Oeno Files

Buy By Barrel: Auction of Washington Wine Returns

One of the year's biggest (and swankiest) wine events is back; here’s how to get in the game.

By Julie H. Case August 14, 2012


 From Thursday’s barrel auction and picnic through Saturday’s gala dinner, the end of this week is basically a whirlwind of wine, all part of the 25th Auction of Washington Wines. The auction is the Washington wine industry's philanthropic organization and raises funds for uncompensated care for Seattle Children's Hospital patients and families, and for Washington State University’s viticulture and enology program. The nonprofit has raised a whopping $26 million since 1988.

In total, the auction comprises five events, beginning with Revelry at Red Mountain over Memorial Day weekend, and culminating with a gala and silent auction this Saturday. Here's how to spend the last half of the week drinking wine and doing good. 

 Thursday, August 16

Picnic and Barrel Auction
Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, 4pm

Here attendees can taste—and barrel sample—from 24 wineries, then bid on a case of forthcoming wine from the likes of Abeja and Adams Bench, Doubleback and Dunham, Waters and Woodward Canyon. No, the winning bids aren't rewarded with a full barrel, but rather a case of wine. It’s sort of like buying futures, in that winners will have to wait a good two years before their wine will be bottled, released, and delivered.

In addition to barrel sampling and bidding (watch for your bid to literally drop off the a wooden board of top bidders when it gets topped, by the way) some 80 wineries are pouring at this year’s picnic. Every year the theme changes; this year it’s Under the Big Top, which means there will be ring tosses, and a wine pull ($50 pretty much guarantees you walk away with a mystery bottle of wine), the chance to "chip a cork" into a half barrel for prizes, and a dessert tent (think cirque meets county fair; think bacon candy and strawberry sno-cones) as well as bites from the chefs of Tulalip Casinos.

Friday, August 17

Winemaker Dinners
Various Locations, 6:30pm

If chatting with a favorite winemaker as he or she pours a barrel taste isn't a sufficiently intimate experience, the week of debauchery continues Friday when, for $250 per person, one can indulge in a dinner with one to three wineries and a local chef at the home of some upstanding local citizen. Because who wouldn’t want to get a buzz on Seattle aboard businessman Walt Pisco’s seaplane before sitting down at his home on Mercer Island for a dinner with the Leonetti winemaking family (of Leonetti Cellar and Figgins fame) and chef Seis Kaminura of RN74?

Saturday, August 18

Covey Run
Redhook Ale Brewery, 8am

Because you'll need to cleanse your system after two nights of food and wine, and before the gala, there's the Covey Run, a 5K and 10K run, walk, and Kids Dash that begins at Redhook Ale Brewery and wending through Woodinville. Stopping to taste along the way is discouraged as it significantly decreases race times. Miss the finish and you miss the opportunity to get high-fived by a guy dressed like bird. 

The 25th Anniversary Wine Gala
Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, 4:30pm

The weekend culminates in the sixes on Saturday night at Gala—the 25th anniversary of wine gala, no less—hosted at Chateau Ste. Michelle and featuring eight chefs and 40 local sommeliers. (Hint: don't expect to see your favorite somm tableside anywhere else in Seattle on Saturday.) Each six-top comes complete with its own winemaker host who will pour wines from his or her collection, paired with a six-course meal. All of this is followed by a silent auction—including a super silent text auction—featuring such items as a Bonnie Raitt concert for 30, nine nights on safari in South Africa with Bob Betz, or 10 “rare, unobtainable” bottles of Cayuse and—maybe more unobtainable still—the right to leapfrog to the front of the Cayuse mailing list.

Good news: At $125, $250 and $500 per person only the $35 run may come cheap, but at least you’re using your oenological habit to benefit Seattle Children’s Hospital.

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