Local auction 

Sonoma County Wine Auction in person again, with some changes


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The Sonoma County wine auction welcomed bidders again on Saturday, a major step towards normality in Wine Country after last year’s event was made virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But it wasn’t a full return to business as usual for Saturday’s charity auction. The organizers have kept strict control over safety protocols, from vaccination checks to the compulsory wearing of masks in the shuttles.

“I forgot my vaccination record and had to run to my car,” says Gina Gallo, wearing a red printed dress and beige boots. The estate’s vice president of winemaking for E. & J. Gallo said, “Everyone takes care, but it’s important to be with each other and support the community. I think people are really going to step up today.

Masked waiters bustling through the crowd with trays of food revealed the careful tenor of the auction.

“I don’t mind wearing a mask because I want the guests to feel safe,” said Carmela Boudreaux, one of the waiters.

With an eye on the booming delta variant, organizers asked guests to present proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test 72 hours before each event. Wearing a mask was also mandatory for guests using the shuttles or going to the toilets.

Loot from this year’s auction had yet to be counted, but organizers were hopeful that bidders would open their wallets.

Adam Isbitsky, a guest of Petaluma, said he expects the auction to make a fair amount of money based on the robust auctions. “The auctioneer (John Curley) was energetic and the bidders were really responding and seemed happy to contribute,” he said.

The auction is the largest wine charity event in Sonoma County, raising a record $ 6.1 million in its last in-person auction in 2019.

“With the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine and following guidelines and protocols provided by federal, state and county authorities, we saw an opportunity with a live auction to raise even more funds for organizations at Sonoma County nonprofit, ”said Michael Haney, executive director of Sonoma County Vintners.

About 225 people gathered at La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard in Richard’s Grove outside of Windsor, vying for 28 lots. With 400 jockeys bidders for 40 lots in 2019, the 2021 event was a scaled-down version of the live auction.

Haney said there are many ways to fundraise; he said guests have the option to participate in the silent auction, as well as an online auction that will remain open until September 23.

The Sonoma County Wine Auction, in its various incarnations, has raised $ 37 million since its inception in 1993. Wine Spectator ranked it among the top 13 charity wine auctions in the United States in a article published in 2019. With Napa Valley Vintners’ decision to forgo its live auction, the Sonoma County auction could gain visibility.

In the spring, Auction Napa Valley decided to go with a year-round fundraising model, starting a new chapter after its 40-year run raised $ 200 million. Organizers said they wanted to reach a more diverse audience and protect their 550 winegrowers from “fatigue” by donating lots of wine to a live auction pool, from winegrower organizations to elementary schools.

When asked if the Sonoma County winemakers have committed to hosting a live, in-person auction for the foreseeable future, Haney said, “We are committed to raising as much money as possible through to our Sonoma County Vintners Foundation for those who need it most each year. . “

With wine flowing freely, paddle carriers grazed on bourbon-glazed meatballs and brisket sliders as the auction afternoon rolled around.

The first prize of the day, called Fund-A-Need, raised over $ 500,000 for children’s education and literacy. Auctioneer Curley put out a tender for $ 250 to $ 100,000.

Mary Dewane and Joe Anderson of Santa Rosa’s Benovia donated $ 100,000.

“This lot speaks to us because it’s about supporting the children of Sonoma County,” Dewane said. “There are a lot of needs there, and we are convinced that our children are our future. “

The most expensive individual lot, which sold for $ 140,000, includes a five-night stay at the Jackson family estate in Italy, as well as a series of lunches, dinners and wine tastings.

George Hamel of Hamel Family Wines said his wife, Pam, bought the lot and that they plan to take their whole family on the trip – four children, three spouses and three grandchildren. “The Jackson family put it in place and it’s a spectacular batch.”

Another lot that has been the subject of numerous calls for tenders sold for $ 35,000; it offers a trip to Montana with a three-night stay at a luxury ranch owned by Bill Foley of Foley Family Wines.

Greg Biagi of Biagi Brothers Wine Distribution Co. in Santa Rosa, who purchased the lot, said, “I’ve been to Bill Foley’s before.

“It’s a beautiful, breathtaking place and I want to go there and beat Bill Foley at golf.”

The auction closed a week of fundraising events, including the opening event “Best. Party. Already. ”At the Montage Healdsburg and Winegrowers’ Dinners, with tickets priced at $ 2,500 per person. Organized by the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation, the fundraiser benefits local nonprofits, including community health, children’s education and emergency pandemic, fire and flood relief efforts.

Stacking chairs after the event, Josh Black-Star, a waiter at Cotati’s Park Avenue Catering, said he faithfully wore his mask throughout the auction.

“From a vendor’s perspective, we have pretty strict guidelines as you might imagine during a pandemic, which for the record I think is a good thing. I’m sure for a lot of people this was their first outing, and I think people were happy to go out and support a great cause.

You can contact Wine Writer Peg Melnik at [email protected] or 707-521-5310.

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