Mendocino Winesong Bidding Passes $600,000

Collectible wines and far-flung trips help raise money for local hospital

by Jim Gordon
Tom Rodrigues, winery owner and artist, described the auction lot on which he collaborated with Beth Nickel, Far Niente winery co-founder.

Mendocino, Calif.—Proceeds from the Mendocino Winesong live auction Sept. 8 passed $600,000 on the strength of generous bidding by local and visiting collectors of wine and fine art and donors of auction lots from as far away as Anguilla and New Zealand. 

The 34-year-old wine festival and auction, centered around the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, is the year’s most important fundraiser for the small Mendocino Coast District Hospital that serves the communities of Mendocino and Fort Bragg as well as the Anderson Valley wine region and others nearby in Mendocino County.

The estimated total from the live auction will be supplemented by proceeds from other activities during the auction weekend. These include an accompanying silent auction and ticket sales from the grand tasting at the Botanical Gardens as well as the Pinot Celebration hosted by the Little River Inn a few miles south on the coast.

Attendees overall totaled about 1,500, while 350 bidders registered for the live auction, according to the Mendocino Coast Hospital Foundation.

While serving the local area, the auction is supported by wine, travel and dining donors from Napa Valley, Sonoma County and well beyond. Napa Valley-based Dan Duckhorn, co-founder of Duckhorn Vineyards, was the event’s “honored vintner” this year and did double duty as a donor and a bidder. Duckhorn and his wife Nancy gave an overnight excursion of tasting, dining and touring for three couples that included private jet transportation between Napa Valley and the Duckhorn Anderson Valley winery, Goldeneye, that drew a winning bid of $12,000.

The village of Mendocino is well-known as a community that embraces the arts with its many galleries, private collectors and festivals. Winesong picked Anderson Valley winery owner Tom Rodrigues, who is also a fine artist and wine packaging designer, as its artist of the year, and he donated a one-of-a-kind, stained-glass piece to the auction.

Rodrigues has created memorable package designs for the Far Niente family of wines including the original Far Niente label, plus the designs for Dolce, Nickel & Nickel, EnrRoute and Bella Union. In 2001 he purchased a vineyard property in Anderson Valley and founded Maple Creek Winery and ArteVino wines. Rodrigues and Far Niente co-founder Beth Nickel also joined with chef Lars Kronmark of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone to donate a lot, including 18 bottles of wine plus a lunch and private tour of the Greystone campus in St. Helena, Calif.

An auction lot called “Tuscany Dreams” sold for $20,000 and featured a seven-night stay for six in a Tuscan villa, plenty of wine and tours of nearby Siena and Volterra. An even higher total of $33,000 was bid on a seven-night stay plus various amenities at the CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa on the Caribbean island of Anguilla. Albert and Bonnie Lake were in attendance and tripled their donation to accommodate multiple bidders who were willing to pay $11,000 each.

Long-time wine writer Dan Berger and his wife Juliann Savage helped arrange an even more far-flung auction lot that drew a winning bid of $16,500. The New Zealand Winegrowers and several New Zealand wineries pitched in to donate a 10-night trip for two guided by Berger and Savage that included dinners, lunches, private tastings and master classes.

Participating wineries were happy to help out the hospital, but they also benefited in other ways, said auction director Jamie Peters. “It’s a business to business opportunity, I think. For instance we have a handmade furniture company out here and they made a lot of contacts with wineries last year because their furniture is huge and it looks great in tasting rooms.

“While our primary focus is to raise monies for the hospital, I love the fact that there is a secondary ability to have people network with each other. While no wine is sold by wineries here, it gives wineries the opportunity to get in front of people they might not otherwise get in front of, including people from all over the country who have the ability to join a dozen or so wine clubs and become loyal patrons,” Peters said.


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