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2003 Napa Valley Wine Auction Gets Boost
from Generous Donation

Despite sluggish early bidding, the Trinchero family's contribution lifted the event's tally to more than $6.4 million
Posted: Monday, June 09, 2003

By Daniel Sogg, Wine Spectator
It was a topsy-turvy day at the 2003 Napa Valley Wine Auction, held Saturday on the lawn of Meadowood Resort. After a sluggish start, bidders picked up the pace and ponied up $5.8 million, the fourth-largest total in the 23 years of the event. A remarkably generous $655,000 contribution by the Trinchero family, chairs of this year's auction, lifted the final tally to more than $6.4 million. But without that donation, which boosted the total just above the 2002 proceeds, this year would have seen the third consecutive decline in funds raised.

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.


Top 10 Lots

1. Robert Mondavi Winery -- $360,000
Ninety bottles in celebration of Robert Mondavi's life in wine on the occasion of his 90th birthday

2. Harlan Estate -- $340,000
A 10-magnum vertical, from 1990 to 1999, of Harlan Estate's Cabernet blend

3. Napa Valley Vintners Association -- $320,000
"Bidder's Brand" package: 5 tons of 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, enough for 300 cases of wine to be made by consultant winemaker Philippe Melka; a label created by a designer; distribution by Wilson-Daniels; NVVA membership for one year

4. Oakville Winegrowers -- $160,000
Twenty-seven magnums, including bottles donated by Dalla Valle, Harlan and Screaming Eagle; a Sub-Zero wine storage unit; dinner with members of Oakville Winegrowers

5. Opus One -- $140,000
Fifteen 6-liter bottles selected from the vintages 1979 through 1997; lunch at Opus One with the Robert Mondavi family

6. Araujo Estate -- $130,000
One 6-liter bottle of 1999 Araujo Eisele Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; lunch at the estate with the Araujos and winemaker Françoise Peschon

7. Colgin Cellars -- $95,000
One double magnum (3-liter bottle) of 1999 Colgin Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; one double magnum of 1999 Colgin Cariad Red Wine; one crystal wine vessel

8. Diamond Creek Vineyards -- $90,000
Nine assorted bottles of Diamond Creek Lake Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from 1978, 1984, 1987 and 1994

9. Franciscan Oakville Estate -- $75,000
Two double magnums of 1999 Franciscan Magnificat; two double magnums of 2000 Franciscan Magnificat; a murder mystery dinner and two night's accommodations for 10

10. Vineyard 29 -- $75,000
One 6-liter bottle of 2000 Vineyard 29 Cabernet Sauvignon; one double magnum of 2000 Aida Vineyard Red Wine; one double magnum of 2000 Aida Vineyard Zinfandel

Top Five Bidders

1. John and Tamra Gorman, Austin, Texas -- $627,900
2. Dee Lincoln, Plano, Texas -- $599,100
3. David Doyle, Newport Coast, Calif. -- $565,150
4. Gary and Yucca Rieschel, Los Gatos, Calif. -- $290,175
5. Ron and Teri Kuhn, Wheaton, Ill. -- $288,050

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