Carl Kanowsky: Annual Napa Valley Auction a stunning success

Charles Krug Barrel Room, site of the 2019 Napa Valley Barrel Auction. Courtesy photo
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If you had any doubt as to what kind of heavyweight Napa wine actually is, all you have to do is experience the Napa Wine Auction, held annually in June. This year, over three remarkable days, the Auction raised an incredible $13.4 million!

How did they accomplish this? On Friday, June 1st, over 100 Napa wineries offered opportunities to acquire cases of highly allocated Cabernet by silent auction. VGS Chateau Potelle’s wine raised $114,300. Joseph Phelps garnered $43,450. Then Saturday came the highlight, the Live Auction, offering not only rare wine but truly unique experiences. Some highlights: A $1 million successful bid for Lot 20, donated by the Napa Valley Vintners and Lexus, featuring 18 bottles of Napa Valley wine and an experience at the 2019 U.S. Open Golf Tournament at Pebble Beach; four six-liter Imperials of Opus One and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for two couples to attend the Masked Ball at Versailles, France in 2019 netted an unbelievable $1.4 million.

I had the distinct pleasure of attending Friday’s Wine Barrel Auction. These pictures don’t do justice to just how massive this event is.

Charles Krug Winery hosted the festivities. Many folks know Robert Mondavi. What they may not realize is that he was born into the wine business. His folks bought Charles Krug in the 1940’s, with the dream that their two sons, Peter and Robert, would run the winery.

That dream was fulfilled for a time after patriarch Cesare Mondavi died in 1959, with the sons running things under the presidency of their mother, Rosa. In 1965 Robert left to found his eponymous winery, Mondavi, while Peter stayed at Krug, operating the winery until his death in 2016 at the age of 101.

Krug is a massive estate, with a castle for a winery and grounds that ramble for acres. And this does not include the endless vineyard land. So, this was the perfect setting for a party featuring sampling world class wines and tasting delicious victuals.

But even with the scale of Krug, guests and wineries filled it to capacity. And despite my best efforts, I sampled only about a third of what was being offered.

I had pre-selected some to taste, then some of the winemakers recommended others I should try. In the waning hours of the afternoon I reviewed the bid boards to see which remaining wineries were commanding high dollars for their proffered lots. It was a little like going to the races and seeing which horses were popular with the bettors. I’ll describe my favorites in my next column.

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