The Wine Guy - Greg Walter

Wine Auction breaks records, funds childhood literacy

Labor Day weekend turned out to be a very good weekend for childhood literacy and several other worthy causes in Sonoma County. The Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction, held Sunday, September 1 at Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood was a huge success—raising more than twice the income from the 2012 event and becoming the highest total in the annual auction’s history.

The auction raised a total this year that was more than $1.4 million. The Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction is one of the main events of the annual Sonoma Wine Country Weekend. Total gross proceeds for the full weekend of events look to set another record at $2.5 million this year.

The Sonoma Wine Country Weekend features, in addition to the auction, the Taste of Sonoma event at MacMurray Ranch, the Sonoma Starlight event at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery as well as a wide range of winery lunch and dinner parties located throughout Sonoma County during the weekend.

The greatest news of all from the auction this year was the incredible turnout and support by the wine community at the auction of the special “Fund the Future” lot—a special funding effort that I wrote about in this column in July.

The “Fund the Future” lot raised $691,250 and it turns out that is the highest grossing lot in the 21-year history of the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction. The proceeds will be divided to support three Sonoma County organizations focused upon childhood literacy and preparing kids to read: Schools of Hope (United Way of the Wine Country), Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, and Pasitos Playgroups by Community Action Partnership.

The “Fund the Future” program supports childhood literacy and key reading programs in a multi-year program with the goal of helping to increase the third grade literacy rate in Sonoma County to 90 percent by 2018.

Research has shown that students who have not reached an expected level of reading proficiency by the time they are in third grade are statistically less likely to graduate from high school. Other negative outcomes have been tied to this lack of reading proficiency such as future poverty and health problems. It is estimated that in Sonoma County, 54 percent of third-grade students read below their expected proficiency levels.

The biggest pledges in the “Fund the Future” lot came from some special members of the Sonoma County wine community: Joe Anderson (Benovia Winery), the Gallo family and Katie Jackson (Jackson Family Wines) each pledged $75,000 and Tom Klein (Rodney Strong Wine Estates) pledged $50,000 per year toward the three-year program. The balance of the funds raised through the lot was donated through the raised paddles of many of the 600 person in attendance at the auction.

For more information the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction and the entire Sonoma Wine Country Weekend and also to save the date for next year’s event, visit

Greg Walter, a Sonoma resident for more than 20 years, has been in wine and food publishing for more than 30 years, 15 of which were spent as a senior editor and later president of Wine Spectator magazine. Today he writes the PinotReport newsletter ( and publishes books through his Carneros Press imprint (

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