Billed as "an intimate evening of couture fashion, cuisine and fine wines," Gems of Napa was much more. Think of it as a wine dinner that dreams are made of, as some of the valley's finest wines – and winemakers – accompanied uber fashion designer Rubin Singer. Proceeds from the event support the V Foundation for cancer research, which kicks off its 19th Annual Wine Celebration today.
Gems of Napa was hosted by the famous wine pair - Gina Gallo and Jean-Charles Boisset at their private home, which was previously owned by Robert and Margrit Mondavi.
"Jean-Charles and Gina, longtime supporters of the V Foundation Wine Celebration, were incredibly generous to offer their stunning home on Wappo Hill in Yountville as the backdrop for Rubin Singer's fashion show," said V Wine Celebration board member Amy Dornbusch. "I know myself and my fellow vintners are thrilled to begin this week's V events by slipping into Rubin's gorgeous gowns to showcase his Resort 2018 collection."
"Wine is the epicenter of generosity, and the catalyst for giving," said Jean-Charles Boisset. "Last night's fundraising dinner was a remarkable celebration of friendship and community, led by the charming and wonderful leading ladies of winemaking in Napa Valley."
The singular event was an auction item at last year's V Foundation gala. The evening began with a red carpet entrance and cocktail reception, where guests could mingle with the "Gems" of Napa Valley: Gina Gallo, E&J Gallo Winery; Michelle Baggett, Alpha Omega Winery; Heidi Barrett, La Sirena; Blakesley Chappellet, Chappellet Winery; Beth Nickel, Far Niente Winery; Amy Marks Dornbusch, Gemstone Vineyard and Helen Keplinger, Keplinger Wines. Each wearing a custom Singer design.
Guests also had the chance to meet with Singer whose designs are well-known. He has designed clothes for numerous celebrities such as Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Sharon Stone, Taylor Swift in addition to several private clients for society events such as the Asian Art Museum and the MoMa opening.
"Singer created a Mad Men meets Monet dress for me that was both timeless and modern. The simplicity of the cut allowed the fabric to be the star. I felt like I was draped in an impressionist painting," said Blakesley Chappellet, author of the newly released coffee-table book Napa Valley Entertaining.
Gems of Napa stylist, Victoria Hitchcock said "It was a treat to see these talented winemakers in Rubin's designs! "To top it off, we got to taste their wines with each dinner course in a picture-perfect setting."
This event raised more than $100,000 that went toward the V Foundation, which was founded by legendary college basketball coach Jim Valvano. "We were touched by the spirit of generosity for a cause that has touched us all," said Gina Gallo. "The ultimate defeat of cancer in our lifetime!"
"The V Foundation Wine Celebration is one of the most important charity events my husband, Robin, and I participate in each year," said Alpha Omega vintner Michelle Baggett. "Because we both lost our mothers to cancer, we know how haunting this disease can be. The V Foundation is one of the premier cancer fighting foundations in the world and we stand by them 100% in their efforts to uncover preventative medicines and cures for cancer."
The V Foundation Wine Celebration takes place the first week of August every year. It is the main fundraising event of the V Foundation and features dozens of auction items, ranging from sports to music to couture. In addition, there are wine luncheons, cocktail parties, research symposium and a wide range of other events.
"My family has been involved with the wine celebration since its inception 19 years ago, said Dornbusch. "We raise the bar every year and find unique ways to bring together the world of winemaking, sports, Silicon Valley tech, investment and cutting-edge medicine to find a cure for cancer. We've raised more than $80 million through this annual event and it's just incredible the progress those dollars have made."
One of the most memorable moments of the Gems of Napa event was when Julie Allegro spoke. She is the Founder and Chair of The V Foundation Wine Celebration and her passion for this cause is inspiring. "We are going the distance. We are going to see a cure for cancer in our lifetime," said Allegro. "Tonight we honor those we've lost to cancer, including my dear friend Gil Nickel who would always remind me that we are just one miracle away from a cure. Just one miracle away." The late Gil Nickel was the proprietor of Napa Valley's Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel wineries. He passed away in 2003 of melanoma.
"Gil was an extremely intelligent, passionate, and generous man who pursued his dreams with wit and wisdom," said Beth Nickel, Gil's wife. "The V Foundation and the many doctors and cancer researchers the foundation benefits carries on Gil's charge-ahead spirit, as they lead the fight every day to defeat this wide-spread disease that somehow touches everyone. He was very courageous as he battled melanoma and approached it with his usual precise, rocket scientist logic and determination. He was truly one in a million."
The V Wine Celebration officially starts today with several intimate vintner dinners. Friday's activities include a Presidents Club & Vintner Grant Honorees Luncheon and the "Rock the V" party at the Vintage Estate Pavilion in Yountville. The grand finale takes place Saturday with the Answer for Cancer Research Symposium, and Super Silent Auction & Marketplace, followed by the spirited Gala Auction & private concert performance by Michael Franti at the gorgeous Nickel & Nickel Estate Winery.