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Coppolas add Hollywood glamour to Auction Napa Valley

Director Francis Ford Coppola and his daughter Sofia added a splash of Hollywood glamour to this year’s Auction Napa Valley, which raised $15.7 million for local charities, smashing last year’s total of $14.3m.

Garen and Shari Staglin of Staglin Family Vineyards celebrate tripling the value their Italian adventure lot to $1.5 million

The Coppola family co-chaired the 37th edition of the event, which took place over four days at various venues across the California wine region. Each member of the family played their part.

“Hosting the auction was a lot of work but there’s something magical about Inglenook and the Coppola’s are such generous, curious, dynamic people that it all came together in the end,” revealed Chris Phelps, associate winemaker for Inglenook’s top drop Rubicon. Fresh from her best director win at the Cannes Film Festival for The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola hosted an intimate dinner for the highest bidders at last year’s auction.

Her mother, Eleanor Coppola, who has just released her first feature film – Paris Can Wait – starring Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin, curated a diverse selection of small plates for 2,000 guests at the barrel auction held at the family’s Inglenook Estate on Saturday, which featured food pavilions run by some of the top chefs in the valley, including Iron Chef star Masuharo Morimoto, who kept guests well fed with hamachi tacos and California rolls. Each of the chefs created dishes specifically to pair with the most planted grape varieties in Napa: Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.

Team Coppola: Roman, Sofia, Eleanor, Gia and Francis Ford Coppola hosted this year’s Auction Napa Valley. Briana Marie Photography for Napa Valley Vintners

Manning the Chardonnay stand, chef David Nuno of Brasswood Bar + Kitchen plated up hundreds of perfectly cooked scallops with burnt orange beads of salmon roe.

Under a canopy of cloudless blue sky, guests sipped their way through dozens of wines to the sounds of a Dixieland band from New Orleans, with many seeking solace from the searing sun by the pool.

With rumours flying around that Coppola himself would be cooking the post auction feast at Meadowood, Eleanor Coppola confirmed it was true. “Everyone thinks he isn’t going to do it but he’s preparing food for 800 as we speak,” she said.

Passing a vintage Cadillac used in The Godfather en route, attendees could escape the sweltering heat in the Inglenook cellars, where cases of wine from 108 producers were up for grabs and could be sampled fresh from the barrel before being bid on.

The 10 highest bidders for each of the wines won a case of it. Among the best selling lots were The Mascot, a Cabernet made from the younger vines of Harlan Estate, Bond and Promontory, which raised $73,550; and Melka Wines’ Métisse Martinez Cabernet, which netted $62,600, while Shafer’s 2015 Hillside Select Cabernet went for $52,600.

The event attracts high rollers from around the US, with a large proportion of the bidders working as doctors, lawyers, bankers and property developers. Dallas based Larry Park of private equity firm Genstar Capital won a couple of cases at the barrel auction but enjoyed spectating rather than participating in the live auction. Speaking to the drinks business during a dinner at Diamond Creek Vineyards, he said: “The prices the lots go for are staggering, I’ve never seen such a display of generosity and the auctioneers are expert at teasing out the dollars from the guests.”

The auction was held at luxury resort Meadowood

Frank Pilotte, a lawyer from Palm Beach dressed in an orange polo shirt and a neon orange baseball cap, was gutted to have missed out on the Darioush lot, which included tickets to the men’s singles finals at Wimbledon.

“I bid on it but I set myself a $200,000 limit and the bids suddenly went sky high. I’m disappointed but you win some and you lose some – I went home with three cases at the barrel auction yesterday. The challenge is to try and be the number ten bidder not the number one, that way you can go home with a bargain,” he told db.

Dressed in a red linen suit and retro sunglasses, Roman Coppola was master of ceremonies at the live auction, which took place on Saturday night at Meadowood, a chic luxury resort owned by revered vintner Bill Harlan and American entrepreneur Stan Kroenke boasting a three Michelin star restaurant.

