The swanky Auction Napa Valley is this Saturday, and the bidding under the white tent at Meadowod Napa Valley resort in St. Helena is always suspenseful. Some paddle-holders, sipping free-flowing cabernet, lose all restraint and spiraling bids sometimes reach a mesmerizing seven digits. In the midst of all the chaos, cash begins to resemble confetti.
Why should you care? The answer is simple.
The entire wine world will be watching what happens because the auction is, put simply, the Super Bowl of wine charity events. It’s a global leader in fundraising efforts; last year it raised a total of $14.3 million during the weekend festivities. The auction is also a place where celebrities and the high-powered converge for good-will bidding to benefit local nonprofits — community health and children’s education.
High-profile people who have showed up over the years include Oprah Winfrey, comedian Jay Leno, singer John Legend and the parents of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Karen Kempner and Edward Zuckerberg.
Tickets for this year’s string of events, running Thursday through Sunday, range from $500 to $20,000. There will be tastings, tours and winemaker dinners, but the main attraction will be Saturday’s Live Auction and, of course, Francis Ford Coppola.
This year, organizers have tapped the Academy Award-winning director and vintner to be the “celebrity guest chef.” They say he’ll be very hands-on in prepping Saturday night’s al fresco, post-auction dinner, working alongside the events team, local chef John Sorensen as well as 30 hand-picked guests at the auction.
Organizers reached out to the top bidders from the past, inviting them to cook with Coppola.
Cate Conniff of the Napa Valley Vintners, the trade organization that puts on the auction, said many of the dishes reflect Coppola’s Italian roots.
“We haven’t yet received a final menu, but I can tell you some of the menu items that will be served: both inventive and traditional antipasto platters, handmade gnocchi with Pomodoro basilica pepperoncini sauce, Bistecca alla Fiorentina, escarole and broccolini with olive oil and garlic, fried eggplant all’armena with pomegranate sauce and Neapolitan struffoli (deep-fried dough balls).”
This year’s feast isn’t expected to upstage last year’s spectacle of headliner chef Francis Mallmann, an Argentinian grill master whose dinner prep spanned the grounds of the resort, giving the event a smoky hue.
There were a number of domed, rebar spits where 750 pounds of ribeye and whole chickens were cooked in the open air over flames and hot coals.
Coppola, who’s best known for “The Godfather” film trilogy and “Apocalypse Now,” the man who has a full lineup of Oscars, can get away without being a foodie disruptor. Auctiongoers, no doubt, will be more interested in catching a glimpse of the entire Coppola clan — Francis, Eleanor, Sofia, Roman and Gia — who will all be honorary chairs.
For those with a keen sense of fun, here’s what’s worth noting:
1. Living vicariously has never been so easy.
Social media is swift and you can follow the auction in real time via Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook posts and Instagram. Watch for #auctionnapavalley.
While you’re keeping tabs on the auction from home, don’t forget you can also drink vicariously.
This year, uncorking Coppola wines makes sense, whether it’s the modest Rosso red at $11 or the pricey Rubicon, Coppola’s premier red from Inglenook at $210.