For its first three years in existence, the organizers of the Sonoma County Barrel Auction paid tribute to influential winemakers. At this year's event, the Sonoma County Vintners had other heroes in mind: the first responders and community leaders who have given so much to this community during last October's wildfires and in the months of recovery since.
In tribute to heroic teamwork, some of the valley's top winemakers collaborated on two special Sonoma Rising barrel lots, each the equivalent of 20 cases: The Resilience barrel was a Pinot Noir produced by AldenAlli, Arista, Benovia and Williams Selyem that raised $70,000; the Fortitude barrel, a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon from Aperture, Lambert Bridge, Laurel Glen and Mauritson, sold for $29,000.
The combined $99,000 helped the event reach a Sonoma County Barrel Auction record total of $840,700, a 6 percent increase over last year's sum. It was the climax of three days of events from April 18–20. The barrel auction, where vintners auction off special lots of their latest vintage, attracted more than 500 guests to MacMurray Estate.
"As winemakers, we all take great pride in our craft and what we do with our wines, so sometimes it can be a little tenuous to get four winemakers in a room," Clay Mauritson, owner of Mauritson Wines, told Wine Spectator. "What struck [me] more than anything is just how everyone checked their egos at the door."
"It was pretty indicative and symbolic of the whole organization and the whole Sonoma County community," said AldenAlli cofounder Dan Kosta. "We really came together really well."
The entire $99,000 raised from the Sonoma Rising barrels went to the Sonoma County Vintner's Emergency Relief Fund. The lot names paid homage to the strength of the responders and the community, said Michael Haney, interim executive director of Sonoma County Vintners.
"These are people that were out saving our lives and homes when their homes were burning down," Haney said. "Those types of descriptors—resilience and fortitude—really describe them to a T and we couldn't thank them enough."
Other top lots included a Pride Mountain Summit Cuvée 2016 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon that went for $3,400 per case and a Ramey Petaluma Gap Single Vineyard Single Clone Syrah 2016 that fetched $2,200 per case.
White wine showed its presence, too, with a Flowers Chardonnay Fort Ross-Seaview Camp Meeting Ridge Block 3 2017 and Maritana Chardonnay Russian River Valley Goodbye Big River 2017, which each sold for $7,500 ($1,500 per case). The Iron Horse Green Valley A Cuvee for the Ages 2014 sparking wine sold for $10,000 ($2,000 per case).
"The quality of wines in Sonoma County and the diversity of wines and varietals has never been better," Haney said. "[The auction] was a great overt sign that we're open for business, we're still here. Come and see us."
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