Capitol Hill was filled with the clinking of wine glasses on Oct. 5 as members of Congress gathered with their staff members and wine aficionados at the Premium Wine Auction to benefit the Bush-Clinton Katrina Relief Fund. The event, which was the brainchild of Rep. Mike Thompson (D) of California and was hosted by the Congressional Wine Caucus, raised $112,700 to aid the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
Vintners from California, Oregon, Washington, Virginia and New York donated wines to the event, as did California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who gave a bottle of 2001 Niebaum-Coppola Rubicon to be auctioned.
"If we can come forward and help our neighbors in the Gulf states, it's important for us to do so," said Thompson. "The wine community [is doing] just that."
The bipartisan Congressional Wine Caucus was founded by Thompson and co-chair Rep. George Radanovich (R-Calif.) to educate legislators about issues involving the wine industry and wine consumers.
In addition to the more than 250 guests in attendance, Radanovich, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, also of California, raised their paddles to support the Katrina Relief Fund.
While the need for assistance to the hurricane-damaged areas is serious, the event was not without its lighter moments. Thompson joked that Pelosi came with pages of research to help her bid on several favorite wines, while another guest said that she was buying a bottle of Screaming Eagle as a birthday gift for her husband instead of purchasing the big-screen TV he requested. "The wine will age better," Thompson quipped.
The top auction lot, which sold for $8,000, included a pair of four-day passes to the 2006 Auction Napa Valley and accommodations at a vineyard guesthouse. The top single-bottle lot was a magnum of 2002 Screaming Eagle, which sold for $2,900. By the end of the evening, the live auction bids had garnered $49,500, while silent bids earned an additional $33,500.
"The charity wine auction is our small contribution [to hurricane survivors]," said Thompson. "And if it makes people better understand wine, well, that's an added plus."
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions