It was plenty hot at the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction on Aug. 31, and it wasn’t just the temperature. Vintners raised a record $4 million, more than double the $1.5 million haul of last year. By the end of the three-day Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, a total of $5 million had been raised for local charities.
“This is a very big deal for Sonoma County,” said winemaker Dan Goldfield, president of the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation.
The fun started a day earlier on Aug. 30 at Taste of Sonoma. A crowd of 2,500 mingled on the grounds of MacMurray Ranch outside Healdsburg, taking in wine seminars and cooking demonstrations. More than 200 different wines were poured and dozens of area chefs served finger foods.
The next day, more than 700 people gathered for the live auction on the lawn at Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood, where the 90-degree-plus heat seemed apropos to the African safari theme. Auctioneer Scott Robertson maintained a lively pace as attendees kept cool with plenty of chilled wines. (Wine Spectator was one of several sponsors of the auction.)
The high point of the auction was the annual Fund-the-Future lot. Dozens of bidders individually pledged anything from $500 to $100,000 to improve childhood literacy programs in the county. Children from area schools filled the stage as the song “Celebration” rocked the tent. By the time the gavel fell, the bids had raised a total of $1.6 million.
Top contributors included Tom Klein, owner of Rodney Strong Vineyards, Corey Beck, general manager of Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Katie Jackson of Jackson Family Wines and Joe Anderson, owner of Benovia Winery.
The top-selling lots included two $110,000 bids for a luxury 10-day African safari sponsored by the Gallo Family, raising $220,000. Twenty-five couples each bid $10,000 for an extravagant dinner prepared by six James Beard Award–winning chefs at Hamel Family Winery, bringing in $250,000.
Ellie Price, owner of Durell Vineyard and Dunstan Wines, had the winning bid of $100,000 for a three-night stay for four and private dinners at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee organized by Williams Selyem. “It just captivated our interest and I love Williams Selyem wines,” Price said. “And it’s always good to give a little bit back.”
There were also emotional tributes to two longtime auctiongoers who passed away this year—Hanzell Vineyards winemaker Bob Sessions and David Reynolds, a longtime auctioneer for the event.
Women vintners gather on stage for the Magnum Force lot at Sonoma's Harvest Auction.
Attendees gathered at Chateau St. Jean in Sonoma Valley.
Auctioneer Scott Robertson (vest) led local kids in a cheer as bidders donated to the Fund a Need Lot.