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A Night to Remember in Napa

David Savona
Posted: April 13, 2004
On a pristine night in the Napa Valley, tuxedo-clad cigar lovers from around the country gathered at the Niebaum-Coppola winery for Cigar Aficionado's 12th Anniversary Night To Remember Dinner. The evening was a celebration of fine wine, great food and classic cigars, and raised a record $1.6 million for The Prostate Cancer Foundation. It was April 1, the traditional night of celebration for this charity dinner, but the first time the dinner was held outside of New York City.

Two hundred forty of the elite from the worlds of business, sports, entertainment, gastronomy, wines and cigars gathered that night. They were greeted by hosts Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado magazine, and Francis Ford Coppola, the acclaimed Hollywood director who owns the famed Napa Valley winery. The attendees included radio personality Rush Limbaugh, hockey great Wayne Gretzky and his wife, actress Janet Jones, financier Michael Milken, basketball coach Rick Pitino, John Salley, the former National Basketball Association star who is now a commentator on "The Best Damn Sports Show Period," baseball's legendary manager Tommy Lasorda, General Motors president Gary Cowger, director James Orr, Jamie Coulter, chief executive office of the Del Frisco's Steak House chain, Ed Rabin, CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corp., Richard P. Torykian Sr., director of Lazard Freres & Co., Michael Moone of Luna Vineyards and many more.

Former NBA star John Salley shares a smoke and a laugh with auctioneer Marvin R. Shanken.
From the cigar world, Theo Folz, Jim Colucci and Janelle Rosenfeld from Altadis U.S.A. were there, along with Carlos Fuente Jr. and Wayne Suarez from Tabacalera A. Fuente, Jose Orlando Padrón and Jorge Padrón from Padrón Cigars Inc., Edgar M. Cullman Jr. and Sherwin Seltzer, from General Cigar Holdings Inc., Robert Levin, Manny Ferrero and Chip Goldeen of Ashton Distributors, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo from El Credito Cigars, Tim Ozgener of C.A.O. International, Alberto and Alejandro Turrent from Te-Amo, Peter Baenninger, David Kitchens and Matt Arcella of Davidoff, John Oliva Jr. of Oliva Tobacco and Ruben Ysidron of Savinelli.

The food was prepared by some of the world's finest and best-known chefs. Piero Selvaggio handled hors d'oeuvres, Charlie Palmer the appetizer, Emeril Lagasse the entrée and Thomas Keller the dessert.

Celebrity chefs Piero Selvaggio, Charlie Palmer, Emeril Lagasse and Thomas Keller join hockey great Wayne Gretzky.
After a cocktail hour of cigars, sparkling wines and cocktails, the diners made their way to the barrel room for dinner. Shanken, the evening's auctioneer, welcomed his guests to Napa, followed by Coppola. Shanken told the crowd that the Night to Remember dinner had raised $7 million for the charity, not including what was to follow that night. Milken matches each dollar raised with money of his own.

An auction of mystery wines raised $58,000 to get the evening started, and the first course arrived, a chilled crab and lobster salad with ruby gelée and American caviar prepared by Charlie Palmer. It was paired with an opulent rare white, a Marcassin Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Three Sisters Vineyard from 1999. Soon, waiters presented the first of the evening's three dinner cigars on silver trays, a Montecristo Platinum Mini-Belicoso.

The charity auction began with a weekend in wine country, won by University of Louisville coach Pitino with a $16,000 bid. The ever-popular Montecristo Cup package, donated by Jim Colucci and Altadis U.S.A. Inc., went for $12,000 to Carl Doumani, founder of Quixote winery. A dozen bottles of 2000 vintage Bordeaux from the region's top Chäteaus donated by Don and Christina Zacharia of Zachys in Scarsdale, New York, sold for $25,000 to Ian Cumming, chairman of Leucadia National.

Marvin R. Shanken begins the auction in the Barrel Room at the Niebaum-Coppola Winery.
Richard Santulli, chairman of NetJets, donated the flight to remember, five hours of travel on a private Gulfstream IV-SP, complete with flight attendant. It was won with a $41,000 bid by John Schnatter. Steve Eiseman, a NetJets vice president, won an extraordinary dinner for him and up to 70 guests in the Del Frisco's restaurant of his choice. He and his friends will have cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and a dinner of lobster and prime steak with all the trimmings, plus wine. The lot sold for $24,000.

