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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Entrance to Wine Auction, June 1999
Entrance to Napa Valley Wine Auction, Meadowood Resort, St. Helena, CA - June 1999 Photo: Faith Echtermeyer

The Napa Valley Wine Auction

This annual event held in St. Helena each June has become the largest and most successful charity wine auction in the United States since it began in 1981. Hundreds of wine enthusiasts and auction-goers from across the nation, as well as a growing number of international guests, travel to the Meadowood resort in Napa Valley to participate in a gala weekend of tastings, dining, art shows, and auctions. As the auction has grown in stature along with the California wines it showcases, the auction has acquired a sense of acclaim few envisioned in its homespun beginnings, raising millions for local health care needs. A record-breaking $9.5 million was raised at the 1999 event, sponsored by the Napa Valley Vintners Association.

Borrowing grape varieties and winemaking skills from Europe, Napa Valley's earliest vintners learned by trial and error, a few of them producing wine that gained national recognition more than a century ago. After decades of weathering economic upheavals and American's evolving tastes, Napa Valley winemaking has come of age; its wine are among the world's finest. Most of Napa's wines are varietal, produced primarily from the grape variety indicated on the label. Among the region's best known wines, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon top the list. Other white varieties include chenin blanc, gewurztraminer, muscat blanc, riesling, sauvignon blanc, semillon, and viognier. Red varietals are cabernet franc, charbono, gamay beaujolais, merlot, petite sirah, pinot noir, sangiovese, syrah, and zinfandel.

During the struggling years of the Second World War, 1943 marked an important point in the valley's wine history, when a group of vintners came together to share ideas on grape growing and wine making. This group laid the foundation for the Napa Valley Vintners Association, a non-profit trade organization representing 177 Napa Valley wineries in marketing and promotional activities throughout the United States and abroad. Its twin objectives are raising funds for non-profit organizations that serve those in need in Napa Valley, and educating consumers about the region's wines. Since 1981, the auction has donated nearly $16 million to local charities. More than 1,000 community volunteers, committee members, and bidders contribute to the event's success each year.

Documentation includes a videotape of the 1999 auction; a 238-page 1999 auction catalog; the 1999 schedule of activities; and ten 1999 color slides.

Originally submitted by: Mike Thompson, Representative (1st District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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