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Benefit Event Raises $340,000 for Wiegand Family

Daniel Sogg
Posted: February 7, 2000

Friends and colleagues of wine writer Ronn Wiegand -- including many of the leading names in the California wine community -- turned out in Napa Valley on Friday, Feb. 4, to support the Wiegand Family Benefit Dinner and Wine Auction. Wiegand (publisher of industry newsletter "Restaurant Wine"), his wife, Brenda Boblitt, and their 15-year-old twin sons, Ehren and Hubert, were victims of a serious automobile accident on Nov. 7, 1999.

The 300 guests who gathered for a four-course dinner at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena shared an exciting and emotional evening that began with an appearance by Wiegand, who is on crutches as he slowly recovers from hip reconstruction surgery. The event ended with a live auction that brought the evening's total to $340,000.

The high bids of the night were $21,000 by Peter Ventura, co-CEO of Opus One, for a collection of rare wines from Oakville growers, and $17,000 by winemaker Tim Mondavi for a weekend in the Russian River Valley, along with an extensive collection of the region's wines. Caymus owner Chuck Wagner paid $10,500 for a luxury weekend in New York, including two tickets to this year's California Wine Experience, sponsored by Wine Spectator publisher Marvin R. Shanken.

Wiegand and Boblitt have lived in Napa for 20 years, and the wine industry rallied to help them following their accident. "This would have been the envy of any charity auction in the country," said auctioneer Fritz Hatton. "I was taken aback by the incredible generosity shown by so many vintners and personalities in the wine business who were able to organize such an outstanding event in such a short time."

About 350 companies and individuals contributed 370 lots for the live auction, a silent auction at the dinner and accompanying online auctions at Winebid.com. The gifts came not only from California but also from the international wine community. Among those who donated travel packages to some of the world's top wine regions were the Wine Institute of New Zealand, the German Wine Academy and Port producer George Sandeman.

Nearly $200,000 was raised from 40 superlots at the live auction. The revenue from the event, which was underwritten by Wine Spectator and organized by Balzac Communications & Marketing, will help cover the Wiegand family's medical and living expenses. While the boys returned to school soon after the accident, Boblitt could remain hospitalized for several more months.

Winebid.com, which brought in $38,000 with its first online auction of 200 lots, will host a second online auction for the Wiegand family from Feb. 10 through Feb. 20.

Financial contributions can be made to the Wiegand Family Fund, account number 094268174, Bank of the West, 3300 Jefferson St., Napa, Calif., 94558.

-- Daniel Sogg

Check out the ten biggest lots sold at the auction.

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For past reports:

  • Jan. 19, 2000
    Online Wine Auction Will Benefit Wiegand Family

  • Nov. 19, 1999
    Wine Expert and Wife Face Long Recovery After Accident

  • Nov. 10, 1999
    California-Based Wine Expert and Family Injured in Accident

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