Ladies dripping with diamonds and men in pastel-coloured blazers arrived at Meadowood en masse, weaving their way through the parasol-dotted lawn to a giant white tent where they were enticed to bid on some of the 38 vintner-sponsored lots in the live auction.

Wine trade luminaries like French consultant Michel Rolland and Petrus president Christian Moueix rubbed shoulders with Gina Gallo and her flamboyant husband Jean-Charles Boisset of Raymond Vineyards, who worked the room in a pair of blue velvet slippers emblazoned with seahorses.

Gina Gallo and Jean-Charles Boisset

Boisset’s lot, which went under the hammer for $400,000, was one of the most glamourous of the night – a four-night stay on Marlon Brando’s private island Tetiaroa, near Tahiti, where Obama recently wrote his memoirs and Pippa Middleton honeymooned. “French Polynesia was Gauguin’s dream and this magical island is the most luxurious place I’ve ever been,” he gushed.

The auction got off to a strong start with the first lot, which included three nights at Coppola’s Niebaum Mansion and the chance to arrive in style at his Palazzo Margherita in Basilicata in his Falcon 7X private jet. Whipping bidders into a paddle-waving frenzy, the lot went for $460,000.

While bidders got giddy on magnums of Krug and Dom Pérignon, a brass band blasted out Hey Big Spender and flapper girls dressed in gold shimmied across the stage after a Balthazar of Screaming Eagle 2014 fetched $440,000.

The top selling single lot of the evening included an Imperial of Dalla Vale’s Maya 2013, three nights in Tokyo and dinner at the three Michelin-star Kanda with owner Naoko Dalla Vale, which garnered an impressive $720,000.

The top lot of the night however was from Colgin Cellars. Featuring dinner at Alain Passard’s three Michelin-starred L’Arpège in Paris and lunch at Krug’s Clos du Mesnil vineyard, auctioneer Fritz Hatton incited a bidding war that saw the lot won by three people, who paid $700,000 each for the experience, raising $2.1 million.

Francis Ford Coppola stirs the tomato and basil sauce for his gnocchi

Not content with his hammer price of $550,000 for an Italian adventure including trips to Florence, Chianti and Bolgheri, and tastings at Biondi-Santi and Tignanello, Garen Staglin of Staglin Family Vineyards worked the room and hustled hard, tripling the total to $1.5m by allowing two additional bidders the chance to join him on the trip.

“I coined the phrase ‘irrational generosity’ as I don’t want people to worry about how much they are spending, but instead focus on how much good they can do with their winning bids,” Staglin told db shortly before the auction.

Famous for directing The Godfather trilogy and Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now, rather than mingling with guests, Coppola slaved over a hot stove perfecting his pomodoro basilico peperoncino sauce for his signature gnocchi dish – a brave move when dressed in a white suit – which he served at an Italian-themed al fresco dinner after the auction.

Kicking off with abundant antipasti platters and hunks of rustic bread drizzled in Inglenook-branded olive oil, with a string band playing on the lawn and guests gorging on steak Fiorentina and Neapolitan struffoli as the sun set, Coppola had created a scene that could have come straight out of one of his films. I half expected a young Al Pacino to turn up with a shiner. “In the end, wine and food is really all about show business,” he said.

Capping off an electric evening, Texan-born soul singer Leon Bridges performed late into the night while revelers tucked into soft serve ice cream and French fries in paper cones, with Francis’s granddaughter, Palo Alto director Gia Coppola, hosting an after party for a select few couples who bid $10,000 each for the privilege.

Next year’s auction will be co-chaired by Marc Mondavi’s four daughters – Angelina, Alycia, Riana and Giovanna – who will host the barrel auction at their father’s Charles Krug estate. All of the proceeds from the Auction Napa Valley go to 25 local health and education charities. To date, Napa Valley Vintners has invested $170 million in local nonprofit organisations.

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