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Thomas Keller, Morimoto and Napa Hottie Extravaganza At Auction Napa Valley 2011

It's been a whole year since we launched The Swill with Courtney Cochran's coverage of the Napa Valley Wine Auction 2010. This year, she brings an inside look at the Auction Napa Valley Barrel Auction & Marketplace, which went down on Friday. Notable sidenote: the main live auction happened on Saturday at Meadowood, raising 7.3 million and pushing the Auction Napa Valley tally to over $100 million across its 31-year history. Now let's hop to the recap.

[Photo: Ashley Teplin]

Thomas Keller, Rob Mondavi, Jr., the ever-lovely Margrit Mondavi, Andrea Immer Robinson, Tyler Florence's peeps with new wine on offer, food trucks for the first time ever—this year’s Auction Napa Valley Barrel Auction & Marketplace at the CIA Greystone in St. Helena offered the usual food-and-wine fabulosity and then some. I almost didn't miss the sun. With no shortage of betting, noshing, sipping, flirting, deal-making, networking, backslapping and who knows what else going on, I managed to gather together a handful of helpful tips for well-financed oenophiles and other onlookers.

Though I missed high five-ing Morimoto this year by a paltry three minutes, I consoled myself knowing I could pass on some handy dos and don'ts. Here goes:

DO: Skip the food trucks. This was the first time trucks were incorporated into the event, and let's just say more was less. We hit the trucks first, causing us to miss the final food terrace, where the honorable Morimoto and his "Angry Octopus" dish were stationed.

DON’T: Skimp on time in the barrel tasting room. This is where you can chat it up
with the likes of Rob Mondavi, Jr., on hand in a natty seersucker suit to thieve
bottomless tastes of Napa Cabs from barrels. It’s where all the flirting goes on, plus
hilarious antics like rich guys getting doused in vino while wearing white. This
year’s take from the Dutch-style barrel auction? A cool $1.2 million.

DO: Stalk wine celebrities. I exercised this mandate when I tracked down Heidi Peterson Barrett, the cult-famous female winemaker who catapulted Screaming Eagle to fame. She let me in on a bit of a secret. She and husband Bo—who was portrayed in Bottle Shock—have imminent plans to release a shared wine label called Barrett & Barrett.

DON’T: Underestimate the size of this event. With some 100 wineries offering barrel samples, 120 more pouring tastes from bottle, dozens of restaurants dishing tastes and some 2,000 other revelers in festive garb, it’s like a wine-splashed prom, without all the teenage angst and underage drinking. Given the event’s awkward layout at the CIA, you need to strategically work this party from all angles with an eye on the clock.

DO: Wear a cool hat, rain or shine. I actually wore the same one from last year and two people I’d seen at last year’s event told me they loved my “new” hat. Perhaps at
Auction Napa Valley’s Marketplace, we all look shiny and new, even those of us who
steal in gratis with a press pass.

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