A chandelier made from old vines.

This image best captures the feel of this year’s Auction Napa Valley – “prudent elegance.”

Several of these old vine chandeliers were hanging in the white tent at Meadowood Resort at Saturday’s live auction. While organizers only reeled in $4.3 million — about half of last year’s take — one thing is clear: Napa knows how to throw a party.

It’s the color — the fashion, the insider chatter and the humor — that gives the auction its flavor. To capture the color, here’s a list of “bests” — from “best dress” to “best deal’ to “best political strategy.” For those who went to the auction and for the curious who didn’t, let this serve as a snapshot.

Best political strategy: In jest, Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, was overheard saying: “I could finance my whole gubernatorial campaign right here, tonight. I should have started with the Napa Valley Wine auction.”

Best dress: Kiki Lee — who calls herself owner, CEO and cleaning lady of Napa’s Vinrock Wine Caves — was wearing a smart, British tan leather dress, with an Italian leopard scarf. “I wanted to match my (copper) business card,” she joked.

Best deal – The Staglin’s lot in 2007, a trip to Italy, reeled in $1.1 million. The winery’s lot this year, a trip to Burgundy, went for $400,000. Vintner Shari Staglin said the lots weren’t that different in terms of expense. “It’s absolutely a sign of the times,” Staglin said. “But we’re just happy we got this much for the charities.”

Best 3-liter bottle: Seems like you need a crane to lift these hefty bottles. It’s certainly not an easy feat for those in evening gowns, but naturally the pour is worth it. The Spottswoode 1997 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was complex and it still had a great showing of fruit.

Best full disclosure: Barry Schuler of Napa’s Meteor Vineyard said he would have paid $100,000 for 12-bottles of Heitz Wine Cellars Bella Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon even though his winning bid was $68,000. “It’s the worse economy in 30 years,” he said. “No one’s isolated from it, but all things considered the auction is doing pretty well.”

Best balance: Noel Dellofano and Kerri Kresinski, both of San Francisco, were flying trapeze artists at the auction who were dangling from a cable secured to a tree, and they looked like ballerinas in the sky. Dellofano, who danced with Joffrey Ballet 12 years ago, said flying trapeze is “circus and ballet, a perfect balance between beauty and strength.” Since when did ballet become high altitude entertainment?