The third annual Sonoma County Barrel Auction took place last week at the Vintners Inn in Santa Rosa, raising a record $794,500. Attended exclusively by licensed wine sellers, including retailers, restaurateurs and wholesalers from around the world, there were 90 one-of-a-kind Sonoma County wine lots up for auction.
The Sonoma County Barrel Auction was created to raise awareness and showcase the quality and diversity of wines produced in Sonoma County. Each year, Sonoma County vintners create distinctive lots, offered in quantities of five, 10 or 20 cases, which are evaluated by a panel of seven Master Sommeliers from around the country. These lots of wines are made exclusively for the auction and offer a glimpse into what Sonoma has to offer. Be it a specific barrel selection, a unique blend or a single vineyard, these wines have never been made before and will never be made again.
Donelan Family Wines offered five cases from the Devoto Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. While the fruit from this wine typically is blended into their Brothers Cuvee, they selected the two barrels for a single lot as it is the last year they will be able to work with this vineyard. Ernest Vineyards, also in the Sonoma Coast, offered five cases of a blend between Freestone Hill Vineyard and Cleary Ranch Vineyard.
What is special about this lot is that it was their final vintage working with the Freestone Hill Vineyard and their first vintage of fruit from Cleary Ranch. Jordan Vineyard and Winery, celebrating their 40th anniversary, recreated the unique blend (86 percent cabernet sauvignon, 13 percent merlot and one percent pinot noir) from their very first vintage. These are just a few examples of the exclusive lots created by the wineries.
In addition to the individual winery lots, there were collaborative lots between wineries. Winemakers Merry Edwards and Steve MacRostie, friends since earning their Master’s Degrees together at UC Davis 44 years ago, selected their best lots from Klopp Ranch for a single-vineyard pinot noir. Dry Creek Vineyards and Rochioli Vineyards, two iconic vineyards, created a sauvignon blanc offering that represents their longstanding relationship.
Russian River wineries Artista Winery, Benovia Winery and Three Sticks Wines crafted a special pinot noir using Calera Clones from one of each of their vineyards and Swan Clones from one of each of their vineyards. The resulting wine is a beautiful expression of Russian River pinot noir and sold for $17,000 for five cases.
Wine associations also created lots. The Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance consists of 11 wineries. Each winery brought three gallons of their finished wine and after blending trials, they agreed that the final blend would be equal parts from each winery. Erica Stancliff of Trombetta Family Wines explained that “we all brought our babies to showcase what Petaluma Gap means to us as winemakers and we feel that the final blend is a true representation of that.”
Garrett Martin of Adobe Road Winery summed up their lot of 10 cases as “Petaluma Gap in a glass.” The Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley represented all generations of Dry Creek by combining equal amounts of zinfandel from seven wineries, half who are the original producers in the region and the other half are newer producers of zinfandel.
The West Sonoma Coast Vintners, a group of seven founding members, offered one lot of 20 cases that blends their vineyards to express the adventurous nature of West Sonoma Coast.
A second lot offered an exploration into the cold coastal area of Annapolis. The Russian River Valley Winegrowers took 19 wineries and divided them by their neighborhood — Sebastopol Hills, Green Valley, Laguna Ridge, Middle Reach and Santa Rosa Plains — creating lots that are indicative of their region.
The collaborative lots represent expressions of the region or grape. Kathleen Inman of Inman Family Wines explained that, “it is fun to work with other people and together we are able to blend a wine that represents the area and highlights significant characteristics.”
Whether a single winery lot or a collaborative lot, each item helped to raise money to support the marketing initiative of Sonoma County Vintners and its AVA partners. The top-earning lot was Kosta Browne’s “The Shire of Freestone”, a 20-case Sonoma Coast pinot noir that sold for $60,000, a record.
The second-highest-selling offering was $50,000 for the 20-case Silver Oak Cellars 2015 Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon. William Selyem Winery’s 20-case pinot noir lot sold for $26,000, the third-highest-selling lot.
These lots were all sold based on barrel tastings and have yet to be bottled. In a few months, the wines will be delivered to their new owners across the country who will then make the wines available to their customers. For the third year in a row, Michael Osborn of Wine.com purchased a few lots, including the West Sonoma Coast winemakers lot of 20-cases for $16,000 and Pride Mountain Vineyard’s five-case lot of a special vineyard block of cabernet sauvignon for $20,000.
“We want to show our customers these great wines,” Michael Osborn explained, “and perhaps introduce them to producers so that they will come back and try other Sonoma wines.”