People shaking hands at the Sonoma County Wine Auction
Sonoma County Wine Auction / Photo by Bob McClenahan

Two days after being recognized as Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Region of the Year, Sonoma County hosted a party for a good cause, and raised a record $6.1 million at its annual charity wine auction. Held at La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, this year’s total was a nice increase from last year’s $5.7 million, which itself set a record and earmarked $2.5 million specifically for fire relief.

With Gina Gallo of E. & J. Gallo Winery and Christopher Jackson of Jackson Family Wines teaming up as event co-chairs for the first time, 400 guests gathered to support charitable organizations focused on education, health and human services, the environment, arts and culture in Sonoma County.

“The Sonoma County wine auction is always distinguished by its authenticity and true sense of community,” says Gallo. “It’s this collaborative, welcoming community that drew my grandfather to put roots down here.”

Jackson echoed how humbled and grateful he was for all who raised paddles, saying, “it was incredibly emotional under the tent this year.”

Jackson himself led the charge for the last lot of the day, which aimed to assist the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma-Marin’s Fund-A-Need initiative, which hauled in $1,613,000 in direct donations. The Jacksons and Gallos each pledged $250,000 to get the bidding started.

Sonoma County Wine Auction bidding in progress / Photo by Bob McClenahan
Sonoma County Wine Auction / Photo by Bob McClenahan

With a total of 40 lots up for bid over the course of the day, things began to heat up around lot 8, which featured an Italian Adventure through Gina Gallo’s Eyes, with Gallo herself serving as guide for a week-long excursion. Gallo generously matched the $50,000 offer of the winning bidders to raise the donation to a $100,000 total.

A few lots later, winemaking legend Merry Edwards, who is retiring from her namesake winery, implored the crowd to bid big for what she says will be her final auction. Her plea worked and brought in $115,000 for a lot that combined suite tickets to a San Francisco 49ers game with a winery visit hosted by Edwards and dinner by celebrated chef Charlie Palmer.

The top lot of the day was called G.O.A.T.: a 378-bottle collection of Sonoma County’s best Bordeaux-varietal wines. The lot included offerings like Verité, Silver Oak, Peter Michael, Cornell and Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignons.

Winemaker Michael Browne’s The Life’s a Cirq lot brought in $95,000, featuring a wine-only offering of 18 bottles, including library sets and 5-liters of the 2012–2015 vintages, as well as priority access to Cirq’s mailing list.

The 2020 Sonoma County Wine Auction will take place September 17–19 with a trio of young vintners as chairs: Clay Mauritson of Mauritson Family Wines, Mark McWilliams of Arista Winery and Jake Bilbro of Limerick Lane Cellars.