Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Vintner dinners, gala and concert funds year’s activities

Express Staff Writer

Express photo illustration by Erik Elison

Some spend the cooler months getting bikini ready, but true valley all-stars spend their time prepping and training for the biggest event of the summer, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts Wine Auction.

Ranked among the top 10 charity wine auctions in the nation, the three-day celebration of gourmet food and wine—Thursday, July 19, through Saturday, July 21—has been for the past 30 years the No. 1 source of revenue for the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.

Money raised goes to the educational outreach and scholarship fund, which translates to free programs for K-12 students, funding for teachers and students to pursue advanced art studies (more than $564,000 awarded since 1999), affordable world-class concerts and lectures, a free, nationally accredited museum with rotating exhibitions, and discounted classes and workshops for adults and children.

Trina Peters, who is chairing the event this year with her husband, Jake, said she wanted to up the fun factor.

"We want to ensure that all who support The Center—and the arts generally—by attending and bidding also have such a great time that they mark their calendars for 2013," Peters said.

Enter "Grady," with his '80's headband and wrist guards, who brought a Jane Fondaesque boot camp meets Thin Thighs in 30 minutes to The Center's staff and offered preparation drills to wannabe guests. If you missed his sessions, which covered speedy uncorking and safe wine case handling, how to dress fantastically, proper picnic maneuvers and how to get physical enough to excel at bidding on a coveted wine, the video versions are

available on The Center's website at

Also new this year is an online shopping component with 11 lots, or groups of items, exclusive to online bidding until 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 21.

Choose among hard-to-find wines, private tours and tastings at Napa vineyards, a two-night stay at Sonoma's Landmark Vineyards, a spa getaway at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort in Scottsdale or a Jeroboam (that's five liters) of exceptional Rusack Vineyards Santa Barbara County Syrah. For the music lover, one auction lot features four VIP tickets (plus dinner and a hotel stay) to see My Morning Jacket rock band from Kentucky in Boise this September. There's even something for those who prefer beer to wine: a private tour and tasting, plus lunch or dinner, for four people at Boise's brand new 10 Barrel Brewing Co.

For those temptations, visit and follow the instructions to start browsing and bidding. Winners need not be present at the auction to win but must be 21 or older.

If you like your events tangible, then you will want to go over to Dollar Mountain Lodge between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday, July 19, to register and get a look at the auction lots as well as get signed up for one of the intimate vintner dinners at privates home to be held that evening. These are cocktail-dress-and-jacket events. Make a note to buy tickets early next year as a newly added Wine & Tapas Tasting, sponsored by the Junior Patron's Circle at Ketchum's Boca, sold out in advance.

On Friday, July 20, registration and viewing continue from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. back at the Dollar Mountain Lodge, where if you haven't done so already, you can get signed up for a wine and chocolate tasting at the Ketchum Grill at 11:30 a.m. with chief chocolatier David Owens of Bissinger's Handcrafted Chocolates and wine from Washington wineries.

You can also get tickets to Friday night's Auction Gala, held under a big tent at Dollar Mountain Lodge at 5 p.m., which features surprise live entertainment, a spectacular meal and dozens of one-of-a-kind wine and luxury travel auction lots, a private skiing adventure with one of Sun Valley's top skiers and concert tickets to see and meet country music superstar Keith Urban.

Atkinsons' Market helped provide a lot of seven etched and hand-painted, six-liter Imperials with original artwork showing Sun Valley scenes.

To understand the impact, Wine Auction director Christl Holzl said that in the past 17 years, this lot alone has raised more than $480,000.

A special auction lot, Take Part for Art, is simply a "raise the paddle lot" that raises funds for arts scholarships and programs for local students and teachers—and in the 13 years this program has been in existence, The Center has granted more than $560,000 to deserving students of the arts and humanities.

You'll certainly need a new dress and different coat jacket for this if you missed the training and got wine and chocolate on yourself. The gala is a chance-to-be-fancy kind of night.

On Saturday, July 21, is the winners' brunch from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at Cristina's Restaurant in Ketchum, which should fuel you to pick up your purchases from the previous night at the Dollar Mountain Lodge from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and sustain you for the Wine Tasting Extravaganza there from 12:30-3 p.m. It's the auction's most accessible and affordable event suited for every palate and level of knowledge.

Finally, from 6-9 p.m. Saturday at Warm Spring Ranch, it's the picnic and concert, where good students of Grady's will impress with their manners and skills at navigating picnic blankets laden with gourmet foods from local restaurants without flashing underpants or spilling precious beverages between dances to the music by the theatrical and evangelical MarchFourth Marching Band from Portland.

To give away much more would require a spoiler alert, but for more information on advance ticketing for the event, call The Center at 726-9491 or visit online.

As for Grady's availability for a private crash course, you'll have to check that out with The Center too.

A teaser to the crowd-pleaser

Among the three-day weekend's events that start Thursday, July 19, are:

- Vintner dinners

- A wine & chocolate tasting

- The Auction Gala

- Wine Tasting Extravaganza

- The Wine Picnic & Concert featuring Portland's quirky MarchFourth Marching Band

Ticket prices range from $40 to $750 for individual events, with packaged tickets available. For tickets and details about times, locations and parking, visit or call 726-9491. Attendees at all Wine Auction events must be at least 21.

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