What's the going rate for tickets to the Oscars? If you bought them at Saturday's Auction Napa Valley charity wine gala, it would have set you back $420,000.
Two packages including Oscars tickets and wine brought in a combined $840,000 and helped organizers raise a record-breaking $16.2 million at this year's live auction, up from last year's take of $14.3 million. Preliminary reports put the entire weekend's fundraising efforts at $18.4 million, up from last year's $16 million.
Now in its 34th year, the fundraiser benefits Napa Valley nonprofits focusing on health, youth and affordable housing.
"I'm overwhelmed by the generosity inside and outside of the valley," said auction co-chairman Jeff Gargiulo of Napa's Gargiulo Vineyards.
Disposable income was as free-flowing as cabernet as more than 1,000 people gathered under the white tent at St. Helena's Meadowood Resort. Notables this year included Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who founded Plumpjack Winery in Oakville, and actor Kyle MacLachlan, best known for his turns in "Desperate Housewives" and "Twin Peaks."
This year's theme — "Sweet Home Napa Valley" — came with an oversized prop: a colorful hot-air balloon that was anchored at the Meadowood grounds. There also were over-sized signs of "Home Sweet Home" made of corrugated metal.
As for the bidding, there were plenty of big spenders with top single bids reaching $600,000, $520,000 and $420,000. The winning bidders of each of the lots declined interview requests.
Winning bidders for the Oscars lots, put together by Raymond Cellars, also asked to remain anonymous, but vintner Jean-Charles Boisset said he was grateful for their generosity.
One lot initially sold for $420,000 but Boisset offered a duplicate lot at the same price to another interested bidder. The two hauled in a combined $840,000. The lot features private jet transportation to Hollywood from the Bay Area, with a gown and tuxedo for the show. The package also includes a 9-liter bottle of Raymond Vineyards' Generations, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon signed by the cast of a Weinstein Co. film and a private VIP table beside the stars at the Weinstein Company.
Another popular lot was presented by Margrit Mondavi, who was introduced by auctioneer Fritz Hatton as the "First Lady of Napa Valley."
Mondavi said she was elated the lot sponsored by Mondavi Winery sold for $220,000.
"It's fantastic," she said. "I'm overwhelmed."
The lot offers a trip to France with Mondavi as well as with Genevieve Janssens of Robert Mondavi Winery, taking in a sweep of Burgundy. It also features 24 bottles of Mondavi wine — eight cabernet sauvignons, eight chardonnays and eight pinot noirs.
As for the most sentimental bidding, it was definitely the call for Fund-A-Need with multiple bidders contributing. This year, it focused on preventative medical treatment for Napa Valley children, raising a total of $3.5 million, up from $3.1 million last year.
Horse racing enthusiasts appreciated a mid-day break in bidding to watch the Belmont Stakes on the big screens. Guests were cheering for California Chrome, hoping for a triple crown, and they were visibly disappointed when Tonalist won.
But the day ended on a high note with the news of record-breaking totals, and organizers set off a round of confetti that filled the stage.
Napa's live auction trumped the Naples Winter Wine Festival, which raised $13.1 million in January and has had something of a friendly rivalry with the Napa event in recent yars.