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Sweeping changes for Napa Valley Wine Auction

One of the wine world’s most successful charity events, the Napa Valley Wine Auction, is undergoing massive changes this year.

The organisers of the newly named Auction Napa Valley have raised entry prices, reduced the number of places available, increased the number of events and reduced the length of the bidding sessions.

The changes come after last year’s Naples Winter Wine Festival in Florida – which raised US$6.67m (£3.5m) – surpassed the proceeds of the Napa event. For the first time, the Napa Valley Vintners, who run the Californian auction, did not refer to it as the ‘most successful charity wine auction in the world.’

‘In a time when so many organizations are producing events modeled on ours, it is imperative that we keep our auction fresh and exciting,’ said Auction Napa Valley organiser, vintner Dan Duckhorn.

Changes will see the entry ticket price triple. A couple’s package, which includes admittance to all events over the three-day proceedings on 2-4 June will cost US$7,500 (nearly £4,000) and only 350 of these tickets are available. A couple’s package in 2004 cost US$2,500 (£1,300). In an unprecedented move, however, 1,000 single tickets are being offered to the public in order to provide access to certain individual events over the three days.

The event as a whole is likely to be unrecognisable to long-time attendees. Gone is the afternoon-long main auction, a huge gala dinner the night before, and a walk-around food and wine tasting that used to open the festivities. These have been replaced by a smaller, shorter auction with about 60 lots, an electronic auction, more ‘hospitality events’, in which attendees mingle with vintners, and an all-day local food and wine festival.

This year sees Auction Napa Valley celebrate its 25th anniversary. The Napa Valley Vintners, a non-profit group representing 263 wineries, sponsor the auction which has raised over US$52m (£27.5m) since 1980. The money is donated to local health organisations, affordable housing and youth charities.

Written by Janice Fuhrman in California

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