Spirits were high and paddles higher Sunday as the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean drew bids totaling over $1.4 million, more than doubling the 2012 total and shattering all previous auction records.
The largest grossing auction lot of the day was the first annual “Fund the Future,” presented by Kaiser Permanente to support childhood literacy and key reading programs in a multi-year initiative that addresses the fact that more than half of Sonoma County third-graders currently read below grade level.
The lot, the highest grossing lot ever in the event’s 21-year history, raised $691,250 which will be divided between the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation’s Summer Reading Academy, Schools of Hope (United Way of the Wine Country) and Pasitos Playgroups (Community Action Partnership).
Oscar Chavez, a leading supporter of Sonoma County’s literacy programs, motivated the crowd to raise their paddles when he spoke, surrounded by young children, of how learning to read led him to succeed.
The result was electric. In quick order, auctioneer David Reynolds drew $75,000 bids from Joe Anderson of Benovia Winery, the Gallo Family and Katie Jackson of Jackson Family Wines, followed by Tom Klein, owner of Rodney Strong Wine Estates, who made a $150,000 commitment to the initiative over the next three years.
Not that the other 35 lots lacked excitement. The roster included a trip to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, a chance to meet Sheryl Crow and one of her concerts, and, introduced by the Women of Magnum Force, bedecked in tropical mini-dresses, a collection of 71 magnums from members of the Sonoma Vintners & Growers Alliance.
“We made history in Sonoma County today,” said SVGA Director and event co-producer Maureen Cottingham.