Auction Napa Valley
This very well could have been the story about how I met Tango, the six-year-old male Cheetah who is a minor celebrity, having appeared in several commercials (which gives him more acting cred than most of the human actors that I know), and then watched baby jaguars drink from baby bottles.
But it’s not.
It might have been the story of partying with the young female staff from Clos du Val, who were wearing Victoria’s Secret angel wings at the time, after touching the America’s Cup (yes, that America’s Cup).
But it’s not.
It’s not even the story of how I tasted (more like guzzled, in some cases) coveted California reds like Screaming Eagle, Spottswoode, Scarecrow and Palmaz, all within less than twenty-four hours. Or how I attended an impromptu performance by wunderkind violinist Charles Yang. Or how the 2012 incarnation of Auction Napa Valley, held at the luxurious Meadowood Resort off the Silverado Trail in St. Helena, raised over $8 million for health, hospice and housing charities by gathering celebrities, wine personalities, and (very) wealthy and (very) generous folks to bid on a lot of wine coupled with experiences such as dinner with Superbowl legend Joe Montana, a 12-day African safari (that’s where Tango came in – and he even has his own Chappellet wine to go with it), VIP access to the 2012 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show (hence the angle wing attire), and a private concert from Grammy-award-collectors Lady Antebellum.
No, this is actually the story of how I almost got bulldozed over by Emeril Lagasse. Yeah, that Emeril Lagasse, the one they call “Chef” without using the rest of his name because he’s that bad-ass. And his New Orleans style brass band – they almost bulldozed me, too.
It’s not as if my stint at Auction Napa Valley 2012, where all of the above took place – on the same day, I should add, and not while I was dreaming after overdoing it on spicy Thai food the night before – needed to be any more surreal than it already was before I got in Emeril’s way. It was just the tale-to-tell-the-grandkids icing on the bizarro-world cake at that point.
It happened like this: I was sitting with the aforementioned Clos du Val angels at the back of the luxury tent that housed table after table of winemakers, media, celebrities and auction bidders on the Meadowood lawn, and the Auction was a bit more than halfway through the lots. I then got a text message from a friend who was sitting at another table, just right of the stage and practically on the stage itself, inviting me to check out the view over at his table. Why not, right? Good opportunity to take pictures, and since every table had a different vintner with their killer Napa wines being poured, I figured what the hell - let’s mix it up.
That’s when I got in Emeril’s way. I grabbed a seat at my buddy’s table, with my back to the audience, and figured I’d be under the radar since most everyone’s attention was focused squarely on the bidding happening on the stage to my left.
I hadn’t counted on Chef, though.
Chef came charging into the tent several minutes later, to much fanfare and applause and with a band and two police escorts in tow, fresh from having cooked dinner (with help from the Meadowood staff) for the few hundred Auction-goers. Instead of looping around to the far lefthand side of the stage where the steps were, Emeril went for the most direct path to the stage, because that’s how Emeril rolls. A direct path that lead straight to my seat; the one with about six inches of clearance between its legs and the edge of the stage.
Chef is not a tall man but he is anything but a frail man. He certainly weighs more than I do, which you should treat is an educated assessment since I had to use all of my strength to level the chair steady when Emeril grabbed it (along with my arm, which was draped over the chair’s back) and hauled himself onto the stage, to much fanfare and applause. At that point, I wasn’t thinking about the surrealism so much as focusing on the fact that, if I failed to steady the chair I was likely going to fall flat on top of Chef, and be tazed (or shot) by his police escort and (maybe worse) never be invited back to the madness of Auction Napa Valley ever again.
Once Emeril passed by, all of what seemed like the 700 members of his Big Easy style brass troupe used the same stage entrance pathway, made slightly more accessible by the jamming of my body between the table and my chair, which probably gave them a much roomier seven inches of clearance versus the more claustrophobic six inches we were working with there for Chef’s entrance. At that point, I wasn’t thinking about the surrealism so much as focusing on being able to breathe enough not to pass out, and trying to avoid getting clobbered in the head by trombone, bass drum, or tuba (or having any of them lay a Voodoo curse on me for all eternity).
I’m happy to report that all ended well, Emeril and crew made it safely on stage, I suffered only minor bruises to my pride, and Chef went on to literally auction off the shirt off his back.
That’s my story, people. Cheetah, jaguars, angels, trophies, private Classical concerts, Big Easy bands, a whole hell of a lot of great wine… and Chef; all in the same day, all in the same place, all while lucidly awake, and only at Auction Napa Valley.