Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Paddles raised high at wine auction

Benefit exceeds expectations in food, wine and donations

Express Staff Writer

Volunteer presenters Georgie Montgomery, left, and Gretchen Palmer hold up bottles of Nickle & Nickle Cabernet Sauvignon and Far Niente Chardonnay for auction at the 29th Sun Valley Center Wine Auction Gala.

The wine and donations were flowing from Sun Valley to Warm Springs for the 29th Sun Valley Center for the Arts Wine Auction last Thursday through Saturday. The annual fundraising event's proceeds account for more than half of The Center's operating budget.

The three-day event included vintner dinners throughout the valley at private homes, a wine auction gala benefit dinner, a wine tasting at Dollar Mountain Lodge in Sun Valley and a wine picnic at Warm Springs Ranch in Ketchum. In addition, wine symposiums included two educational events with Maximilian Josef Riedel, an 11th generation glassmaker, and Fred Dame, a master sommelier, who gave a lecture called "The Power of Pinot."

But, it was the wine auction gala on Friday evening, the main event of the weekend, where paddles were raised high, especially after the performance by progressive hip-hop artist Christylez Bacon. Bacon performed in the valley in November and returned as the surprise entertainment at the auction gala with a group of multi-talented spoon-playing kids who stole the evening. After Bacon's joyful performance, a Take Part of Art paddle round raised more than $195,000 in scholarships and educational programs for The Center. The evening of silent and live auctions raised more than $800,000 for The Center, which included a raffle for a Lexus RX 450h Hybrid won by this year's wine auction chairpersons, Bill and Sharon Shubin.

Winemakers from the Pacific Northwest and California enjoyed watching their donations benefit the arts for the Wood River Valley community. Meghan Reeves of Reeves Ranch Vineyards shared her 2008 Reeves Ranch Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley Syrah, only three months in the bottle, with a table of visitors from as far away as Oklahoma who were bidding on and winning auction lots. Reeves and her husband, Dan, donated Lot 53 with Stolpman Vineyards & Winery for a Los Olivos wine country trip inspired by the film "Sideways."

On Saturday, many valley residents, visitors and wine auction attendees took part in a grand tasting at Dollar Lodge with every imaginable type of wine, from champagne to wine in a box. Later in the day at Warm Springs Ranch, many enjoyed the cool comforts of the wine picnic, supping on food prepared by valley restaurants. Several wineries were more than happy to give samples of their top selections at the picnic for the culmination of a wine weekend experience.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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