The surf was up and so was the spending at Sunday’s Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction, which raised $511,000 compared to last year’s $427,000. Whether it was an indication of better economic times or just the retro California beach party theme, the mood was chipper at the live auction at Cline Cellars.
The auction was the climax of Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, a three-day bacchanalia that also included winery soirees and Taste of Sonoma, a walk-around food-and-wine tasting that drew 2,500 people Saturday at Gallo’s MacMurray Ranch outside Healdsburg. The weekend overall raised $1.3 million for charity.
A bidding war broke out over the live auction’s top lot, Magnum Force, which was a collection of 58 magnum-size bottles, including Pride Viognier 2009 and Flowers Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2007. In the end the vintners agreed to duplicate the top bid of $58,000 (totaling $116,000) between both parties, Sonoma Valley grower Bob Friese and Rick Miron of Trilogy Glass, one of the sponsors of the lot.
It was the 31st year of wine auctions in various iterations and locations in Sonoma County. It was the 18th year for the Sonoma Valley auction and the 10th for Taste of Sonoma; the two events were combined into one weekend three years ago. (Wine Spectator was one of several sponsors.)
Proceeds benefit local hospitals, food banks and other charities. In one auction lot, hundreds of individual bidders paid $250 toward a total of $94,250 for Sonoma Valley’s La Luz Center, which provides housing and educational programs for vineyard workers and families.
The Beach Blanket Benziger lot was easily the most colorful moment as the crowd of 500 egged on the Benziger team—both male and female—as they came on stage dressed as blondes and in full Daisy Duke drag to Katy Perry’s song “California Gurls.” Again dozens of bidders pledged $500 to attend a party at the family’s Imagery Estate Winery in Glen Ellen, raising a total of $51,500.
Donna and Keith Strope of St. Louis paid $8,500 for a 173-bottle collection of wine, including Hanzell 2007 Pinot Noir and Landmark 2007 Overlook Chardonnay. “We need to replenish our wine cellar. We’re dangerously low,” said Keith, who’s a frequent attendee with his wife.
During the auction, bidders dined on a menu that included BLT salad, corn vichyssoise with prawns, lamb and beef roasted over wine barrel staves. Guest chefs included John Ash and Hubert Keller of Fleur De Lys.
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. More than 160 wineries poured samples, including Dutton-Goldfield, Patz & Hall and Ramey. Dozens of Sonoma chefs and restaurants offered food pairings such as chilled seafood gazpacho from El Dorado Kitchen and biscuits with house-cured ham from Zin restaurant.
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