A weekend filled with good wine and a great cause – this was the theme of last weekend for me and many Napa Valley vintners and friends. It was the weekend of the annual Jimmy V Foundation Wine Celebration.
Growing up, I remember watching the ESPY Awards on television when I was really little. I remember sitting in the den, listening to Jimmy Valvano give what I would now consider to be his most renowned speech of his life upon accepting a brand new award at the time called the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. I also recall feeling happy that Jimmy V won it and then sad because even as a little kid, I could tell he knew he was not going to win his fight against cancer. He died a few weeks later.
The story and life of Jimmy V is one I know well. As a devout fan of all things Duke, mainly because that’s where my eldest brother attended college as an undergrad, I naturally followed ACC basketball. And inevitably, Jimmy V’s name always came into play when talking about ACC basketball since he had been the longtime coach of NC State before working with ESPN. This story stayed close to me as the ACC basketball theme continued in my life when I moved down south to attend college at UNC-Chapel Hill. And to this day, it still remains close to my heart, largely because of this yearly weekend celebration and fundraising event for the V Foundation.
Because of the overwhelming generosity of Beth Nickel, of Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel Winery, and many other Napa Valley vintners and friends came together to raise funds to fight cancer and support research including Cyril & Blakesley Chappellet of Chappellet , Dick & Ann Grace of Grace Family, Chuck & Ann McMinn of Vineyard 29, Launny & Weezie Steffens of Vineyard 7 & 8, Leslie & Susie Rudd of Rudd, Hi Sang Lee & Young Hwa Chung of Dana Estate, Jeff & Valerie Gargiulo of Gargiulo Vineyards, Freddie & Mary Constant of Constant, Philippe & Cherie Melka of Melka Wines and Gemstone, Cliff Lede and many other great vintners and wineries.
The V Foundation gave thanks to the physicians on the board working tirelessly to cure cancer in laboratories, research centers and hospitals. Later Coach K came to the stage to give a pretty remarkable speech reminding us why we were all there. Tributes were given to those attending the dinner that have beat cancer as well as those currently fighting the fight. There were many in the audience I would consider to be a friend that are in one of those camps and it was truly remarkable to actually see their courage and strength and then to watch others in our community support them that evening during the live auction. I later found out that night that the total amount raised throughout the weekend was close to $9 million.
This past Saturday evening was very moving, inspirational and emotional and filled with some serious laughter (Coach K can be pretty funny when he wants to be), a few tears and most importantly, generous donations given to fight this disease. The passion and desire to help wasn’t just palpable, it literally filled the tent.
I can’t think of one person who doesn’t know someone or have a friend or relative who has survived or died from cancer. And for all the good that Napa Valley vintners do for many great causes, I think this is one of the most important. Below are a few photos I took and a video of Coach K thanking Beth Nickel for the great wine she donated that evening for all of us to enjoy. If you haven’t attended or been involved in the past and would like to be a part of this weekend in some way next year, visit their V Foundation Wine Celebration website. – Kerrin Laz, Wine Director