Lake County Wine Auction
August 11, 2022
Every September something special happens in Lake County that draws people from all over California. By now, the heat of summer is slowly dissipating but still lingers, as if not quite ready for the chill of fall. It makes for pleasant evenings filled with quiet rest after the rush of Labor Day. And it also means it’s time for the Lake County Wine Auction, a powerhouse of an event that brings together the entire community.
This charity event is like none other. Since its inception in 2000, it has donated over $2,300,000 to over fifty-seven local charities and nonprofits. Yes, you heard it right: Two Point Three Million. Over $250,000 was raised at the 2021 auction, and every year over one-third of the money donated goes to the five high schools in Lake County.
“Our goal is to produce an event that is exciting to attend, exceeds fundraising expectations, and continues the community ‘giving’ model the Wine Alliance established more than twenty years ago,” states Beth Havrilla, Wine Alliance Director and Committee Chair. And each year, it does just that. The list of the organizations it has supported is diverse and covers a spectrum of organizations. The Lake County Symphony, The Safe House for Homeless Youth, Sponsoring Survivorship, the Taylor Observatory, and the Lower Lake Schoolhouse Museum represent just a sampling (Here’s a complete list if you’re curious).
Plus, there’s plenty of good wine. In 2021, over fifteen local wineries and three local breweries poured at the event. Imagine enjoying Olof Cellar’s unique White Nebbiolo or comparing R Vineyards and Sol Rouge’s spectacular and highly-rated Viogniers. Or, if you prefer, taste the bite of a Jade Monkey IPA from Kelsey Creek Brewing, then contrast it with a sip of O’Meara Brothers Brewing’s Elk Mountain IPA. The choices are limitless.
The wine isn’t the only appeal: some of Lake County’s best restaurants bring their talents to the auction, offering appetizers around the tasting tent, and each year brings something new and unique. At this past fall’s auction, for example, you could nibble on carnitas lettuce wraps with pico and avocado crema from the Saw Shop Public House, ahi tartare with a tamari-sesame glaze and honey sriracha aioli from Red’s at The Skyroom, and fresh ricotta canape with tomato ginger jam from the Ripe Choice Farm.
But those are just the appetizers. The dinner is exceptional. Tastefully planned by local chefs, it’s created to complement and highlight some of Lake County’s best wines. Last year they offered arugula salad with local pears and walnuts, barbecued beef tenderloin with a demi-glace drizzle, twice-baked potato with smoked gouda, and crisp vinaigrette asparagus. They always offer a vegetarian option as well–in 2021, it was pesto portobello mushrooms, locally-grown garden fresh tomatoes, spinach, and feta.
Of course, talking only about the food and wine without mentioning the auction misses the point. This auction showcases some of the best parts of Lake County. Each year the lot is different, but if you were lucky in the past, you experienced touring some of the largest vineyards in Lake County with Andy Beckstoffer and his vineyard manager, then enjoyed lunch over wine at Red Hills Vineyard. Or you may have enjoyed a lobster feed with Congressman Mike & Jan Thompson at their Lake County home, playing bocce ball into the evening hours. If you were lucky, you went home with a painting by John Clarke, who since 2000 has painted original artwork for the auction (You can see some of his past year’s work here). Whatever you end up with, the bidding is always enjoyable and filled with laughter and friendly competition.
But just because the auction and dinner are over doesn’t mean the night has ended. The bright blue Lake County skies have turned dark, revealing the luminescent stars shining through the mountain air. Now it’s time to round out the edges with the last bits of dessert, sip on a little more wine, and spend the night dancing to the music flowing through the cool night.