To capture the color of Saturday’s auction – the whimsy, the table talk, the humor – here’s this year’s list of “10 bests,” from best quip, to best lot, to best dish. For those who went to the auction and for the curious who didn’t, here are some snapshots.
Best Bidding Tip: “Don’t use the paddles as a fan.” This advice came from Elaina Ray of San Francisco before the live auction began. Ray, incidentally, didn’t have a spending budget. “If I really want something, there’s no limit.”
See photos from Auction Napa Valley here
Best quip: “Auction Napa Valley is the Super Bowl of wine and food.” That’s according to Roy Martin of Minneapolis. “There’s no better place to be on Earth for these three days.” Martin and wife, Joy Lindsay, say they want to move to Napa but haven’t yet made the leap.
Best Half-Time Entertainment: Once roughly half the lots had been sold, violinist Charles Yang began playing on the floor with the bidders and then made his way to the stage. In a whimsical frenzy, he played everything from the classics to Yankee Doodle Dandy. Yang, 18, is “From The Top,” a foundation that promotes young musicians and he definitely wowed the crowd.
Best Cash-Infused Couple: The parents of Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg – Ed and Karen – were at the auction and with the company’s recent initial public offering there’s no doubt they had plenty of disposable cash. The Zuckerbergs, along with friends, spent $100,000 on a lot that featured dinner for six at Napa Valley’s Colgin Cellars, a tasting and seven 1.5 liter bottles of wine. Asked if they were wine-lovers, Zuckerberg said “We’re learning,” with a smile.
Best Table Talk: Paul Leary, president of Blackbird Vineyards among other brands, said he invited the Zuckerbergs to come to the auction. Leary said the connection stems from some tastings he has done for social media groups. He added that a highpoint of the weekend for Zuckerberg was talking with celebrity chef Thomas Keller at a dinner party at Colgin Cellars.
Best Burger: Joel Gott of St. Helena’s Gott Roadside took the stage at one point with a couple of trays of cheeseburgers, offering one to each of the 800 paddle-holders. The burgers were a pleasant surprise for bidders and a savvy one, since bidding requires an inordinate amount of energy.
Best Bidder: Hayner Rude, 24, paid $170,000 for a lot so he can be a guest racer at one of the 2012 San Francisco America’s Cup yacht races. Hayner of Houston, Texas said “We live on the Gulf Coast and I’ve been sailing from a young age.” Asked how he’d describe racing opportunity, he became a walking Thesaurus. “Amazing. Phenomenal. Once in a life time.”
Best Box Lunch: Fried chicken with cornbread, peas and corn. The chicken was messy for the well-heeled, but the four napkin lunch was scrumptious and well worth it. The picnic was from Ad Hoc, one of Thomas Keller’s Yountville restaurants.
Best Musical Lot: Barbara Banke, owner of Santa Rosa-Based Jackson Family Wines, paid $460,000 for a lot that featured a concert in Napa Valley for 28 with the Grammy Award-winning country group Lady Antebellum. With that kind of generosity, odds are Banke and Kendall-Jackson president Rick Tigner will get an autograph. Banke said the band is Tigner’s favorite.
Best Spontaneous Lot: Auctioneer Fritz Hatton, on a hunch, decided to auction off “décor.” He offered up part of the “deconstructed vineyard” on the grounds of Meadowood. The sculptures featured old vines, stones and earth. Hatton actually reeled in $7,000 for his antics proving there’s nothing like goodwill spontaneity.