Among the bright lights and celebrities gracing our valley for last weekend's big wine auction, none shine so vividly on the international stage as the provocative author, Isabel Allende.
Her fans are passionate and legion, and Allende is a platinum-selling, bona fide "rock star" of the literary world. Yet Allende slipped quietly into St. Helena Saturday evening, without entourage, in the company of her hosts Agustin and Valeria Huneeus, the proprietors of Rutherford's Quintessa, to make her contribution to the fund-raising and festivities.
The three have been close friends for nearly 20 years, bonding in San Francisco through the shared experience of being transplanted ex-pats -- exiles from the turbulent politics of 1970s Chile who now count themselves Californians. But beyond this, the three share an indomitable joie de vivre, perhaps more appropriately rendered in Spanish, gozo de la vida, and an appreciation of the necessity of wine and food and conversation to enliven the soul.
Both this alegria and the California-Chilean connection sparkled unpretentiously in Quintessa's live auction lot Saturday which offered up an intimate dinner party with the irrepressible Allende at the Huneeus' winery home -- a "quintessential fiesta" of Latin music, food and Isabel's spicy storytelling. The lot included a bonus of signed first editions of her latest bestseller and California historical novel, "Zorro." Ann Colgin's winning bid brought $130,000 to the Napa Valley Vintners' funds benefiting local health care, housing and youth development programs.
You can find the interview here