March 13, 2007
Napa Valley on the Block

As mentioned in an item posted here Saturday (see below), Napa Valley residents are just crazy about auctions. And why not? The valley's vintners love to make specialty wines so limited in production they don't get distributed beyond the valley. Often, these wines are set aside for a local auction where their sale gives participating wineries favorable publicity while raising funds for hospitals, schools and the like. Auction Napa Valley each June is the grandest, having raised more than $65 million since its inception 26 years ago. Premiere Napa Valley, which raised more than $2 million a few weeks ago, also is gaining prominence.

But several smaller and less celebrated auctions are held through the valley each year, and for bidders they're less exclusive and less costly to join than Auction Napa Valley and Premiere Napa Valley. One is coming up Saturday, a benefit for The Young School, a private, non-denominational, Montessori-inspired school in St. Helena. To judge by the auction catalog, several valley vintners send their children to this school, or the school's board of directors is very persuasive.

In addition to wines by such prominent Napa Valley brands as Staglin Family Vineyard, Araujo Estate, Harlan Estate, Stony Hill and Pahlmeyer, the lots include several "lifestyle" packages, including lunch with wine columnist James Laube of The Wine Spectator, the Fourth of July dinner and fireworks show at Louis M. Martini Winery, dinner with Gourmet Magazine wine columnist Gerald Asher at his San Francisco home, and a 30-minute tour of San Francisco's City Hall with Mayor Gavin Newsom as the guide.

The auction, also to include food and wine tasting, is Saturday evening at Quintessa Winery. Tickets at $75 per person must be purchased in advance, though for the first time this year bidders need not attend and can bid from home. Details, including the complete catalog, are at the school's Web site.

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