bid north of $500,000 for their lot, the pioneering Napa Valley family set the tone for generosity in this event that has raised more than $185 million in its 39-year history for local children’s health and education. The final tally came in short of the totals for the last two years, at just under $12 million. But the lots that joined Tim Mondavi’s Continuum came from the icons. And they involved experiences that just can’t be found on the open market. Labry Estate, Staglin Family Vineyard, and John and Sandi Thompson joined forces to offer “Ducks and Dolphins,” a private-jet trip, first to an exclusive hunting lodge in Ontario, Canada, then to Kona, Hawaii, for a few days at Kuki’o Golf and Beach Club. Opus One opted for luxury over adventure, teaming up with Van Cleef & Arpels for a trip to Paris and Bordeaux, including dinner with the Rothschild family at Château Mouton.
Top lots at Friday’s barrel auction—held this year at beautifully renovated Louis M. Martini Winery—spanned old and new Napa Valley winemaking, both classic and envelope-pushing. They included VGS Chateau Potelle, Hunnicutt, The Mascot (from Will Harlan), and Melka Estates, all but Hunnicutt being allocated wines.
And that exclusivity is the draw at Auction Napa Valley. As one regular bidder (with a single-digit paddle number) put it, “If I can buy something in the market, I will. It’s about the unique experience for me. That’s what I’m here to find.”
Tickets for Auction Napa Valley 2020, June 4 to 7 are already on sale. It’s safe to say, there will be some exceptional offerings for the 40th year.