The 33rd annual Auction of Washington Wines (AWW) took its gavel online this year, raising over $1.8 million for Seattle Children's Hospital and Washington State University's viticulture and enology program through a series of virtual events. More than 130 wineries donated wine and exclusive packages for the event, held Aug. 11–15. The live virtual auction on Aug. 15 was streamed on YouTube and raised $475,000.
The total fell short of last year's $2.4 million in live bids, but organizers were pleased. "It wasn't until mid-April when we realized large-scale in-person events might not be possible, so it was a hectic pace to pull together the event in August," said Jamie Peha, the event's executive director. "For this year, with over $1.8 million raised, we're ecstatic with the results."
Over 600 guests from across the country tuned in to the live auction gala, which included musical performances. Auctioneers David Silverman and Fred Northup Jr. emceed the event. Wine lots included the "Legacy of Leonetti," which contained a 22-year vertical from Walla Walla’s Leonetti Cellars and sold for $12,000. "Hop on the List," a collection of 10 3-liter bottles of Cayuse, also sold for $12,000.
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Another top lot was a private pool party with musical artist Macklemore, to be held post-pandemic, which sold to 12 separate couples for a total of $72,000. A private tour of Napa Valley with wine author and AWW honorary chair Karen MacNeil also made some noise, selling for $22,500.
Despite a string of cancellations and postponements, charity wine auctions are bouncing back and bringing new ideas to the table which might have a lasting impact on auctions in a post-pandemic world.
"We saw people register and tune in to our events who are new to AWW," said Peha. "Because this digital format attracted people who have never attended our in-person events, we are considering complementing our in-person events with a digital component moving forward."
Since its inception in 1988, AWW has raised more than $51 million and has consistently been one of the nation's top charity wine events.