A Collective Shift from Auction Napa Valley - Wine & Spirits Magazine

A Collective Shift from Auction Napa Valley

A Napa Valley Vintners dinner party hosted by vintner Kelly Fleming (Photo by Alexander Rubin)

In January 2022, Napa Valley Vintners invited the wine community to join Collective Napa Valley, a year-round philanthropy program to raise funds for local charities. The nonprofit association dedicated to promoting Napa Valley wines will no longer hold their premier fundraising event, Auction Napa Valley, which had raised over $200 million over 40 years.

“One of the criticisms of Auction Napa Valley, as it developed, was that it became a little bit too exclusive,” says Jaime Araujo, owner of Accendo Cellars and Trois Noix Wines. Araujo—a member of NVV whose family had been scheduled to chair Auction Napa Valley 2020—cites some of her friends who “feel really strongly and really passionately about this community and this valley” but don’t have the wherewithal to bid on high-ticket auction lots. She believes Collective Napa Valley is “a chance for everyone to put their hand in.”

Auction Napa Valley had been the prime fund-raising focus for NVV (tickets had started at $8,000). Now, the group is producing three seasonal events: a 60-minute virtual tasting of Napa Valley wines in the spring and, in-person, the Futures Barrell Auction Weekend in summer, and a vintage dinner and a live auction in fall.

For the NVV board of directors, the pandemic highlighted some challenges looking forward—how to involve people around the world who were unable to attend Auction Napa Valley in person or afford its steep price. In meetings with vintners, community members and past successful auction bidders, some stakeholders hoped to sustain Auction Napa Valley, says Stacey Dolan Capitani, NVV’s VP of Marketing. But, eventually, “Everyone finally got over the emotion of the memories that they had and then realized it was time to create something new.” Collective Napa Valley came out of these meetings and received full support from the board.

According to Araujo, who participated in the brainstorming sessions, her group—which she termed “the young guns”—stressed that future fundraising events should encourage participation not only from vintners and the Napa Valley wine community, but also from the local community at-large. She finds that the Napa Valley wine industry can be a bit myopic at times, and points out the importance of “remembering that all of the stuff that we’re doing actually benefits everyone, and we need to include them in the fun stuff too.” There will be a community celebration during the Futures Barrel Auction weekend and the vintage celebration, previously open only to winemakers, will now be open to the public, she says.

Rather than providing a single entry-point with a hefty price, as Auction Napa Valley did, Capitani hopes to provide Collective members with a range of access based on their donation amount. According to Collective’s website, any donation provides complimentary virtual access to the Spring offering and the fall offering, along with access to the community celebration and exclusive opportunities to purchase wine. At the $1,000 level, donors are provided the option to purchase two tickets to the Futures Barrel Auction and access to special events; $5,000 allows donors to purchase up to four tickets for the auction. Ticket prices for the barrel auction have not yet been released.

As for the new name, Capitani takes credit for pitching the word “collective” during the brainstorming sessions. “The camaraderie and spirit that we have here between our vintners is amazing,” she says, crediting the valley’s small size for this sense of community. “They’re your friends; they’re your neighbors. You play on each other’s softball teams and soccer teams.” She ties these connections back to NVV’s origins 75 years ago, when a group of vintners came together to promote Napa Valley along with their individual brands. Despite the region’s more competitive side, Capitani states that she did not receive any pushback on the name, explaining that the word is used throughout the valley in the names of retail stores and tasting rooms such as Alpha Omega Collective in downtown Napa. “It’s really giving us an opportunity to go broader, wider and bring in more people,” she says.

David lives in New York City and is always looking for the next wine story worth sharing.

This is a W&S web exclusive. Get access to all of our feature stories by signing up today.