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Sonoma County Wine Auction Breaks Records

The Sonoma County Vintners Foundation held its first wine auction since last year’s devastating fires, with a focus on raising money for new housing across the region. The Fund-A-Need Paddle Raise for the Community Foundation Sonoma County Resilience Fund brought in $2.5 million all on its own.

“Without a doubt, the passion and inspirational leadership of [auction chairs] George and Pam Hamel made the difference this year,” said Caroline Shaw, president of the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation and executive vice president of corporate communications and social responsibility for Jackson Family Wines.

Held at La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard in the Russian River Valley on Saturday, Sept. 22, the overall take for 41 lots was $5.7 million, $500,000 more than last year’s record. Over the last 10 years, the Sonoma County Wine Auction has raised nearly $35 million to help charitable organizations focused on literacy, education, arts and culture, environment and health and human services.

The day’s top lot was called “Peanuts and George Winston. One Night Only. Ever,” which involves a five-course dinner held at the Charles M. Schulz Museum paired with Hamel Family Wines, all while Grammy-winning jazz musician George Winston plays the music of Vince Guaraldi. At $10,000 per couple, 46 couples raised a paddle and contributed to an overall total of $460,000 for that lot.

The top wine lot was winemaker Michael Browne’s “Back to the Future,” featuring a 21-bottle collection of his CIRQ Pinot Noir wines, which went for $80,000.

Other lots included a trip to Wimbledon and dinner with Wimbledon legend Tim Henman which went for $190,000; dinner with Chef Nancy Oakes made by her and some of her friends, including Gary Danko, Michael Tusk, Emily Luchetti and Tyler Florence, which went for $190,000; and a dream trip to Italy with Christopher Creek Winery with dinner cooked by Chef Dustin Valette that raised $95,000.

But the most poignant moment came during the Fund-A-Need with auction chairs George F. Hamel, his wife, Pamela, and sons George III and John kicking things off with a $300,000 donation, which was soon matched by the Jackson family of Jackson Family Wines.

Additional, donors included E&J Gallo at $150,000 followed by $100,000 donations by Stewart Resnick, Landmark Vineyards; Mac McQuown, Stone Edge Farm; Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane of Benovia Winery; Francis Ford Coppola Family and Winery; and Jim Bailey of Knights Bridge Winery.

“More than 5,000 Sonoma County homes were lost to the October fires last year, and we know recovery needs to be looked at through a longer-term lens,” said Hamel, who also lost his home.

“Housing is a basic and fundamental necessity for everyone, and my family all feel strongly about supporting this effort. We are humbled and grateful to everyone who raised their paddles today.”