Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bacchus celebration is 30 years old

Sun Valley Wine Auction is The Centerís mainstay

Express Staff Writer

Live auction items at the Sun Valley Wine Auction gala are one-of-a-kind lot packages filled with exotic vacations, delicious wines and opportunities of a lifetime. The events this year mark 30 years of supporting The Sun Valley Center for the Arts. Photo by Willy Cook

It started 30 years ago when a group of arts lovers sold wine to each other in their backyards—and brought it back the next year—to raise funds for the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Ketchum. Today the arts are an essential reason why people choose to live in and visit the Wood River Valley—and the Center's Wine Auction is one of the nation's top 10 charity wine auctions.

As befits a 30th anniversary celebration, this year's event has special surprises, including celebrity guest chefs from as far away as Spain, a display and auction of local wine-barrel art, a 20-piece band and 30th anniversary commemorative items such as a custom-made magnum of cabernet sauvignon and a gorgeous Wine Auction cookbook. The cookbook, "Entertaining Sun Valley Style: Behind the Scenes from the Sun Valley Wine Auction," is a compilation by The Junior Patrons Circle of The Center.

"We are so excited for the auction this summer," said Christl Holzl, Wine Auction director, "and a lot of that is due to our honorary chair, Glenn Janss, who was the founder of The Center. As we celebrate the auction's 30th year, her influence is inspiring everyone to make each event better than ever. From exciting bands to incredible chefs to the chance to win a hot Porsche SUV, this year's Wine Auction events are the not-to-be-missed nights and days of the summer."

While proceeds from the auction account for more than half the annual operating budget of the non-profit Sun Valley Center for the Arts, that fact is often overshadowed by the degree to which the event has become a three-day celebration of great food, fine wine and good times. Attendees number in the thousands, with a tremendous corps of community volunteers pitching in to serve food, pour wine and help out in numerous other ways.

The Wine Auction lasts just three days with six fun-filled events—but what this fundraiser provides lasts all year long. It supports the year-round programs of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, which serve more than 30,000 people a year around the Wood River Valley. Many of The Center's programs are free. In the 2010--2011 school year, more than 6,000 children visited The Center's galleries to learn about art, create art projects and have a museum experience in south-central Idaho.

It all starts on Thursday night, July 21, with 11 vintner dinners at private homes. Among the star chefs coming from beyond the valley to cook at these dinners are Jean Luc Figueras of restaurant Blanc at the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona; Beau MacMillan, executive chef at elements restaurant at Sanctuary Resort on Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley, Ariz.; "Top Chef Masters" finalist Rick Moonen, chef and owner of rm Seafood in Las Vegas; Rob Wilson, executive chef at Montage Resort in Laguna Beach, Calif.; and "Top Chef Masters" finalist Carmen González and Jonathan Waxman, chef and owner of New York City's Barbuto. Tickets for vintner dinners are still available for a one-of-a-kind wine and dining experience.

In addition to cooking at the vintner dinners, González, Moonen and Waxman will collaborate for the Wine Auction Gala dinner, which will take place at the big tent at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge on Friday, July 22. This year's event promises to be extra-exciting thanks to the evening's entertainment, the March Fourth Marching Band. Fantastically costumed and acrobatically adept, this high-energy big band includes stilt walkers and flag twirlers as well as a huge array of saxophones, trumpets and trombones.

Several auction lots this year pay tribute to the Wine Auction's 30 years—either by including wines from 1981 or wines made to mark a winery's or vintner's 30 years in the business. Travel lots include tours to Bordeaux, France, Spain, Argentina and a weeklong trek to Machu Picchu, as well as stays in the Greek Isles and other beachfront locations. Sun Valley Company is offering a not-available-to-the-public All Seasons Pass for two that covers activities from golf to skiing as well as a trip on its nighttime ski slope grooming machine "The Beast," and Benjamin Wood and Theresa Castellano-Wood have graciously offered to host a 100-point wine dinner featuring wines that have received a "perfect" 100 score. Expect the bidding to be intense on these unusual lots.

The "Take Part for Art" auction lot is the heart of the evening as it raises money to directly benefit Sun Valley Center for the Arts' scholarships for local students and teachers. Tom and Sharon Pyle and Atkinsons' Markets are once again making possible a lot of seven etched and hand-painted imperials with original artwork showing Sun Valley scenes. Over the past 16 years, similar lots have raised more than $465,000 to support the arts in the Wood River Valley. This beautiful lot is on display in the wine department in Atkinsons' Market in Ketchum.

In addition, local artists have created 10 original pieces using oak wine barrels donated by Tonnellerie Quintessence cooperage from Bordeaux. One of the barrels will be auctioned at the gala and the rest at the Wine Auction Picnic and Concert. Ranging from functional furniture to a neon creation, these incredibly imaginative artworks are on display around Ketchum and community members are urged to vote for their favorites.

Other Wine Auction events include two daytime Riedel wine symposiums, one on chardonnay and pinot noir from the West Sonoma coast and one on Shiraz from Australia, on Friday, July 22, and Saturday, July 23. A Wine Tasting Extravaganza on Saturday, July 23, at which dozens of vintners will pour and explain their wines is always popular and sells out. The Wine Auction Picnic and Concert at Warm Springs Ranch on Saturday, July 23, will have food prepared by some of the best restaurants in the valley. The evening will include the return of flamenco-fusion band Sam Lardner and Barcelona.

In addition, The Center is raffling off a Porsche Cayenne Tiptronic SUV. The winner will be announced at the Wine Auction Picnic & Concert. Anyone 21 and over can enter the raffle and does not have to be present to win. Tickets are $250 and only 600 will be sold. Visit or call 726-9491 for details.

While on The Center's website, discover how to purchase the commemorative magnum of Silver Oak Cellars 2006 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the lavish "Entertaining Sun Valley Style" cookbook, with recipes from many of the fabulous national and local chefs who have participated in the Wine Auction in recent years.

Ticket prices range from $40 to $600 for individual events, although many patrons prefer to purchase packages. For tickets and details about times, locations and parking, visit or call Emilee Farber at 726-9491, ext. 22. Please note that all attendees at all Wine Auction events must be 21 or older.

Wine auction events

Thursday, July 21

- Vintner dinners 7 p.m.

Friday, July 22

- Riedel Symposium I, "Taste the Terroir of the West Sonoma Coast" will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sun Valley Inn.

- Wine Auction Gala at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge will take place from 5 p.m. -12 a.m.

Saturday, July 23

- Riedel Symposium II, "Shiraz Down Under "will take place from 11:30a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sun Valley Inn.

- Wine Tasting Extravaganza will take place from 12:30-3 p.m. under the big tent at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge.

- Wine Auction Picnic and Concert is from 6-9 p.m. at Warm Springs Ranch with shuttle transportation leaving from the Ketchum Post Office from 5:45-9:15 p.m.

Ticket prices for Wine Auction events range from $40 for the Wine Tasting Extravaganza and $70 for the Wine Picnic and Concert to $125 for each symposium. A portion of the ticket price for some events is tax-deductible and proceeds from all events go towards supporting the year-round arts and education programs of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. All attendees to all events must be 21 or older, no children will be admitted to any event. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit or call The Center at 726-9491.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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