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Sonoma County Vintners’ barrel auction raises money for fire aid

Pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon battled it out Friday for the most popular varietal during the Sonoma County Barrel Auction held at MacMurray Ranch in Healdsburg.

The fourth annual event, sponsored by the Sonoma County Vintners trade group, attracted business buyers from across the country to place bids on unique wines donated by local wineries. Those wine shops and retail outlets will later resell the wines to their best customers and collectors.

“Bid often and bid high,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, who spoke prior to the auction.

The auction raised $794,500 last year; figures from Friday’s bidding were not available. Sonoma County Vintners, which represents 200 wineries and wine-?affiliated businesses, will use the funds to support its operations and distribute some to associations that represent 18 local wine regions.

Proceeds from two lots sold this year will benefit the Sonoma County Vintners Emergency Relief Fund to aid people affected by the October wildfires.

Dan Kosta, proprietor of AldenAlli winery in Healdsburg, described the impact of the fires on the community, even though the North Coast wine industry itself suffered minimal damage.

“We are resilient and we have fortitude,” said Kosta, who co-founded Kosta Browne winery in Sebastopol.

Kosta noted he lost his house in the fire and then joked, “I didn’t like the house anyway.”

In fact, the highest bid went to one of the special fire-relief lots, a pinot noir collaboration called “Resilience” from AldenAlli, Arista Winery, Benovia Winery and Williams Selyem. The ?20-case lot featured grapes picked from the Sonoma Coast and the Russian River Valley and sold for $70,000, equaling $291 per bottle.

The other lot for fire relief, named “Fortitude,” went for $29,000, or $121 per bottle. It was a cabernet sauvignon collaboration from Aperture, Lambert Bridge Winery, Laurel Glen Vineyard and Mauritson Wines.

Overall, local vintners entered ?97 lots in the auction.

Other notable entries included one from Silver Oak Cellars that sold for $32,000 for a 20-case lot, equaling ?$133 per bottle. The 100 percent cabernet sauvignon lot is a blend from the winery’s own Alexander Valley vineyards as well as from fruit from local vineyards such as Terra a Lago and Rotlisberger Ranch.

Entries from vintners in the Petaluma Gap - the county’s newest appellation - featured two pinot noir lots, one produced by male winemakers and the other by women. The bid for the women’s lot beat the men’s lot by $5,000.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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