AUCTIONWith Auction Napa Valley’s roll out this week, a recap of last year’s festivities is in order. To capture the color – the fashion, the humor, the bidding mentality – peruse this list of “bests,” from best spectacle, to best quote, to best dressed. For those who plan to go to this year’s auction and for the curious who don’t, here are some snapshots from last year.

Best spectacle: Those entering the auction at St. Helena’s Meadowood Resort saw a curious plume of smoke above the white tents. It turned out to be dinner. Headliner chef Francis Mallmann was cooking 750 pounds of rib eye and chicken over an open fire, right on the posh resort’s manicured lawn . When I chatted with Auction Napa Valley chairman Augustin Huneeus, vintner of Napa Valley’s Quintessa, he said Napa Fire Marshals had approved the chef’s antics. He said, with a broad grin, “This is Napa Valley and you have to get permits for everything.”

Best quote: A bidder, who preferred not to be named, watched with amazement at lots selling for $100,000-plus and said: “This is a fabulous event, and I have bids out for $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000 at the E-Auction, but this is funny money.”

Best dressed: Auction Napa Valley organizers encouraged bidders to wear a touch of red to play along with their red hot Latin theme. Chris Yelich, a new co-owner of the Napa Valley Wine Train, did his homework. He ran out and purchased a red hot bow tie. His white and blue checkered shirt and light gray jeans provided the perfect backdrop for the sassy red tie.

Best drink: Piscos Sours. They were served to guests entering the auction, and the hot Latin cocktails were as beautiful as they were refreshing. They had strawberry slices and violet edible flowers, which made for colorful sipping. The only complaint I heard was that they weren’t potent enough.

Best auction offering: The seven digit lot that spiraled to $1.1 million for an all-expense paid trip to South Africa for six. A highlight of this lot is a boat trip to the Robben Island cell where the late Nelson Mandela spent all but nine of his 27 years in captivity. Who wouldn’t want to see the place where Mandela would transform from vigilante to the first black president of South Africa? Who wouldn’t want their itinerary to feature this kind of history?

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