ST. HELENA -- Bloom may be still a few weeks away for local winegrape vines, but economic conditions for the industry's key consumers appear to be in full bloom, given the record-fast sellout of tickets to the upcoming 33rd annual Auction Napa Valley fundraiser (auctionnapavalley.org) May 30--June 2 and brimming guest logs at area hotels, according to organizers.
About 2,000 tickets were sold for the opening of the barrel auction at Raymond Vineyards on May 31 and about 800 the following day for the live auction and festivities at Meadowood Napa Valley resort.
"It's a great sign for everyone," said Linda Reiff, executive director of Napa Valley Vintners, a St. Helena-based trade group that organizes the auction. The ticket sellout in April was the earliest in the event's history, she said.
A number of the largest local hotels have told the association they are booked up for the weekend.
"There is a direct correlation between money raised at the auction and the economy," Ms. Reiff said.
Though a gauge of wine aficionado enthusiasm, the bidding isn't a pricing benchmark, said vintner Garen Staglin, honorary auction chairman.
"It's irrational generosity," he said.
More than $7 million was donated to local health care, housing and children's education from 2012 auction proceeds. That brings the giving total over 32 years to $110 million.
The vintners' group earlier this month committed $3 million from last year's proceeds and those of 2013--2014 to expanding preschool and English education. Nearly half the valley's kindergarteners are new to the language, and by the third grade that shortfall is linked to significantly lower test performance, according to the organization.
Many of the group's 450-plus members contribute auction lots of who's-who wines as well as luxury trips and events, and fly in and fete bidders, media and visiting star chefs on Thursday and Friday nights.
The auction of 100 barrel lots gives a taste of coming vintages. The live auction will have 45 lots plus a special lot. An Internet-based E-Auction has 170 lots, and bidding opens May 26 at noon.
Auction donations don't include the more than 500 volunteers from the community and local hospitality industry.