“Auction Napa Valley is the quintessential four-day food and wine experience. The interaction with the winemakers, hedonistic pleasure of incredible food and wine and ability to do something that is so good for the community at the same time is unparalleled.” —David Pearson, Opus One CEO and Honorary Chair of Auction Napa Valley 2015
For 34 years, Auction Napa Valley has used the fruits of its homegrown success to give more than $145 million to enhance the health and well-being of the Napa Valley community. From live auctions to an online component, the event raised $18.7 million in 2014, which will be invested for a maximum and meaningful impact on the areas of community health and children’s educational programs. Thanks to a reserve account, Napa Valley Vintners was able to respond quickly to the South Napa earthquake in August 2014 by providing the lead gift of $10 million to the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund.
Auction Napa Valley is much more than a weekend celebration of camaraderie and community. It’s a yearround endeavor Napa Valley Vintners carefully plans with the help of a steering committee. The hard work continues long after the event by the Grants Review Committee, which determines how to best use the funds within the community.
It’s a call to one and all to roll up their sleeves and make a difference in the place they call home—where the sun shines, the grapes grow, the children play and the world seems a little brighter through a wine-stained glass.
AUCTION NAPA VALLEY 2014: SWEET HOME NAPA VALLEY
“I will never forget my first auction. I can still remember standing on the top of the hill at Meadowood, looking down at the tent with the brightly colored streamers flying in the breeze, hearing the chatter of people and feeling that magical buzz. It was electric. And once inside that tent, I had never been in a room so filled with good energy and excitement.”
Valerie Gargiulo of Gargiulo Vineyards was honorary co-chair of Auction Napa Valley 2014 along with her husband, Jeff, and David and Dr. Kary Duncan of Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars. That first auction she attended in the late 1980s was part and parcel of the overall sense of community the Gargiulos experienced when they first decided to make wine in Napa Valley. “Family, friends, neighbors—even those who were complete strangers at that point—wrapped their arms around us and made us feel so welcome. And we, in turn, respected, admired and appreciated their trueness to the soil and how they lived their lives by the vines.”
Embracing the responsibilities that come with the title, Valerie likened the yearlong auction process to “putting together the pieces of a puzzle.” Around the theme “Sweet Home Napa Valley,” she and her co-chairs set out to mesh old, traditional Napa Valley with the edgier version they feel the town is moving toward. “There was such a great spirit of collaboration with the vintners, so much help and goodwill. From working with our event designer, Michael Gapinski, on our vision; to planning the auction lots with our team; to the auction week itself; and now helping with the fulfillment of those lots—every step along the way has been an incredible experience that has allowed each of us to meet some extraordinary people.”
Raising a record-breaking $18.7 million, the auction makes a huge impact on the community. “Everyone in this town is touched in some way— from the workers in the vineyard to the people driving the trucks—and I really think that’s why there is so much cooperation and community spirit around this event. When you drive through each little town during auction week, you can really feel the energy.”
Clinic Ole Community Health is the only nonprofit community health center in Napa County. “It serves more than 30,000 people a year. It is a huge part of the community, along with St. Helena Hospital and Queen of the Valley Medical Center—all recipients of grants from the auction.” In addition to benefiting health care and children’s education, Gargiulo points to a walking and biking trail that the auction just funded this year. “This 28-mile trail affects all of our lives. It gives us all a safe place to bike, walk and hike.”
Looking forward to the next auction, Gargiulo smiles, her memories stirring. She’s thinking of standing at the top of that hill, her breath caught in her throat, and the impact one weekend in June can make on her town.
AUCTION NAPA VALLEY 2015: FAMILIES HELPING FAMILIES
When we asked David Pearson, CEO of Opus One, why he has devoted so much of his time to the auction this year as honorary co-chair along with Christopher Barefoot, VP of Public Relations, he replied, “My job is to ensure that Opus One continues for generations to come, and to do that we need a vibrant and healthy community for the wine business around us. We don’t live in a vacuum, and we know that. Auction Napa Valley ensures that the local community remains healthy and growing, and supports the wine industry at the same time.”
Of course, it’s not that simple.
Auction Napa Valley 2015 officially began at the closing gavel of 2014, but even before then plans were well under way. “We already knew we were honorary chairs, and so we were watching and taking lessons as this past auction was unfolding,” explains Pearson. He stresses that his role is an entire Opus One family endeavor, which partly is where this year’s “Families Helping Families” theme came from. Opus One has always enjoyed an active engagement within the community through its own volunteer programs. “We talk a lot about the importance of familyowned wineries in Napa Valley, and so we started to think about what it means to be a family in broader terms, not just the traditional sense. Once you have that perspective of being part of something bigger, a family of Napa Valley vintners, it becomes a very natural reflex to want to take care of each other. The actions we take today are designed to protect our community and give our children an even better place to live.”
Privy to the inner workings of the auction, Pearson and Barefoot were both impressed by the amount of work, time, dedication, and commitment that vintners and the Napa Valley Vintners association put into the painstaking yearlong process. “It’s not just about the event itself and the money raised, but the amount of time spent deciding how to redistribute those funds, assessing their effectiveness, and then reassessing in terms of future donations,” explains Pearson. “The quality of support given to each of those 22 charities is an ongoing process, balancing being as broad as possible with maximum dollar impact.”
On November 1st, Auction Napa Valley began signing up wineries that want to participate in the following year’s event. “Within 15 minutes, the 100 slots for the barrel-tasting auction were filled, with a waiting list of an additional 30. The rate at which the auction lots are coming in is faster than we have ever seen before. Every year the offerings get more exotic, attractive and fantastic.”
Citing the $10 million given to the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund as “one of the most salient examples of the vintners’ ability to respond quickly to the needs within Napa Valley,” Pearson adds his respect and awe for an event not just done well, but done well on such a scale and scope. “In all humility, I don’t know of any other wine community that does anything quite like this to ensure the future of the fabric of the wine industry. We are an exemplary case of this around the country.” Indeed, an exemplary case of families helping families.