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Northwest Wine Auction Rakes In Record $1.2 Million

Harvey Steiman
Posted: August 24, 1999

Music hath charms, goes the saying -- and not only that, it gets people to open their wallets for charity. Shortly after Kenny G charmed the Auction of Northwest Wines audience with a surprise musical interlude, bidding soared to 80 "Gs" for a barbecue dinner with the popular saxophonist.

The live music and dining package earned the high bid on Saturday evening at the annual auction, held at Chateau Ste. Michelle's Woodinville winery, in suburban Seattle. The impressive sum helped the event reach a record total of $1.2 million, up from last year's bottom line of $1.13 million. Proceeds benefit the uncompensated care program at Seattle's Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, which last year provided more than $27 million in free services to seriously ill children.

Several bidders in the crowd of 650 could not resist the promise of more musical entertainment by Kenny G, accompanied by dinner prepared by Chateau Ste. Michelle chef John Sarich, in the home of Starbucks Coffee founder and CEO Howard Schultz. The price quickly went to $40,000. Then, Kenny G, who had already warmed up the spectators with George and Ira Gershwin's "Summertime," coaxed a standing ovation by playing a soprano sax to a grainy video of the late Louis Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World."

When bidding resumed on the package, it took only about a minute to reach $80,000. Saul and Karen Gamoran of Seattle secured the prize for themselves and four other couples. "It went for more than we thought, but everybody generously agreed to pay their share," said Saul Gamoran.

The Seattle community, made wealthy by the soaring digital economy, showed particular enthusiasm for Washington wines. Bidding paddles shot up for lots involving local favorites such as Leonetti Cellar, Quilceda Creek Vintners, DeLille Cellars and Woodward Canyon Winery.

Oversized bottles of unique blends from DeLille, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Hedges Cellars upped the appeal of a $24,000 item -- a scavenger hunt for 12 to be held on the 110-foot Boeing yacht, the former Kaiser estate on Orcas Island and the waterfront home of Costco CEO Jim Sinegal. Also included: lunch prepared by top Seattle chefs and transportation between the locations by private jet, seaplane, Hummer and limousine.

Bidders paid $22,000 for dinner for 12 at Seattle's Metropolitan Grill, accompanied by unspecified wines to be provided by Gary Figgins of Leonetti and Dan Duckhorn of California's Duckhorn Winery. Another dining package -- dinner for 10, a barrel tasting and two oversized bottles of 1997 Cabernet from Dunham Cellars, a new Walla Walla winery -- earned $20,000. The most expensive wine-only lot, which took in $16,000, consisted of 6-liter bottles of the 1995, 1996 and yet-to-be-bottled 1997 vintages of Col Solare, the new joint venture between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Italy's Antinori.

Supermodel Cindy Crawford, who was billed as a celebrity guest along with Kenny G, drew $16,000 for her contribution, a photo shoot with her in New York or Los Angeles, including travel and accommodations.

The big moneymaker of the evening was a $100,000 challenge grant from the family foundation of Starbucks' Howard Schultz, who was the auction co-chair. Auctioneer Dick Friel, whose hypnotic, rhythmic style suggested a cross between rap music and a cattle auction, asked donors to raise their paddles to contribute directly to the Children's Hospital. The group rose to the occasion, giving $173,000, for a total of $273,000 including the foundation's grant.

The long evening started with a silent auction of donations from 59 wineries in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and ended after midnight. Dinner, prepared by Seattle area chefs, showcased several highlights. Melt-in-your-mouth smoked albacore tuna with grilled Yakima peaches from Charles Ramseyer of Ray's Boathouse matched seamlessly with several Oregon Pinot Noirs. A multilayered salad of sweet high-season tomatoes from Jan Birnbaum and Bryan Weener of Sazerac showed off Washington Sauvignon Blancs and Semillons to good effect. And a plate of duck cooked three ways, with a sweet corn pudding, devised by Tom Douglas of Dahlia Lounge, matched up well with Merlots and Cabernets.

For reports on past events:

  • Nov. 15, 1998
    Northwest Auction Raises Record Funds For Seattle Children's Hospital

  • Oct. 31, 1997
    Seattle's Children's Hospital Benefits From Auction of Northwest Wines

  • Oct. 31, 1996
    Bidders Make Auction of Northwest Wines Twice as Nice

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