Star chef Emeril Lagasse introduced the main course, a grilled milk-fed veal chop with a prosciutto-wild mushroom salad. The rich dish was paired with a Padrón Serie 1926 No. 2 Belicoso Maduro and a Niebaum-Coppola Rubicon Rutherford 1997.

A collection of limited-edition humidors full of La Gloria Cubana Serie R cigars and signed by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo sold for $14,000 to Fred Furth, president of Chalk Hill Winery. A limited-edition, 500-cigar Ashton humidor, 500 Ashton VSG and Ashton Heritage cigars, plus a golf vacation at Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Los Cabos, Mexico, went for $24,000 to Jamie Coulter of Del Frisco's. The lot was donated by Robert Levin, president of Ashton Distributors, and Luis Fernandes, managing director of Las Ventanas. Coulter, an active bidder this evening, also purchased the Las Vegas Weekend Getaway for $20,000, which included VIP treatment at Caesars Palace and much more. A signed and numbered limited-edition serigraph created by Michel Delacroix, plus 128 Montecristo Platinum cigars, went for $10,000 to Chuck Palombini, president of Kobrand Corp. The lot was donated by Janelle Rosenfeld and Altadis U.S.A. Matthew Arcella, owner of several cigar stores in Las Vegas, Nevada, won a treasure trove of rare Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars for $27,000. Chuck Wagner, owner and winemaker of Caymus Vineyards, won a trip to New Zealand. The lot, which was donated by Palombini, sold for $26,000.

Theo Folz of Altadis U.S.A. sits with his wife Connie (right) and Linda Colucci.
Thomas Klein, chairman of Rodney Strong Vineyard, won a vacation at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic, first-class airfare, rounds of golf at Teeth of the Dog and Dye Fore, and more than 650 cigars. The $12,000 lot was donated by Theo Folz, president and CEO of Altadis U.S.A. An array of 800 Padrón cigars in commemorative humidors went for $19,000 to Ray Duncan of Silver Oak Cellars. The lot was donated by Padrón cigars. Gary Cowger, president of General Motors North America, donated a 2005 Cadillac XLR, which sold for $90,000 to Rush Limbaugh. A five-day cruise on Coulter's private 141-foot luxury yacht, the Relentless, was won with a $100,000 bid from Arizona businessman Paul Fleming and Jeff Gargiulo.

Keith Park, president of Prometheus International Inc., won a wardrobe at Zegna for $16,000. The lot was donated by Richard Cohen, president and CEO of Ermenegildo Zegna. Tim Ozgener, vice president of cigarmaker C.A.O. International Inc., won a trip that will make him a winemaker at the Mondavi winery with a $22,000 bid. The lot was donated by American Airlines and R. Michael Mondavi and the Robert Mondavi family.

Beth Nickel, Jamie Coulter and Tommy Lasorda.
Thomas Keller prepared the dessert course, a praline and caramel gàteau with praline ice cream, which was paired with a classic dessert wine, a Dolce Late Harvest 2000 from the Napa Valley. The final cigar of the evening was passed out with dessert, a massive nine-inch Fuente Fuente OpusX "A," presented in its own wooden box.

The final lot, Marvin's Mystery Box, began with a beautiful Elie Bleu humidor decorated with genuine Cuban cigar bands. It also consisted of a vacation at the Caribbean resort of Cap Jaluca on Anguilla, complete with first-class airfare on American Airlines, plus three stellar vintages of Caymus Special Selection wines, 12 pairs of Ferragamo shoes, a golf outing with Shanken, a guaranteed $100 winning ticket for the Super Bowl (Shanken put $100 on each team to win) and an envelope filled with cash. After many bids, the lot was finally won for $120,000 by Coulter.

The auction raised $676,000 for prostate cancer research, and with the inclusion of the net proceeds from the dinner, plus matching money from Milken, the total amount raised was $1.6 million.

Enter the Night To Remember Photo Gallery

Photos by Kent Hanson

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