One of the world's most successful wine charity events, the 2006 edition kicks off Thursday evening
as more than 1,000 bidders, guests and media gather for dinner.

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Napa Valley Charity Auction

Napa Valley Vintners gear up for 26th annual charity auction
By L. PIERCE CARSON, Register Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 1:13 AM PDT

After fine-tuning last year' 25th anniversary remodel, members of Napa Valley Vintners are putting the finishing touches on plans for this year's Auction Napa Valley taking place Saturday at St. Helena's Meadowood Resort.

One of the world's most successful wine charity events, the 2006 edition kicks off Thursday evening as more than 1,000 bidders, guests and media gather for dinner at more than two dozen hospitality venues throughout the valley.

While the event's main feature doesn't take place until Saturday night, auction bidders arrive early for a few days of festive run-ups to the live auction.

An array of dinner parties, a community celebration and popular spin-offs -- an auction of wines still in barrel and a cyber-themed e-auction -- are planned this year.

Since its inception in 1981, the Napa Valley Vintners charity wine auction has raised more than $61.5 million for local health care providers, youth programs and housing endeavors meeting the needs of low income residents and farm workers.

Wine aficionados and collectors come from all over the county and abroad for the four-day event. Many are regulars eager to donate to the organizations that benefit from their largesse.

With the auction's record-breaking $10.5 million take last year, the local trade association was able to realize one more goal -- establishing a $1 million 25th Anniversary Fund for Children's Health -- the largest-ever single industry or non-foundation private gift to a children's health initiative in California.

This year's goals

Last year's grant launched the Napa County Children's Health Initiative to help underwrite health insurance for low- and middle-income youth under age 18.

"Napa Valley Vintners intends to make sure all children in the Napa Valley have health insurance," said Jack Cakebread, whose family is sharing chairmanship duties of Auction Napa Valley 2006.

"Vintners and volunteers come together every year to help the people of Napa County who need it," added Cakebread. "In addition, we endeavor to make our guests feel warm, wanted and comfortable -- and I think we do it with understated class."

Jack and Dolores Cakebread did not talk about a lot of hype or over-the-top predictions about Saturday's bottom line. Instead, they expressed gratitude to volunteers for their year-round efforts and to sponsors who are underwriting everything from new cars to airplane tickets, luxurious accommodations to opulent cruises.

"General Motors has donated two vehicles for this year's auction," the family patriarch declared. "One is part of the Chairs' Lot -- a Corvette Z06, a street version of the Le Mans racing Corvette with a 532 horsepower engine. I got to pick the color -- blue. If you're high bidder on this lot you also need to know how to drive it, so we'll be sending you by private jet to the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Phoenix. And the Corvette will be full of our family's favorite wines.

"They're also donating a hybrid van which the high bidder will end up donating to one of our charities after he or she picks the name of the recipient out of a hat," said Cakebread.

Cakebread went on to sing the praises of the 270-member trade organization sponsoring the annual charity event. "They can't say no ... all these years of giving and giving and giving. This teamwork of our bidders and sponsors and vintners has resulted in considerable benefit to the community."

A busy schedule for

Team Cakebread

Dolores Cakebread said bidders as well as vintners were contacted after last year's auction to find out what possible changes could be made for the 2006 event.

"The biggest change from last year -- which was a basic overhaul of the auction model in place for more than two decades -- was doing away with the formal dinner following the auction. This year we're going to have a party with a dance band," said Jack Cakebread.

While Jack is overseeing all aspects of this year's auction, Dolores is concentrating on visuals. Sara Cakebread is maintaining liaison with recipients and Bruce Cakebread is coordinating all aspects of a new Saturday morning event at Copia.

Teaming up for the party following the live auction are Karen Cakebread -- in charge of food during and after the auction -- and Dennis Cakebread, who's in charge of entertainment.

Four well-known chefs are creating and serving up a variety of finger foods Saturday from demonstration kitchens set up outside the giant auction tent on the Meadowood fairway. The post-auction culinary lineup includes Traci Des Jardins, of Jardinire in San Francisco; John Folse, of Chef John Folse & Co. in Louisiana; Suzanne Tracht, of Jar in Los Angeles; and renowned pastry chef and author Mary Cech.

An Idol time at auction

Sixty one-of-a-kind wine, adventure and luxury lots will be put on the block, starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, as Auction Napa Valley retains its late afternoon/early evening block of time. Master of ceremonies is Ryan Seacrest, host of "American Idol" and the world's most popular countdown show, "American Top 40."

Meadowood chef Vincent Nattress and Cakebread Cellars' chefs Brian Streeter and Richard Haake are teaming up to create an 18-course hors d'oeuvre menu to accompany a lavish array of Napa Valley wines during the live auction.

After a successful inaugural year, the Friday Auction & Festival featuring "Pride in Season" returns to Trinchero Family Estates on Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event features wineries pouring their latest releases, top Napa restaurants and local specialty food purveyors, live entertainment, barrel tasting and auction of 107 lots, plus an e-auction featuring 162 lots comprised of rare wine and wine collections.

Attendees at this year's auction can attend private hospitality events on both Thursday and Friday nights, hosted by participating wineries.

New for Saturday is "Good Morning Napa," featuring cooking demos, breakfast goodies and wine tasting with vintners at Copia. On Sunday, there are winery open houses throughout Napa Valley.

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