Paddles Up

Willamette Valley Wineries Association auction raises over $680,000

A person bidding on a lot during Willamette: The Pinot Noir Auction. ##Photo by Carolyn Wells-Kramer
Ron Acierto, wine curator and beverage director at McMinnville’s okta restaurant, bids on exclusive auction wines. ##Photo by Carolyn Wells-Kramer

By Michele Francisco

Thunderous applause and roaring cheers enveloped the crowd assembled under the tent as the final gavel strike ended the auction. In mere hours, an astounding $680,900 donations had been raised. The funds generated from Willamette: The Pinot Noir Auction will support future marketing and education initiatives of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association.

For the last seven years, member wineries have donated one-of-a-kind Pinot noir and Chardonnay in five, 10 or 20 case lots. Wine retailers and restaurants compete for the final bid on these exclusive bottles, eventually selling them to their Oregon enthusiastic customers. Everyone wins: wineries with well-known brands bask in their elevated cache as bidding grows heated… auction lot winners acquire unique wines unavailable anywhere else… their customers enjoy access to bottles of rare Pinot and Chardonnay… and the Willamette Valley Wineries Association, or WVWA, gains the necessary funds to increase its educational efforts. The rising tide lifts all boats, promising future success.

“The WVWA auction was created to help raise awareness and prestige for the special wines we grow within our winemaking community,” says Josh Bergström, owner, general manager and director of winemaking at Bergström Wines. Ian Burch, auction chair and winemaker at Archery Summit, agrees, “The Willamette Valley has come to be recognized as one of the most exciting wine regions in the world, and this auction offers the highest expressions of Pinot noir and Chardonnay from our top producers. There is nothing else like it.”

Highlights from this year’s auction include:

- Lot 76: Five cases of the Bergström 2021 Pinot noir “La Voluptueuse” for $35,000
- Lot 68: Five cases of the Antica Terra 2021 Pinot noir “Alder Creek” for $15,000
- Lot 67: 20 cases of the Westmount 2021 Pinot noir “West Side Story” for $18,000
- Lot 7: Five cases of Alexana Estate 2021 Pinot noir “Slack Tide–The Calm” for $15,000
- Lot 53: 20 cases of Maison Noir 2021 Pinot noir “Lamb of the God” for $13,000
- Lot 23: Five cases of Drouhin Oregon Roserock 2021 Pinot noir “Cuvée DG” for $11,000
- Lot 72: Five cases of Soléna Estate and Domaine Divio 2021 Chardonnay “Francophilia” at $10,500

I asked André Hueston Mack, owner of Maison Noir Wines, what compels him to support the association. He replied, “Donating wine to the auction was always really about community and, as this was the first of its kind for the Willamette Valley, I am super proud to be a part of it.” Unfortunately, Mack wasn’t able to attend this year. “This was the first auction that I wasn’t present at. I had thrown out my back and wasn’t able to make the trip to Oregon,” said Mack. “So, I was at our summer house in Vermont, watching sort of a makeshift livestream from a friend of mine who had me on FaceTime.

All lots sold at this year’s auction were made with fruit from the 2021 vintage. Bergström becomes effusive, “In my opinion, the 2021 vintage is near perfection for so many reasons. Between two challenging years, 2021 emerges as Mother Nature’s gift to the Valley with a fantastic growing season that yielded a healthy crop in both quantity and quality.”

Mack also praised the vintage. “In my view, 2021 brings forth the joyous revival of relishing the abundant quality that defines Oregon wine. It exceeded all of expectations, especially after the 2020 harvest.”

Excitement escalated as the auction progressed, culminating when bidding began on the final lot: five cases of Bergström 2021 Pinot Noir “La Voluptueuse.” It sold for an astounding $35,000! Recalls Bergström, “I’ve served on the auction steering committee since its inception, and being the inaugural auction chairperson, I volunteered to be the first auction lot that first year. After almost nine years– seven consecutive successful auctions– it was a really lovely moment to be the final lot in my final year serving on the event steering committee alongside WVWA staff and my fellow committee friends and colleagues.”

Those fortunate enough to procure a bottle will no doubt enjoy it. “The 2021s are succulent, charming and so freshly fruited and floral. They will drink very well in the short, medium and long terms. Our auction lot (#76 “La Voluptueuse”) or the voluptuous one, was crafted to showcase all of those distinctive qualities,” says Bergström.

Burch concludes, “The auction experienced a notable trend– 14 lots commanded prices exceeding $10,000. We are so honored to be able to gather together each year with our friends in the wine-buying community.”

For those interested in buying wines crafted for Willamette: The Pinot Noir Auction should inquire with their trusted wine retailers and restaurants. As the holidays approach, the Willamette Valley Wines Association will update its website with information on who purchased lots from this year’s auction:

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