A Coppola-studded event where collectors and star chefs mingle among the vineyards.
The 37th annual Auction Napa Valley went down last weekend and, if you’ve never been, it’s the kind of baller’s playground where celebrated vintners mix with Michelin-starred chefs, moneyed oenophiles, and Leon Bridges. How heated does the action get? Lot 32, which promised a private dinner at local winery Colgin Cellars followed by a trip to the Champagne region of France, fetched $2.1 million dollars.
Francis Ford Coppola and his family served as this year’s honorary chairs, and Coppola himself allegedly rolled the gnocchi for Saturday night’s post-auction dinner for 900 people. I spied the five-time Oscar winner cooling off beneath an umbrella at his Inglenook estate on Friday. And despite the blistering heat—or perhaps because of it—he indulged me one question. What’s the best bottle of wine you ever had? I asked.
“It was a bottle of Romanee-Conti,” he said, “when I didn’t understand the particular differences of the different regions. It was just delicious.” Where were you? “Reno.” Huh. What was happening in Reno? I asked. “I was writing a script for Bill Cosby.”
Auction Napa Valley (which attracts 2,000 spectators) is held at the lawn at Meadowood Resort in St. Helena, and it’s the largest wine fundraiser in the world, with vintners and chefs opening their homes and cellars to raise money for charities that provide healthcare for migrant farmworkers, mental health services, and early education for children. The auction has raised more than $175 million dollars since launching in 1981. And the lots are, in a word, rarefied. Sofia Coppola—who just won the best director prize at Cannes for her film The Beguiled—worked with Louis Vuitton on a one-of-a-kind leather bucket bag. (Her brother, Roman, sweetened the deal by offering a set visit to his Emmy-winning show Mozart In the Jungle.) Mopping sweat off my brow, I remembered a story about how one of Sofia’s muses, Bill Murray, likes to drink Champagne on ice.
“In France it’s called a piscine,” Sofia told me, looking stylish as hell in a white shirt and high-waisted Dickies. “When you put ice cubes in champagne, it keeps you hydrated. I think it’s not so chic. But I love a piscine. Champagne has to be really cold.” Any other wine rules worth breaking? I asked. “I was just at Cannes,” she said. “It’s rosé season. But I like rosé all year-round.” The bucket bag and set visit sold for $100,000.
If I had the cash, I would have bid on Lot 11, which included a private dinner with The Restaurant at Meadowood’s Christopher Kostow, one of the youngest chefs to ever earn three Michelin stars. (The package sold for an impressive $130,000.) Of the money casually spent here annually by one-percenters enjoying too much Krug, Kostow said with a smile: “Have you been to this before? It’s bananas.”
And it was awesomely bananas. Roman Coppola, wearing a killer Nantucket red linen suit and Bogdanovich frames, worked the room. While bidders eagerly raised their paddles—looking like Hermione Granger raising her hand in a Hogwarts potions class—I sipped a murderer’s row of vintage wines, including a 1937 Larkmead Zinfandel, a 2008 glass of The Mascot (served directly by Amanda Harlan), and an ’88 Chappellet from a magnum. Then my handwriting became illegible.
As the afternoon progressed, I met a handsome Ivy League student (in a quilted vest) whose dad imports wines. The kid was telling me how he’d barely avoided spending three hundred thousand dollars of his father’s money when he was outbid on a lot. His father wandered over as he was finishing this story.
“Wow,” I said to his dad. “You must be relieved.”
He laughed, saying: “It would have been a good story!”
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