Raise your paddles
THE HARVEST WINE AUCTION provides a feast for all the senses under the tent at Cline Cellars this Sunday.
While harvest season may be in full swing, Sonoma's vintners and growers won't be in their fields this holiday weekend. From winery owners to chefs, more than 200 of Sonoma County's most talented food and wine professionals will be showcasing what they can do during Wine Country Weekend.
The full three days of gastronomical decadence launches today, Friday, Sept. 2, with a variety of winemaker lunches and dinners around the Valley and beyond. Each winery offers its own unique dining experience, from a four-wheel driving tour and luncheon at Hidden Ridge Vineyards to a gourmet barbecue dinner at Keller Estates.
As of Thursday morning, there were a handful of lunches ($60) and dinners ($160) with a few seats still available.
On Saturday, Sept. 3, an expected 2,500 guests will head out to MacMurray Ranch for Taste of Sonoma. The sold-out event features 170 wineries, 60 chefs and a little something for everyone. From the Blind Tasting Challenge and the Sommelier Star Tours to the Steel Chef Competition and cooking demonstrations, foodies of all palates will have something to salivate over with the variety of activities offered throughout the day.
But the weekend's major event is the Harvest Wine Auction, which raises money for charities across the Valley and county and takes place Sunday, Sept. 4, at Cline Cellars. Julie Atwoods Events will transform the space with high school spirit in honor of this year's theme, "Sonoma Homecoming: Vintage 2011."
Around 550 guests will dine on foods such as watermelon wrapped in Black Pig prosciutto, sliders of Kobe beef served with truffled potato salad and barbecue pork loin, all prepared by some of Wine Country's most decorated chefs, including Duskie Estes of Zazu's, Tony Ghilarducci of the Depot Hotel and Carlo Cavallo of Meritage. In between courses, the attendees will be entertained by Sonoma's vintners and growers, who take to the stage with skits aimed at enticing the audience to bid on their auction lots.
This year's auction runs the gamut, from every combination of wine lot imaginable to unique vacations, experiences and dinners. Ladies will likely see sparkles over lot #22. The package includes two nights at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco filled out with a winemaker dinner at Jardinière hosted by Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards, four tickets to the symphony and an actual breakfast at Tiffany's and Co. in Union Square, including a $2,000 shopping spree. The lot also includes 150 bottles of rosé, white and sparkling wines and three collectors edition magnum bottles of Iron Horse wines, expertly decorated by the talent at Tiffany's.
"(The magnums) come in the signature blue box. Any girl who sees that blue box lights up," said Maureen Cottingham, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance, which organizes the Wine Country Weekend with the Sonoma County Vintners. "It's the perfect girl's lot."
Cottingham said there are plenty of opportunities for the men to get in on the action. For guys who like vintage cars, golf and good steaks, look for auction lot #6. Joe and Steve Dutton of Dutton Ranch will lead a classic car rally, inviting the bidder and five of his friends to drive sports cars from their own private collection down to Palm Springs for a weekend of golf at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Course, luxury accommodations, a thick steak dinner at Fleming's Steaks and a tour of the Dutton's extensive car collection.
"They'll smoke cigars and have the time of their lives," Cottingham said.
True Giants fans will see a home run in lot #12. It all begins with a lavish stay for three couples at Jordan Vineyard and Winery, including a winemaker dinner with owner John Jordan.
The next day, the Giants fans will head to the field for a behind-the-scenes tour of the park with San Francisco Giants' Manager Bruce Bochy followed by premiere seating for a home game. The night wraps up with a dinner with winemaker Rob Davis. Jordan Vineyards has added several magnums of wine signed by Bochy, Jordan and Davis and Tiffany and Co. threw in six specialty San Francisco Giants World-Champion etched wineglasses.
Glen Ellen resident and Disney/Pixar's Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter welcomes guests to Lasseter Family Winery in auction lot #23. John and Nancy Lasseter will host 10 guests for a meal and tour of the winery, which opens in October. The lot also includes 10 signed magnums of wine and a limited edition pair of "Cars 2" three-liter etched bottles signed by John and Nancy Lasseter, featuring the characters of Lightning McQueen and Mater.
"There will be a surprise celebrity guest from the music industry at the dinner, too," Cottingham said.
While many of the lots feature extravagant items and experiences, lot #19 is simply about giving back. The Fund-a-Need lot asks attendees to raise their paddles and give any amount of money they can to support the Redwood Empire Food Bank and the Sonoma Valley Hospital Foundation.
"Both are very important organizations in our community," Cottingham said. She explained that the hospital foundation would utilize the money raised to purchase a digital X-ray machine, while the food bank seeks vehicles and equipment to assist in distributing more than 13 million pounds of food to those in need around the county.
For those who can't be under the tent at Cline Cellars, there's still a chance to get in on the auction through a variety of lots offered online.
Tickets for the 17th annual Harvest Wine Auction are $500 and can be purchased at www.sonomawinecountryweekend.com or by calling 935-0803.