The weekend’s Napa Valley Wine Auction raised US$5.3m for local charities – taking the total raised since 1981 to more than US$50m.

The top lots in the 24th Napa Valley Wine Auction, which took place 3-5 June, were predictable – the ‘cult’ standards Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate and Dalla Valle Vineyards brought in the highest bids. A Cadillac convertible, donated by General Motors, added some interest.

The annual highlight of the Napa Valley wine scene this year raised less than last year’s nearly US$6.5 million and much less than its record-breaking US$9.5 million in high-flying 2000.

But organizers focused on the fact that the Napa Valley Vintners sailed past the US$50 million mark in its contribution to local charitable causes since the auction’s inception in 1981. The total amount raised by the NVV auction since then is more than US$53 million, which benefits local youth development, health and housing organizations in Napa County.

The Screaming Eagle lot went to M.K. Koo of Hong Kong, a long-time top ten bidder at the auction. Koo was one of 309 successful bidders at this year’s event. Two of the top ten bidders were first-time guests of the event.

Amid relatively subdued bidding throughout most of the day under a big white tent at the Meadowood resort in St. Helena, the two top lots closed at US$220,000 each. The first was for a rare collection of three 3-litre bottles of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon from 1995-1997, and the second, for a Napa Valley Vintners-sponsored lot which, in addition to 109 bottles of premium wine from various wineries, included a Limited Edition Cadillac XLR Roadster Convertible donated by GM.

The previous record for a single lot was US$700,000 for ten 1.5-litre bottles of Harlan Estate in 2000.

Other top lots in the live auction were a 10-magnum vertical of Harlan Estate red wine from 1991 to 2000, which sold for US$180,000, and seven bottles, including one 9-litre bottle, of Maya 2002 from Dalla Valle Vineyards for US$150,000. Three 3-litre bottles of 2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and a proprietary red wine from Vineyard 29 sold for US$135,000.

The top bid for a case of wine in the barrel auction was US$6,800 for a case of Shafer 2002 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon. The top silent auction lot, three bottles of Colgin Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, 1997-1999, sold for US$3,900.

The top 10 bidders included Gary Rieschel, of Palo Alto, California, Edward Weltman of East Hampton, New York, Koo, Ron Kuhn of Wheaton, Illinois, and three bidders who requested anonymity. Rieschel ended the day as the top bidder, spending a total of US$299,575 on 18 auction lots.

NB US$1.00= €0.812

Written by Janice Fuhrman