Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Centerís wine auction expands with fun

Benefit supports year-round programming for kids and adults

Express Staff Writer

The Sun Valley Wine Auction is a weekend of wine, food and friends, especially at the Wine Auction Picnic. Wine Auction volunteer Randi Pallan brings out the big bottles at the Wine Auction. Photo by Willy Cook

The Sun Valley Center for the Arts' premiere event is its Wine Auction. It's one of the top 10 wine auctions in the U.S. and benefits the Wood River Valley community throughout the year by funding programs for kids and adults.

"We know the challenges of these economic times, but we are seeing a lot of people," said The Center's executive director, Bill Ryberg. "We rolled up our sleeves as a staff, board and volunteers and increased our work, making the event more attractive. It would be wrong to say it is business as usual—we have worked hard."

The Wine Auction is celebrating 28 years, and it provides half of The Center's operating budget. The money raised through the auction allows The Center to offer free and low-cost programs for over 30,000 visitors and residents every year. Proceeds from the Wine Auction give The Center funds to provide artists in the schools, after-school art classes, scholarships for local students and teachers, and lectures and concerts by some of the world's most interesting thinkers, writers, artists and performers.

This year The Center has added more events and changed its venues for Wine Auction weekend. The main event, the Wine Auction Gala, will be held Friday, July 24, under the big tent at Dollar Mountain Lodge, and the popular Wine Picnic and Concert on Saturday, July 25, will take place at Warm Springs Ranch.

The Riedel Wine Symposium, which looks at the importance of proper stemware and compares California and Washington Cabernets, will be held at the Ram Room at the Sun Valley Inn on Friday, July 24. Other events include the Wine Tasting Extravaganza at Dollar Mountain Lodge on Saturday, July 25, and 12 Vintner Dinners held at private homes throughout the Valley on Thursday, July 23.

"This is an important time of year for The Center," Ryberg said. "Change requires adjustment but it also creates excitement and anticipation. Dollar Mountain Lodge is a spectacular location and Warm Springs is fabulous. It will be wonderful and people will really enjoy all the locations because they really speak of the community. It's good to throw new things in from time to time."

For the first time, a star-studded team of guest chefs has been brought in to work in tandem with chefs from Sun Valley resort on Friday night's Wine Auction Gala meal. Chef Rick Moonen, executive chef at rm seafood in Las Vegas, was first in his class at the prestigious Hyde Park Culinary Institute and he worked at New York City's legendary La Côte Basque and Le Cirque restaurants. Moonen will be joined by Executive Chef Cal Stamenov and Pastry Chef Ben Spungin of Marinus at Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley, Calif., along with the distinguished chefs of Sun Valley Resort.

Moonen and Stamenov will also be among the 12 guest chefs who will prepare multi-course meals to pair with wines poured by guest vintners at private residences generously made available by their owners for Vintner Dinners on Thursday, July 23.

The picnic fare at the Wine Auction will also boast gourmet variety with Duane Runswick of Feast Catering of Idaho, who is in charge of the menu for the Wine Picnic & Concert on Saturday evening, July 25, at Warm Springs Ranch. Runswick will prepare local and organic food for the picnic. Participants can bring a chair and let The Center do the rest with transportation to the picnic with a free champagne shuttle from town.

"We've always had guest chefs at the Vintner Dinners, so this is an extension of the idea that great wine and great food go together," said Wine Auction Director Christl Holzl. "Similarly, vintners pouring at the Wine Tasting Extravaganza have always been happy to answer questions from novices and wine aficionados alike, so the addition of the symposium takes that educational aspect a step further.

Holzl said the symposium will involve tasting six different cabs in different glassware.

"You will be stunned at how differently wines smell and taste when sampled in different glasses," he said.

Hundreds of vintners from California, Washington and Idaho will make their wines available for drinking throughout the weekend and as part of auction lots, many of which feature rare large-format bottles seldom available anywhere else. Other participants include Sloan Estate, Lail Vineyards, Duckhorn Wine Co., Shafer Vineyards, Merry Edwards Winery and DeLille Cellars.

Auction lots include travel and wine-and-dine packages that often feature meals at renowned restaurants, such as a New York travel package that includes dinner at superstar Chef Daniel Boulud's new restaurant, Daniel NYC, and a Washington wine country package that includes dinner at William Belickis's much anticipated (opening late 2009) MistralKitchen in downtown Seattle.

The Center also added a new "late-night entry" to the auction for younger art lovers, the "Junior Patrons," which allows them to arrive after dinner and the live auction but in time for dancing and the silent auction.

"People are looking forward to this weekend," Ryberg said. "We have lots of first-timers coming to the event."


Event schedule

Thursday, July 23

·Dinner with the Vintners at 7 p.m.

Friday, July 24

·Riedel Wine Symposium: A Tale of Two Valleys: Napa and Columbia, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

·Wine Auction Gala at Dollar Mountain, 5:30 p.m.

·Junior Patrons Evening with dinner at the Elkhorn Supper Club, then arrive at the auction at 9 p.m. for wine, dancing and silent bidding.

Saturday, July 25

· Wine Tasting Extravaganza at Dollar Mountain Lodge, 12:30--3 p.m.

$40 a person. Tickets will be available at the door.

· Wine Picnic & Concert at Warm Springs Ranch Resort, 6-9 p.m.

Wine Auction ticket prices range from $40 to $600 for individual events, though many patrons prefer to purchase packages that allow entry to all events. A limited number of tickets may still be available; to check availability and purchase tickets, and for full details on all events, visit or call 726-9491, ext. 22. Attendees at all Wine Auction events must be at least 21.

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