6/6/2010 - As the final gavel fell, more than $8.5 million was raised with fun, excitement and optimism as the keywords for the Napa Valley Vintners' (NVV) 30th Auction Napa Valley--The American Wine Classic. The annual charity wine auction was held this past weekend in Napa Valley. Paddles were raised high and raised often at Saturday’s Live Auction, the centerpiece of the renowned fundraiser that took place at Meadowood Napa Valley in St Helena on a postcard-perfect afternoon.
The highlight of the day by all measures was Fund a Need, which raised more than $1 million for children's health and wellness programs in Napa County. Long-time auctioneer Fritz Hatton, along with his freshman partner David Reynolds called on bidders to offer cash commitments, with no prize to be won other than the pride taken for providing for programs like children's immunizations, literacy and mentoring programs, and protection from abuse. Normally just a paddle raise, this year, an old-fashioned lemonade sale where local children festooned in bright yellow t-shirts helped first-hand with the fundraising.
After the initial round of pledges were recorded, bidders tossed wooden chips with dollar amounts on one side and their bidder number on the other into tin buckets carried by the youngsters resulting in thunderous clanking under the auction tent. After several other lots were sold in the auction, vintner-bidder Rick Jones of Jones Family Vineyards asked to reopen Fund a Need bidding with a $100,000 offering from his family's foundation. Others joined in which brought the final Fund a Need tally to more than $1 million and included donations large and small from bidders, vintners, volunteers and even attending media.
"I think the auction week might be a metaphor for the economy and the wine industry. It had been unseasonably rainy in the days leading up to the event, with dark clouds looming overhead. But the spirit of the attendees gathering to raise money for charity and celebrate with wine could not be dampened. When it was time to get to the bidding, the sun came out—bidders were happy to be here and were generous," said Bruce Cakebread, president of the NVV's board of directors.
Organizers created a daytime gathering for the Saturday event so as to enjoy the natural beauty of the Napa Valley, and guests were thrilled with the new, more casual format. "We had a spectacular weekend--a perfect Napa Valley experience where longtime friends of the auction returned to spend time with the vintners and their fellow bidders, and opened their wallets for the scores of non-profit programs that will benefit from the funds raised this weekend," said Beth Novak Milliken of Spottswoode Estate Vineyard and Winery. She, along with her mother Mary Novak, presided over the year-long planning as honorary chairs.
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