2003 Napa Valley Wine Auction Gets Boost
Despite sluggish early bidding, the Trinchero family's contribution
lifted the event's tally to more than $6.4 million
By Daniel Sogg, Wine Spectator
On the block were limited-production wines and dining and travel experiences donated by Napa Valley's most sought-after estates. Texas-based restaurateur Dee Lincoln, who operates Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak Houses, made the single high bid of the day: $360,000 for 90 bottles from Robert Mondavi Winery.
Lincoln considered the Mondavi lot, offered in honor of Robert Mondavi's upcoming 90th birthday this month, too tantalizing to resist. "The entire family -- Mr. Mondavi, Michael and Tim -- have done such wonderful things for Napa," she said. "His 90th birthday is a special moment. And the wines go great with our steaks."
Before the start of bidding on that lot, auctioneer Fritz Hatton and the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to Mondavi, who conceived the idea for the Napa Valley Wine Auction in 1979. Mondavi, who was resplendent in a black hat and colorful vest, told the audience, "We've got a great thing going, and you're the ones who've done it."
Earlier in the afternoon, however, the mood wasn't so buoyant, at least judged by the surreal standard of earlier Napa auctions, particularly those before the dot-com boom went bust. After completing nearly two-thirds of the live bidding, the 2003 auction appeared to be on track for the lowest tally since 1998.
But event co-chairs Bob and Roger Trinchero, of Trinchero Family Estates in St. Helena (owners of Sutter Home), then took the stage to exhort the crowd, imploring them to surpass the record $700,000 bid brought in three years ago by a 10-vintage vertical of magnums from Harlan Estate. The Trincheros upped the ante by offering a matching contribution of up to $1 million.
So when the hammer fell at $320,000 on the next lot -- a package donated by the Napa Valley Vintners Association that supplies the winner with the grapes, equipment and expertise to produce and market 300 cases of their own Napa Cabernet -- the Trincheros weren't satisfied. "Bob and I wanted a $1 million lot, and by God, we'll get it. We'll throw in the rest," said Roger.
John and Tamra Gorman of Austin, Texas, purchased the NVVA's winemaking package, along with 56 other live and barrel lots. The Gormans were high bidders of the event, spending a total of $627,900.
The live lots this year garnered bids averaging about $32,162, slightly less than last year's average of $34,650. (The 2000 Napa Valley Wine Auction remains the benchmark, having raised a total of $9.5 million and $47,195 per live lot.) The barrel auction portion brought in about $1.07 million, including a high of $46,550 for 10 cases of 2001 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select Stags Leap District.
Proceeds from the auction benefit a variety of health care, youth, housing and educational organizations throughout Napa County. Sponsored by the NVVA, the auction has raised more than $42 million since 1981.
1. Robert Mondavi Winery -- $360,000
2. Harlan Estate -- $340,000
3. Napa Valley Vintners Association -- $320,000
4. Oakville Winegrowers -- $160,000
5. Opus One -- $140,000
6. Araujo Estate -- $130,000
7. Colgin Cellars -- $95,000
8. Diamond Creek Vineyards -- $90,000
9. Franciscan Oakville Estate -- $75,000
10. Vineyard 29 -- $75,000
Top Five Bidders
1. John and Tamra Gorman, Austin, Texas -- $627,900