In Napa, Pricey Wine and Charity Mix

Oprah attends the Napa Valley Wine Auction.

Oprah attends the Napa Valley Wine Auction. John McChesney, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption John McChesney, NPR

The Napa Valley Wine Auction raises about $10 million each year to help migrant workers.

Many of those workers live in circumstances that are a stark contrast to the participants who pay up to $2,500 just to experience the weekend.

Its promoters say the lavish gathering is one of the largest charity events in the country. Nearly 3,000 people came to the Napa Valley for three days of dinner parties, lunches, and food served up by the area's best restaurants.

A walk on on the television show Gray's Anatomy sold for $480,000. And then came six magnums of the cult wine Screaming Eagle.

Twice now, $500,000," the auctioneer said. "Sold, 500,000 dollars. Paddle 23."

In case you're wondering, that comes to about $7,000 a glass. And it belongs to David Li, who at age 32 is a Shanghai multi-billionaire.

In the center of the auction tent sits Oprah Winfrey like a queen, surrounded by vintners trying to get her to sample their wares. She has about 20 glasses in front of her. She says she used to drink French wines.

"Now I'm a Napa girl," Winfrey said.

In spite of some feelings that the event has lost sight of what the wine industry is all about — and worries over a slumping economy — the dollars flowed like wine at the auction. The final take was $10.4 million, just shy of the record.

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