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Entwine & FareStart: It’s a big weekend for auctions in Washington wine country

Posted in Marketing, Non-profits

washington wine auction walla wallaThere’s nothing like a charity auction in Washington wine country to put a serious dent on my credit card, and two of my favorites are on tap for this weekend.

First up is Entwine, which will be held Saturday evening on the campus of Walla Walla Community College. I first attended Entwine when I was doing some PR work for the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and quickly fell in love with it. The concept is beautifully simple – combine art and wine to raise money that benefits those sectors of the valley’s economy.

What better place to do this than Walla Walla, where the vibrant art and wine scenes move  in lock-step and the autumn air is charged with the aroma and energy of crush. Auction lots alternate between local art pieces, most of which capture the magic and beauty of eastern Washington, and wine – lots of wine, actually. (I know – hard to believe in Walla Walla, right?) Focus your bids on the wine alone and you can quickly fill your cellar with gems, many of them offered from winery libraries.

Entwine opens with a winery reception and silent auction, then moves to a sit-down dinner and live auction. Another interesting twist – most of the food is prepared by students and graduates of the school’s exceptional culinary program and many of the wines served during the night are made at College Cellars, the school’s on-campus teaching winery, or by graduates from the enology and viticulture program.

This is the best small-market wine auction in the United States …

If you think this is a night of average juice, think again: Cayuse’s 2010 Callioux Vineyard syrah is paired with the night’s main course to honor vit school graduates Elizabeth Bourcier and Laura Pursley, both assistant vigneronnes at Cayuse Vineyards.

Entwine doesn’t have the marketing horsepower to generate widespread interest in big markets like Seattle, Portland and Spokane, making it hard to attract a crowd of West-siders over to Whitman County on a Saturday night in October. And with both the Huskies and Cougars playing afternoon/ evening home games on Saturday, this weekend is particularly tough.

That’s a pity, because this is the best small-market wine auction in the United States and a bargain at $150 per ticket. World-class wines, stunning artwork and best of all, a wonderfully festive atmosphere of great people committed to raising money for education at one of the country’s top community colleges. If you can’t make it this year, mark your calendar for next fall.

Washington wine auction SeattleThe annual gala auction benefitting FareStart technically isn’t a wine auction, although Washington wines play an important role here. But if you care at all about the food, beverage and hospitality industry in Washington State, this event should be on your calendar.

FareStart is all about creating jobs in the hospitality industry for homeless and disadvantaged individuals. Over the past 20 years, FareStart’s culinary job training and placement programs have provided opportunities for nearly 6,000 people to transform their lives, while also serving more than 5 million meals to disadvantaged men, women, and children. The program is so successful and inspirational that it’s been modeled by other cities across the U.S.

The gala auction is one of FareStart’s primary fundraisers, bringing in nearly $1 million annually, and because it benefits such an important cause, I rarely have buyer’s remorse when I figure out how much I spent the previous night. A few things I’m anticipating Sunday night after a glance through the auction catalog:

  • The oyster bar sponsored by Elliott’s Oyster House accompanied by special wine tastings from FIGGINS & Doubleback during the pre-dinner reception; (I may stop right there!)
  • The opportunity to upgrade our table’s wine for the evening with double magnums of Reynvaan, Leonetti or Woodward Canyon’s Charbonneau series;
  • 20th anniversary decanter centerpieces from Riedel;
  • Any number of wine- and travel-related lots in the live auction;
  • And the silent cellar auction features 75 different wine lots, many of them from Washington State.

At $250 per ticket, the FareStart auction is an expensive indulgence. But as I said, buyer’s remorse never shows its head the following day.