Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction pulls in record $4 million

  • Auctioneer Scott Robertson responds after Joe Anderson of Benovia Winery announces a $200,000 donation to Fund the Future during the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean on Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014 in Kenwood, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

An African dance troupe, with Djembe and Dunum drums beating, created a colorful backdrop for a record-breaking afternoon of bidding at Sunday’s Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction. Spiraling bids climbed to $4 million, nearly tripling last year’s take of $1.5 million.

About 700 people gathered under the magnolia trees at Kenwood’s Chateau St. Jean, stepping into a safari of sorts. There were plenty of props to bring home the theme “From Sonoma to Serengeti” — safari hats, worn trunks and even a vintner in a giraffe costume.

Danny Fay, co-owner of Sonoma’s Envolve Winery, said: “I was imported this morning to help raise paddles for the children of Sonoma.”

Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction


Fay apparently had a powerful effect. Fundraising under the white tent seemed to gain momentum throughout the afternoon with several record-breaking bids.

The most suspenseful lot was the Fund-the-Future offering, where a group of bidders pooled their efforts to raise $1.6 million to raise literacy rates. The total dwarfs last year’s special needs lot at $735,000.

The big spenders, each contributing $100,000 or more, included the Sonoma County vintners of Jackson Family Wines, the Gallo family, Tom Klein of Rodney Strong Vineyards, Joe Anderson of Benovia, Corey Beck of Francis Ford Coppola Winery, George Hamel III of Hamel Family Wines, auction guests Deb and Robert Chase, and Sonoma Valley resident Gary Nelson, founder of the Nelson Family of Companies and an investor in Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat.

Katie Jackson said, “We’re donating $100,000 to literacy because 54 percent of third-graders in Sonoma County are below their grade level, so they’re falling behind. Literacy is so important to the future of Sonoma County.”

The outpouring of six-digit individual contributions to the Fund-the-Future offering was also record-breaking, with last year’s highest individual bid at $75,000.

Another lot that turned heads went for $250,000, with 25 couples each paying $10,000 for a special dinner party.

The lot, offered by Hamel Family Wines, features a six-course dinner at the Sonoma winery, prepared by six James Beard-award winning chefs.

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