With so many people cavorting in togas, it was easy to miss all the belt-tightening at Sunday’s Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction, but even that relentlessly zany event fell victim to tough economic times, raising $427,000 compared to 2008’s take of $705,500.
With a Greek and Roman bacchanal as its theme, the live auction at Cline Cellars was the finale of the three-day Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, which included exclusive lunches and dinners at wineries throughout the county and the Taste of Sonoma, a walk-around food-and-wine tasting that drew 2,500 people Saturday at Gallo’s MacMurray Ranch outside Healdsburg.
Organizers are still tallying the overall take for the weekend. Proceeds benefit local hospitals, food banks and other charities. (Wine Spectator was one of several sponsors of the auction.) After parting ways 17 years ago to form two separate auction events, Sonoma Valley and Sonoma County vintners combined their efforts again in 2008 and continued that partnership this year.
With harvest kicking into high gear this week, there was a surprising number of winemakers on hand at the weekend events. Ed and Adam Sbragia of Sbragia Family Winery were talking shop with Rodney Strong winemaker Rick Sayre before the auction. “We’re about a week behind last year,” Ed Sbragia said. “If this were a warmer weekend, none of us would be here.”
The live auction numbers were down in part because there were 22 fewer lots on offer than in 2008, but the shorter list kept the pace moving quickly. The auction has a well-earned reputation for silly antics, and this year was no exception. The top lot at the auction drew $51,000 for a toga party at Benziger Family Winery. With the song “Shout” from the movie Animal House blasting, Joe and Mike Benziger and crew danced onto the stage, kegs and beers in hand, bringing many of the crowd of 500 to their feet. Bidders held up their paddles to pay $500 each to attend the gathering next year.
The single high bid was $17,000 paid by Jim and Bettie Hill of Florida for a trip for two to Italy, lunch for 20 at the Sangiacomo Vineyard in Sonoma and a selection of wines that carry a Sangiacomo Vineyard designation. The largest single bidder was Elizabeth Smith of Sonoma who spent $51,000 on several lots.
During the auction, bidders dined on a menu that included local duck, lamb and cheeses prepared by area chefs such as Douglas Keane of Cyprus and John Toulze of The Girl & The Fig.
Saturday’s Taste of Sonoma offered cooking and wine seminars, and guests mingled through tents devoted to the wines of the county’s appellations: Russian River, Alexander, Dry Creek and Sonoma valleys. About 150 wineries poured samples, including Pride Mountain, Roessler and Hartford Family. More than 60 Sonoma chefs offered food pairings such as steak tartar from Stark’s Steak House and Black pig BLTs from Zazu restaurant.
While the auction drew a familiar-looking crowd of 35-and-olders, Taste of Sonoma seemed busy with Millennials. Honore Comfort, executive director of Sonoma County Vintners, said, “We did skew a lot younger this year.”
Homepage photo by George Rose
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions