Once a humble Valley-centric affair, the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction has gone big time as one of the top charity auctions in the country, raising $4 million August 31 at Chateau St. Jean. The total more than doubled last year’s then-record of $1.5 million.
“We made history in Sonoma County today,” said Maureen Cottingham, director of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance, which co-produces the bash.
Inspired by the theme “From Sonoma to Serengeti to Sonoma” – Envolve Winery’s Danny Faye came dressed as a giraffe – some 700 guests from across the country gathered with vintners and growers under a grand white tent.
The event began with a tribute to the late David Reynolds, the auctioneer who had presided over the event for many years as it evolved from a wacky harvest party into a sophisticated, corporate-branded affair. Colleen Buckley, his widow, thanked the crowd and urged high bidding. In the spirit of Reynolds’ auction mantra, “No spousal restraint,” Buckely coaxed a bid of $25,000 for a sommelier to pour for the winner’s table throughout the afternoon.
Scott Robertson handled the gavel this year. The honorary chairs of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, of which the auction is now a part, were Gloria and Pedro Ferrer.
Contributing to the record fundraising total was $1.6 million in overall pledges to The Fund the Future. Children from beneficiary organizations, including the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, were on hand to share their successes with auction-goers and inspire bids of up to $200,000.
The highest grossing wine-only lot was a “Hanzell Heritage Tribute” donation from Hanzell Vineyards honoring long-time winemaker Bob Sessions, who passed away in May. The lot included three, 3-Liter bottles of Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and sold for $80,000.
As the day’s total neared the $4 million mark, Joe Anderson of Benovia Winery pledged $50,000 and challenged his peers to do help reach the magic number. Vintners Matt Gallo and Tony LeBlanc of Silver Oak accepted the challenge, as did SVVGA Board Member Gary Buffo, who kicked in the final $20,000.
Photos by Melania Mahoney