Mendocino’s Winesong Charity Auction and Tasting

It was the ideal Mendocino County weekend, cool and dry, perfect for the Winesong 2019 Charity Auction and Tasting. The redwoods and rugged coastline made the fine food, wine and entertainment even more idyllic.

Celebrating its 35th Anniversary, Winesong is the largest fundraising event in Mendocino County and the largest single source of funds for donations to their healthcare system. To date, this annual event has raised more than $8.5 million for the Mendocino Coast Healthcare Foundation. Over the years, these funds have supported an imaging center, helipad, outpatient surgery and other critical services. “This year’s Live Auction raised more than 400k and our Fund-A-Need raised nearly 200k and will be used for a new anesthesia machines,” said Michelle Roberts, Executive Director of the Mendocino Coast Healthcare Foundation.

The Beauty of Pinot Noir
This year’s event, held September 6 and 7, was a fitting celebration, showcasing some of wine country’s most outstanding vineyards with delicious food accompaniments.  

A Pinot Noir Celebration. Photo Credit: Larry Wagner

The festivities kicked off on Friday afternoon at the Little River Inn, which hosted A Pinot Noir Celebration. Perched above the Pacific ocean, the venue offered a warm, peaceful setting to enjoy pinot noirs from more than 35 wineries in honor of the anniversary, spotlighting the Inn’s cuisine and incredible views.

“This is such a wonderful event.  It is always a fresh experience to sample the latest local Pinot Noir wines and introduce attendees to other wineries specializing in Pinot Noir wines from other appellations of California and neighboring states,” said Mark Dym, Little River Inn Executive Chef.

A Pinot Noir Celebration at Little River Inn Photo Credit: Kimberly Charles

The event featured wines from Maggy Hawk, Waits-Mast, Husch, Copain, Christopher Creek and many others.

Following the pinot event, VIPs could travel less than a mile north to preview auction items at the charming Glendeven Inn & Lodge.

Potential bidders could enjoy the lovely grounds, check out the offerings and warm up their paddles for Saturday’s main event.

Glendeven Inn & Lodge

Saturday started with the annual wine and food tasting at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Known for a wide variety of plants, including a world-famous Rhododendron collection, ocean views and long meandering paths through a wide variety of flowers and foliage, the gardens provided another perfect setting to continue the celebration.

Wine and food tasting at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Photo Credit: Larry Wagner

Guests could wander through the gardens while enjoying vintages from Duckhorn Vineyards, Grgich Hills, Matanzas Creek and Korbel, to name just a few. 

Wine and food tasting at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

“I love the diversity of wineries from so many regions that come together once a year to highlight the Mendocino coast and join efforts to raise money for the Healthcare Foundation,” said Ziggy Eschliman, Winesong Auction Director.

The event also featured spirits and craft beers. “We have been sponsoring and pouring a selection of our craft beers at Winesong since its inception over 30 years ago. The beverage options were expanded at this year’s event and we were happy to welcome other local breweries as well as distilleries to the popular charity auction,” says Sam Kraynek, North Coast Brewing Company CEO.

North Coast Brewing Company

The culinary contributors were equally inspiring: Café Beaujolais, Guittard Chocolate Company, Harvest Market, the Noyo Harbor Inn. Again, the list was extensive. Too much good stuff – including lots of desserts.

Wine and food tasting at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

“Chef Fredy Diaz, made a delicious house cured salmon on our homemade crostini with a lemon dill and caper sauce, and a bite size taste of fall that included a corn tortilla chip with smoky polenta, marinated trip tip and a Hennessey mushroom sauce. That seemed to be a favorite at our booth,” said Denise Vicars, Food and Beverage Director at The Heritage House.

The Heritage House at wine and food tasting at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

Little River Inn served up Shrimp Gazpacho. “Winesong is the perfect time in the season to showcase simple fresh ingredients that taste like summertime in a cup; cool & refreshing,” said Chef Dym. “Over 100 pounds of fresh vegetables, cucumbers and tomatoes were used to create our Shrimp Gazpacho.”

Little River Inn at wine and food tasting at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

Guests also enjoyed classical music, jazz, blues, calypso and folk rock from Acoustic Serenade, Francis Vanek, Tenor Madness, Aaron Ford and others.

Music during wine and food tasting at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

2019 Honorees
Each year, Winesong selects a winery and artist to honor. This year’s winery was Jackson Family Wines, which owns wineries in five California AVAs, Oregon, Europe Australia, South Africa and Chile, producing a wide range of varietals for every palate.

Their journey began in 1974, when Jess Jackson, Jr., and family, bought an orchard in Lake County. Now, Jackson Family Wines can be enjoyed around the world.

Jackson Family

“It was an honor to be selected from within such an incredible winemaking community, and to have another platform to share how much we love this community, region, and the exceptional wines that it produces. My family first fell in love with the Anderson Valley in the late 1980’s, and we feel so privileged to be chosen to represent it this year”, said Katie Jackson, Jackson Family Wines’ Honorary Vintner.

Karen Bowers was chosen as the 2019 Artist of the Year. Her watercolors, which depict the Mendocino Coast and other California settings, have garnered widespread praise and national repute.

For Winesong, she produced the painting Soft Day on the Coast, an abstract and evocative depiction of the ocean she loves.

Soft Day on the Coast by Karen Bowers

“For me, painting is a practice, a perspective on life,” says Bowers. “Each new piece presents a chance for optimism, keeping open possibility and positive change. This is why I paint and what I hope to convey. I am especially honored to be chosen Artist of the Year for Winesong!”

In addition to honoring Bowers and Jackson Family Wines, Winesong also recognized Norm Roby – founder of the Charity Auction. Roby served as this year’s Honorary Auction Chair. 

Auction Fun
For 35 years, Winesong’s main event has been the silent and live auctions to raise support for the Mendocino Coast Healthcare Foundation.

This year, the tents were filled with nearly 200 lots from prestigious wineries: rare vintages, unique verticals and horizons, magnums and other large bottles.

Winesong Auction Tent

There was also original art, exciting vacations and wine getaways to Europe and other exciting locales.

DawnMarie Kotsonis and Richard Pio Rodo were the live auctioneers, urging the adrenaline-filled crowd to raise their paddles for the various items.

Celebrating highest bid during live Auction. This lot featured a six-night stay at a private castle in Italy donated from the Foppoli Brothers and Christopher Creek Winery.

“While several of the live auction lots wowed the crowd under the auction tent, most definitely it was ALL about the private castle in Italy lot, donated by the Foppoli brothers of Christopher Creek Winery. It was doubled at the moment of high bidding and brought in about $110,000,” said Eschliman.

Auction Lot featuring private castle in Italy

The event wrapped up on Sunday, back where it started at the Little River Inn, for the closing brunch. With another successful event in the books. Organizers can now turn their collective attention to an even better 36th anniversary event.