Bids soar at 2023 Sonoma County Wine Auction
While the totals haven’t been tallied, the spiraling bids Saturday at the Sonoma County Wine Auction reveal generosity was as free flowing as the wine.
Organizers hope the fundraiser will surpass last year’s take of $1.8 million.
The live auction, at Windsor’s La Crema Winery, is the culmination of the three-day annual fundraiser. Put on by the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation, the fundraiser benefits local nonprofits. Their focus ranges from community health and childhood education to emergency relief efforts for the pandemic, fires and floods.
Two hundred paddle holders jockeyed for more than two dozen auction lots, featuring rare wine collections and trips in the United States and abroad.
The top lot of the day, and the most sentimental, was Fund-A-Need. It’s targeted primarily for children’s education and literacy programs and it drew contributions from a pool of paddle holders.
Kicking off the Fund-A-Need at $100,000 was Jackson Family Wines, with the Gallo Family of E. & J. Gallo Family and Foley Family Wines following at $50,000 each. Contributors at $25,000 included vintner Tom Klein and Rodney Strong Vineyards, Hamel Family Wines, Bailey Family and Knights Bridge and Philip Carlucci of New York’s Philip Ross Industries. Other donation levels ranged from $10,000, $5,000, $2,500. $1,000 and $500.
Carlucci joked that he made his $25,000 pledge in exchange for a vest from his friend vintner Clay Mauritson. On a serious note, Carlucci said he donated the money to help the nonprofits.
“That’s why I’m here,” he said. “To support the auction and all the good they do with the nonprofits.”
Last year Fund-A-Need raised more than $595,000.
Among the highest priced individual offerings of the day -- and the most lively -- was Lot 11. It sold for $58,000, after it was duplicated at $29,000. The auctioneer decided to offer the lot twice because there was a lot of enthusiasm for it among bidders and he wanted to capitalize on it.
Called the “The Farmer, Butcher, Chef and A Unicorn,” the lot was introduced by auction chef honoree Duskie Estes, who paraded around holding an inflatable unicorn to spur bidding. The lot features a dinner for 10 at her house and a chance to taste unicorn wines from Three Sticks Wines’ monopole collection.
Susan Preston of Healdsburg, chairman of the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts Board of Directors, said she has no idea why she and her husband Alan bought the lot.
“We had not planned to do it,” she said, with a laugh. “It was a spur of the moment thing. But I’m pleased I was impulsive.”
Lot 16 spiraled even higher than Estes’ and was snagged for $60,000, after it was duplicated at $30,000.
This lot offered a front-row seat to the first commercial grape harvest in Bhutan. The seven-day trip for two features experiencing the harvest events, hiking the fabled Tiger’s Nest Monastery and visiting the Golden Buddha and other cultural sites.
John Reaves of Tulsa, Oklahoma, spent $30,000 for the lot because, in addition to supporting the nonprofits, he said the trip will make a nice addition to his jaunt to India.
The auction festivities began Thursday with vintner dinners throughout Sonoma County. Friday night featured the Best Party Ever gathering at Healdsburg’s Rodney Strong Winery. The multicultural-themed evening highlighted music from Los Boleros and a special dance performance by Grupo Folklorico Quetzalen, which started as a senior project at Sonoma Valley High School.
The auction continues to be regarded as the largest wine charity event in Sonoma County. It raised a record-breaking $6.1 million in 2019 at its in-person auction, when 400 bidders vied for 40 lots.
The auction traces its roots back to 1993 as the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction. The philanthropic tradition took off from there, raising more than $40 million since its inception.
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat,com or 707-521-5310.