For purveyors of all stripes, the annual Sonoma County Barrel Auction is a wine singularity, offering a unique opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind wines.
Hosted by Sonoma County Vintners, which represents more than 225 Sonoma wineries, this exclusive event was held on May 2 and 3, and featured handcrafted wines from some of the region’s best vineyards. The event brought trade and media from around the world and raised $645k at auction.
Sonoma has a lot going on. There are 18 appellations and more than 400 wineries, growing more than 60 different varietals. Auction attendees sampled wine from Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Fountaingrove District, Knights Valley, Moon Mountain District, Petaluma Gap, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and many others. Each area has its own unique characteristics, and when blended to perfection, that’s a bit of magic.
The event began on Thursday, May 2 with a preview tasting. Imagine an area filled with booths, each one featuring a different winery. Wine professionals come here because they can check out and purchase lots from specific vineyard blocks, rare blends and even collaborations between wineries.
These wines show off the region’s finest winemakers. Lots are small – five to 20 cases. Though one-of-a-kind is often overused, it applies perfectly to these selections. Many of the vintages are only made once. Next year there will be new ones. Restaurateurs, sommeliers and other exclusive wine trade can purchase wines that, literally, no one else owns for their discriminating clientele.
“This year’s event was fantastic. Always super well-organized down to the tiniest detail. There’s an obvious current of genuine camaraderie – that makes Sonoma special. It’s inspiring and central to why the auction is a great success,” said Erin McGrath, Consignment Director at Spectrum Wine.
The first previews were sponsored by Petaluma Gap, Russian River Valley and West Sonoma Coast. The second group by Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Sonoma Valley. Attendees sampled the wares and decided what they wanted to purchase and how much they wanted to spend during auction the next day.
Wine.com has supported the Sonoma County Barrel Auction since the inaugural event five years ago—their customers love the diversity of Sonoma County wines. “This auction provides us the opportunity to secure incredible rare wines, on top of the selection of more than a thousand labels we offer from Sonoma County year-around, while supporting the wine industry and community of Sonoma. Another benefit of attending this event is the sneak-preview the 2018 vintage through these barrel sample opportunities,” said Michael Osborn, Founder of Wine.com
Innovators & Icons
After a full day of tasting, it was time for the Innovators & Icons Awards. Each year, the Sonoma County Barrel Auction honors and celebrates vintners who have helped shape the heritage and history of Sonoma County winemaking. New this year, they also recognized the Innovators who have demonstrated exemplary leadership and are forward thinking visionaries. This year’s innovators went to Ron Rubin Winery and The Duncan Family. The Duncan family was recognized for achieving LEED Platinum Sustainability Certification, the highest level of certification, at Silver Oak Cellars, Alexander Valley. “David Duncan’s new winery is a true game changer. It’s an amazing facility and great asset for our area,” said Sonoma County Vintners Executive Director, Michael Haney.
“Having had the opportunity to construct one of the most innovative and modern winemaking facilities in the wine industry has been a great pleasure. We are honored to be recognized by the Sonoma County Vintners for our long history in the county, our commitment to sustainability and our future at our new home in Alexander Valley,” said Silver Oak Chairman and CEO, David R. Duncan.
Icons named were Margo Van Staaveren of Chateau St. Jean and Rod Berglund of Joseph Swan Vineyards. “This honor humbled me,” said Berglund. “When I first started out many decades ago, there were so many people who encouraged and offered me support. I vowed to pay it forward, and perhaps that dream has come true, as I’ve made it my mission to help let the world know about Sonoma County’s wonderful wine community. I feel lucky everyday to live here.”
Senator Bill Dodd said, “The Innovators and Icons Event was very important for me to attend. I want to stay in touch with the #1 industry in my District. The Sonoma County Vintners do a great job of recognizing the sustainability and innovative accomplishments of their members.”
Auction Lot Preview, Barrel Tasting and Barrel Auction
The auction was hosted by MacMurray Estate Vineyards on Saturday, May 3. Located in the heart of the Russian River Valley, the winery is named after former owner and renowned actor Fred MacMurray (Double Indemnity, My Three Sons, etc., etc.), and features a selection of pinot noirs from multiple vineyards.
The wines being offered for tasting were enough to make any connoisseur salivate.
“We think that wines from Sonoma County are world class because of our diverse climate and unique soils, said Mike Sullivan, Benovia Winery Co-owner and Winemaker. “We can grow almost any grape varietal in Sonoma County and make world-class wine from them. Sonoma County has a wide variety of climates suitable to many varietals like Alexander Valley and Knights Valley soils and climates are perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon.”
Highest Auction Bidder
When it came to top bidding, Silver Oak Cellars in the Alexander Valley received the highest bid, selling its 20-case lot of cabernet sauvignon for $40,000, ($167 per bottle) to a grocery chain in Texas.
“The Silver Oak Alexander Valley auction lot, was a stand-out example of the clarity of fruit from the 2017 vintage of Cabernet from Sonoma County,” said Osborn. “While the Silver Oak lot always has strong interest from us, and clearly others, adding to the bidding fervor this year was the fact it was their first vintage produced at their new winery.”
In addition, a number of wineries made their debuts at the auction: ACORN Winery, Bear Flag, Chappellet, Crescere, CrossBarn Winery, Fulcrum Wines, Montagne Russe Winery, Paradise Ridge Winery, Ron Rubin Winery, Sangiacomo Family Wines, Schermeister Winery, Smith Story Wine Cellars, Sosie Wines, Thomas George Estates and Vaughn Duffy Wines.
This was the auction’s fifth year, and proceeds support the marketing initiatives of Sonoma County Vintners and their AVA regional partners.
You may be asking yourself: How do I get a seat at this table? Unfortunately, Sonoma County Barrel Auction is an invitation-only event for licensed people in the wine trade. Still, these notable wines filter down to cities all over the world. Be on the lookout at your favorite restaurant or wine shop for one of these offerings in a class by itself.
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