by Laura Ness
When you put on a highly successful event the first time at bat, you have momentum that drives you to keep the winning streak in play. The Sonoma County Vintners executed a home run out of the gate with their first ever Sonoma County Barrel Auction in 2015.
In just two short hours, with 71 lots representing 14 of Sonoma’s 17 appellations, they raised $460,000, but most importantly, they raised awareness of the down home and laid back Sonoma county vibe that makes it such a gem for wine lovers and wine makers alike.
The auction is back again this year, with expanded offerings, yet still limited to invited trade, including retailers, restaurateurs and wholesalers, by invitation only and will take place at Vintners Inn in Santa Rosa on Friday, April 29, 2016.
It has become a three-day event instead of two, with special events for “Founding Members” from the inaugural year, who have been invited to an exclusive VIP reception on Wednesday, April 27.
For 2016 as in 2015, each lot, which bears the official Sonoma County Barrel Auction label, will not be found in the market except by the wine seller who secured it at the auction, making them true originals. Whether they are featured on exclusive restaurant wine lists or find themselves in the cellars of ultra-premium wine collectors, these are highly attractive one-of-a-kind purchases, each with a unique story.
Previews of the “never before, never again” 75 lots will be offered at two tastings scheduled for Thursday, April 28, at Comstock Winery (10 til 1 p.m.) and at Pellegrini Winery (1:30 til 4:30 p.m.). Both preview sessions will include seminars, food pairings and auction lot wines as well as finished wines.
The 2016 Sonoma County Barrel Auction will also honor four pioneers of the wine industry, including Helen Long Bacigalupi, founder of Bacigalupi Vineyards, Tom Klein, proprietor of Rodney Strong Vineyards, David Americo Rafanelli, third generation proprietor of A. Rafanelli Winery and Tom Rochioli, owner of Rochioli Vineyards. They will be honored for their contributions to Sonoma County wines at the VIP only reception on April 28, as well as at the auction on April 29.
“We are delighted to be able to recognize four individuals who have truly helped shape the heritage and history of Sonoma County winemaking and we are honored to celebrate their contributions to our wine community,” said Interim Executive Director of the Sonoma Vintner’s Association, Jean Arnold Sessions.
In contrast to large, mega-bidding affairs that favor high rollers and big name brands, the Sonoma Barrel Auction allowed buyers to taste and reflect upon the offerings in a relaxed, unhurried atmosphere.
David Marberger of Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits in Maryland, a single unit store celebrating its 25th year in business, gave the inaugural Sonoma Barrel Auction high marks. He appreciated the lower key vibe, in comparison to the Premier Napa event, which he describes as, “A ‘Who’s Who’ and who can spend the most money on lots. With the Sonoma Wine Auction, we saw an opportunity to get in on the ground floor.”
At last year’s auction, according to the Sonoma Country Vintners, two lots tied for the highest bid, each selling for $24,000. The first was purchased by Glen Knight of The Wine House (Los Angeles, CA), and was a barrel collaboration between Joseph Swan Vineyards, Kosta Browne Winery and Williams Selyem Winery of Russian River Valley Swan Selection Pinot Noir, provocatively named “The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost.”
The second lot, Williams Selyem “Reverence,” incorporated seven different heritage clones from 10 of the most prestigious vineyards in the Russian River Valley and was purchased by Drew Goodgame of Porthos Wine Ventures (Sausalito, CA).
Other top earning lots at the auction included Kinsella Estates; Martinelli Winery; a collaboration between West Sonoma Coast Vintners, including Ceritas, Failla, Freeman, Joseph Phelps, Littorai, Peay and Red Car; Patz & Hall; Balletto Vineyards; Paul Hobbs Winery; Pride Mountain Vineyards; Seghesio Family Vineyards; and Francis Ford Coppola Winery. The highest bid for a white wine at the auction was for the lot offered by Ramey Wine Cellars.
Highest bidding trade accounts at the event include Robert Merrifield of Polo Grill (Tulsa, OK); The Wine House (Los Angeles, CA); Wine Spectrum (Santa Rosa, CA); Wine.com (San Francisco, CA) and Hi-Time Wine Cellars (Costa Mesa, CA).
This year’s 2016 Sonoma County Barrel Auction auction promises even more excitement with 75 wine lots, again in five to 20 case lots. They include rare single vineyard bottlings, specific clonal selections, special blends, wines aged using special barrel regimes and joint lot wines made by collaborating wineries.
All lots were vetted by a panel of seven Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine.
Among the unique lots is the 20-case “Judgment of Paris 40th Anniversary Barrel” 2015 Chardonnay, from Bacigalupi Vineyards, Russian River Valley. It commemorates the famous 1976 Judgment of Paris, when California Chardonnay wowed the wine world. The original Wente Clone on St. George Rootstock that contributed to California’s unexpected victory still thrives today at Bacigalupi Vineyards. It was made through collaboration of Bacigalupi Vineyards, Dutcher Crossing, Flanagan Wines, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery MacRostie Winery & Vineyards.
Collaboration is definitely a continuing theme this year. A five case lot of 2015 Dry Creek Zinfandel lot made by two of the well-known wine families, Seghesio and Rafanelli, commemorates their history in keeping the varietal a major player on the American wine drinking scene. Both families are still thriving after five and four generations of winemaking in the region, respectively.
Participating wineries at the 2016 wine auction include: Arista Winery, Bacigalupi Vineyards, Balletto Vineyards, Davis Family Vineyards, Davis Bynum, Dutton-Goldfield, Gary Farrell, Gordian Knot, Joseph Swan, MacPhail Family Wines, Martinelli Winery, Sonoma-Cutrer and more.
SATURDAY EVENTS: NEW THIS YEAR
Two additional events are open to the trade invitees and the public this year. Both take place on Saturday, April 30.
Return to Paris: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Judgment of Paris
A Sonoma Wine Country Perspective. Saturday, April 30, 11 a.m. at Bacigalupi Vineyards
Cost: $115 per person
As a source of 14 tons of Chardonnay fruit in the winning 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, the Bacigalupi family commemorates the 40th Anniversary of the Judgment of Paris. Guests will have a rare opportunity to relive this historic tasting as current vintage French Burgundies poured at the original tasting and California wines will go head to head in a blind tasting. A forum of guest speakers will discuss the influence Sonoma County farming had on the winning Chardonnay and a very special BBQ lunch will be served with plenty of Bacigalupi wines following the tasting. For more information, contact 707-473-0115.
Russian River Valley Paulée, Saturday, April 30, 5 p.m. at Arista Winery
Cost: $250/ticket. Successful bidders of one or more Russian River Valley auction lots will receive reimbursement from Russian River Valley Winegrowers (RRVW) for up to two tickets per account. Hosted by the Russian River Valley Winegrowers and Arista Winery, this is the ultimate winemaker dinner with fifteen Russian River Valley winemakers or principals. In the Burgundian tradition of La Paulée, a feast typically done in celebration of the harvest, guests will enjoy an exquisite meal prepared by local renowned chefs Tim Kaulfers of Arista Winery, Duskie Estes of Zazu Kitchen and Farm, Dustin Valette of Valette Healdsburg and Cheyenne Simpkins of Wine Country Feasts. Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2016-russian-river-valley-paulee-dinner-tickets-20870694810
For timely updates and more information on the 2016 Sonoma County Barrel Auction, like Sonoma County Vintners on Facebook, follow on Twitter at @SonomaVintners, on Instagram at @SonomaCountyVintners or search using the hashtag #SoCoBA.