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.

The 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.


barrel 370   barrel sample 370


While 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 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.

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

In 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.

Big 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. 50 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.


colgin 370  wine bag 370


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!


This article was originally published on grapefriend and has been republished by GoodLife Report by permission of grapefriend

Alyssa Vitrano is the founder of, a blog that interweaves wine and pop culture. After a career as a magazine entertainment editor and a producer at MTV, Alyssa got hooked on the grape.  Certified in both Viticulture & Vinification and Blind Tasting from the American Sommelier Association, she started grapefriend to give people a place to have as much fun finding out about wine as they do when they’re drinking it. She has written about wine for Marie Claire, Yahoo Food, and Cosmopolitan, and has been featured in Bon Appetit, Parade, Edible Long Island, and Glamour.