Some of the world’s greatest performers have graced the sets at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif. But for the 1,400 attendees at the 29th annual Culinary Evening with the California Winemasters, held May 19, the true heroes were people like Grace Rose Bauer, the event’s honorary ambassador and a 15-year-old cystic fibrosis patient and success story, thanks in part to the $32 million that the event has raised for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation since its inception.
The 2018 auction generated $1.74 million for the foundation, including $475,000 in live-auction bids, $300,000 in silent auctions and $500,000 from its special “Bid for a Cure” Fund-a-Need lot.
“Our audience has watched our Winemasters Ambassador Grace Rose grow up before their eyes,” Barbara Balik, director of special giving for the CF Foundation, told Wine Spectator. “Many in the audience are very attached to Grace Rose, who emphasizes [that] their generosity is what gives her hope.” CF is a genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.
The event offered more than 780 live- and silent-auction lots that included lifestyle, wine and travel offerings. Most of the night’s highest bids included a wine component, said Balik, like the top live-auction lot, a two-person, 12-day vacation to Argentina, featuring private wine tours and tastings organized by Alex Guarachi of Guarachi Wine Partners, which sold for $44,000. Other highlights included a case of 1982 Bordeauxs, featuring Château La Mission Haut-Brion, Château Cheval-Blanc and more, that sold for $35,000, and a seven-day trip to Portugal for two people, with two Port tastings, for $32,000.
“We have also put tremendous emphasis on our silent auctions, so that everyone can go home with a lifestyle, wine lot or travel package,” said Balik, alluding to offerings like the 6-bottle lot of 1990 Château Mouton-Rothschild and a 4-bottle collection of Aubert wines, each of which sold for $3,000.
With chefs from 50 restaurants, including Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner Toscana, and wines from 75 California wineries, including Antica Napa Valley, Paul Hobbs and Caymus, guests had plenty to eat and drink. A final end-of-the-summer wine dinner at the Shade Hotel in Redondo Beach on Sept. 16, featuring wine pairings and a silent auction, will officially conclude the festivities.
While “there’s truly something for everyone” says Balik, benefiting CF patients is what largely helps to bring guests back every year. “When Winemasters began, children with CF lived until their early teens, and now, our CF patients are living into their late forties and beyond,” she said. “Not good enough, but quite an improvement.”