Sonoma County Wine Auction Highlights

Spiral bidding at last month’s Sonoma County Wine Auction raised more than $1.8 million for local causes, from health and education to emergency relief for forest fires, floods and the pandemic. To capture the color of the auction, here is our list of highlights – the memorable moments, the best story, the best party and the most sentimental lot. For those who went to the auction and for the curious who didn’t, here are some shots.

Best Story: This year’s live auction was held at the Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery in Healdsburg, in the indoor arena of the former equestrian center. You might be wondering how this arena could have become part of the classy setting of the winery?

The late Fred Furth, who founded Chalk Hill 50 years ago, established the equestrian center in the 1990s for his then wife, Peggy Furth. She loved dressage and the equestrian arts. Fred received his documents as a thank you for helping the State of Alaska litigate the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The tanker, you will recall, ran aground in Prince William Sound in 1989 and spilled its cargo of crude into the sea. Alaska gave Fred the Alaskan cedar he used to build the arena .

In the 1990s, the large, long arena roof beams were barged from Alaska to San Francisco, loaded onto trucks, and transported to the Healdsburg property. They were so large that large parts of Highway 101 had to be closed while they were transported. Upon arriving at Chalk Hill, the beams were airlifted to the arena due to their size.

Bill Foley of Santa Rosa-based Foley Family Wines purchased the winery in 2010. Today the arena is used for private, family and special events like the live auction. As this year’s chairman, Foley invited guests to sip and bid in the legendary arena.

The best party ever: To welcome guests the day before the live auction, Jean-Charles Boisset of the Boisset Collection, a portfolio of over 20 wineries primarily in France and California, hosted a 1920s costume party at his Buena winery. Vista in Sonoma.

About an hour into the festivities, Boisset was on a balcony above the courtyard and surprised the crowd below by showering them with a bottle of sparkling wine. A pianist sang tunes from the 1920s, while guests nibbled on caviar, chunks of wagyu beef and later, for dessert, pastel French macaroons.

Liz Thach, Master of Wine and professor at Sonoma State University, wore a black and gold flapper dress, long black gloves and pearls. She said some people wore vintage clothes inherited from great-grandparents, and those who came to the party without costumes were offered black feathered headbands or black felt hats.

“There was a celebratory feeling in the air,” Thach said, “and everyone enjoyed complimenting each other on her 1920s attire.”

The best notables: The auction showcases the county’s winemakers and chefs and pays tribute to the best and brightest among them. This year’s honored winemaker was Boisset, whose Sonoma County portfolio includes DeLoach Vineyards and Healdsburg’s Oakville Grocery.

“As a Burgundian from a small village, I discovered this incredible place when I was 11, and I knew I wanted to be in this place of possibilities,” Boisset said during the live auction. . “We are honored to support the Sonoma County Wine Auction for another year of vital fundraising.”

The chef honored at the auction was Dustin Valette, owner of Restaurant Valette and co-owner of Matheson, both in Healdsburg.

“I was born and raised in Sonoma County, and I’m honored to be part of this community-driven event,” Valette told the crowd during the live auction. “We are very fortunate to have all of these amazing people to showcase the best of their brands – food, wine and hospitality.”

Most sentimental prize: The day’s top group prize, raising more than $595,000, was for Fund-A-Need, which targets different local needs from year to year and this year was dedicated to children’s education and literacy programs .

Susan Gilmore, CEO of the North Bay Children’s Center, received $10,000 from the Fund-A-Need prize last year, which she used to support her program for preschoolers.

As part of her Raising A Reader program, Gilmore, a former teacher, encourages parent involvement. She sends students home with a bag of books each week so parents can help them develop an appreciation for books and storytelling.

“When English is not their first language,” Gilmore said, “it’s so important that children have access to these high-quality early learning opportunities so they can lay the foundations for success. throughout life.”

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

Elisha A. Tilghman