Net Proceeds to Benefit Hospitals and Clinic : Some of Napa Valley’s Finest Wines Will Be Auctioned at Charity Event

<i> Chroman is a free-lance wine writer and author who also practices law in Beverly Hills</i>

More than 1,000 wine-loving bidders will compete for 400 lots of wine representing some of Napa Valley’s finest at the sixth annual charity auction June 28 at the Meadowood Resort Hotel in St. Helena, Calif. The sale includes two Beringer Winery rarities--Port 1934 and Cabernet Sauvignon 1937.

The auction will offer 37 barrel futures--that is, not-yet-released wine in specially carved barrels--and the opportunity for the winning bidder to select packaging and bottle sizes from magnums to nebuchadnezzars. The auction’s net proceeds are divided equally among Napa’s Queen of the Valley Hospital, St. Helena Hospital and Health Center and Yountville’s Community Health Clinic Ole. Since its inception, the event has raised about $850,000.

The event is trying to become more than just a charity wine sale, as more wine is offered to sample than is sold. For three days, starting June 26, the valley bustles with seminars, wine tastings, vineyard tours, vintner dinners and a host of other events sponsored by wineries to communicate the unique taste character of the area. There is no better time to get a taste of Napa Valley wines.

Luncheons, Tours


Vintners will try to outdo one another with a series of events that should stagger the taster and the imagination. Most fascinating are the special tastings with rare wine and specially designed dishes, some by noted chefs.

At Beringer, for instance, Christopher Idone, a Manhattan chef and culinary author, will present a luncheon of seasonal mid-Atlantic regional specialties with appropriate wines in its Rhine House Gardens. Burgess Cellars will offer a tasting of its Cabernets from 1972 to 1982, then a luncheon and tour.

Philippe Jeanty, chef at Domaine Chandon’s restaurant, will cook interesting dishes to be matched to some of the winery’s older sparklers. Inglenook-Napa Valley will host a tasting and a Finnish feast featuring foods of its founder, Gustave Niebaum. Charles Krug will serve early Vintage Selection Cabernet Sauvignons, followed by a dinner in front of the 1881 Carriage House on the winery grounds. Recently tasted, these Cabernets are a joy and worthy of the trek. An evening of Greek cuisine and Napa Valley wine is scheduled for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, featuring local Greek dancers.

Schramsberg Vineyards will hold a discussion and tasting on the aging process of Champagne. Emphasis will be on taste trends in Schramsberg’s blending of cuvees to capitalize on age and will present its 1978s to prove the point. Another taste symposium will highlight the matching of Champagne and food. Villa Mt. Eden will offer, to a select group, a tasting of its Reserve Cabernet Sauvignons from 1978 through 1985.


Alfresco Dining

Sterling Vineyards is importing Jean-Louis Palladin, a French chef at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, to cook a special dinner for the presentation of its wines. Far Niente has planned an evening of wine cocktails, candlelight dinner and dancing under the stars while sampling new releases.

For lovers of Beaujolais-style wines, Charles Shaw, proprietor, and Rick Forman, wine maker, of Charles F. Shaw Vineyard will present a seminar on the production of Gamay wine using methode Beaujolais followed by an alfresco luncheon and tasting of Napa Valley Gamay and Gamay Nouveau.

A Napa Valley slide show by Keith Rosenthal followed by a discussion of Napa Valley viticulture, climate, pruning techniques and weather effects on crops, will be held at the Meadowood. The seminar will conclude with a trip to Lemmon Ranch.


Special open houses are scheduled by William Hill Winery (with hors d’ouevres and current wines at Aubege du Soleil restaurant at Rutherford); Shafer Vineyards; St. Clement, and Louis M. Martini Winery (a tasting of Pinot Noir and sparkling wines).

Also, a candlelight banquet and auction will be held for Meadowood on June 27; a barrel tasting of Napa Valley wines at the St. Helena Wine Service co-op on June 28, and a California Champagne reception to precede the auction as well as an alfresco dinner. To keep the bidding up and the bidders cool, the auction will be held in the evening rather than during the heat of the day on the fairway of Meadowood.

Bidder paddles are obtained on a first-come, first-served basis at $150 for the paddle bidder and $75 for guest. For more information, contact Napa Valley Wine Auction, P.O. Box 141, St. Helena, Calif. 94574; (707) 963-5246.

In recent years, several other California wine regions have sponsored successful charity benefit auctions. Challenging for attendance and popularity is the Sixth Annual Sonoma County Wine Showcase and Auction, set for Aug. 7 though 10, with a similar round of seminars, tastings and open houses, culminating with the auction Aug. 10 at the Sonoma Mission Inn.


More than 200 lots of wines will be offered, as well as a two-day showcase program on “Assessing Wine’s Ability to Age.” Because motel and hotel facilities are fewer, early registration is required. For more information, write to Wine Showcase and Auction, Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, Calif. 94501; (707) 579-0577.

Also offering 200 lots from throughout the world, but with special emphasis on San Luis Obispo County wines, is the three-day KCBX Wine Auction Classic and Tasting, essentially sponsored by Larry Shupnick, Archie McLaren and the wineries of San Luis Obispo.

Set for Aug. 16 at the San Luis Bay Inn at Avila Beach, the auction benefits public radio station KCBX-FM and will include dinner as well as extensive wine tastings, featuring California, Oregon and Washington wines. Jay Brian Cole of the London-based auction house Christie’s will be the auctioneer. For information, write to Chris Anderson, KCBX Wine Auction, 4100 Vachell Lane, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.

More Personal Treatment


A visit to newly established wineries in San Luis Obispo can be a more personal experience as the crowds will not be nearly as large. Distances are greater from one winery to another, and the wineries appreciate the greater travel effort by people. Whichever auction you select, keep in mind the need to taste before engaging in frenzied overbidding. With winery vats open for leisurely sampling, keep in mind, too, the need for reasonable driving restraints. Informed tasting requires only a small dose of wine.

Also note that on more than one occasion, an excited bidder has bid an outrageous amount for a modest wine. Notwithstanding charity benefits, bidders should be encouraged to keep consumption and prices in perspective.

For the first time, the Napa Valley Auction will include a silent auction for those who want to avoid public bidding competition, in the hope that guests and bidders will have an opportunity to bid on and take home some moderately priced magnums.

According to Candy Czapleski, silent auction chairman, these are generally reserved for the vintners’ best and most prized wines. No matter which auction you select, it is a grand time to visit the wine country, reminiscent of bygone days when the grape was not as fashionable and every vintner greeted you personally with an open glass.