The “Midwest Street” backlot at Warner Bros Studios in Burbank, once again served as the venue for A Culinary Evening With The California Winemasters, a tasting and hors d’oeuvres extravaganza, on May 14, raising $1.7 Million for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, besting the 2010 total of just under $1.6 Million. The sold-out event, attended by 1,400 wine and food lovers, offered wining and dining under the stars in the setting of a quintessential Any Town USA. Throughout the exciting, magical evening, gourmet cuisine from over 45 celebrity chefs from around the world, and wines from 71 of California’s most talented winemakers, were enjoyed by guests while participating in silent and live auctions, bidding on extraordinary items.
The 2011 event boasted one of the most extravagant auctions in history with over 900 live and silent auction items from fantasy trips to exclusive collector wines. The live auction this year included a four-day, three-night holiday for 10 couples in a Tuscan villa overlooking Sienna that sold for $30,000; a nine-day holiday in Argentina with stays in Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Patagonia that sold for $21,000; a one-of-a kind basket sculpture and drawing from artist Dale Chihuly that together sold for $35,000; and a mountain of Magnums and Spring Mountain adventure for four that sold for $18,000. Live auction wine lots featured an Imperial of 2006 Chateau Haut Brion that sold for $21,000; a 120-bottle collection from the Mount Veeder Appellation that was auctioned off for $12,000; and a vertical collection of 2002-2007 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tache that sold for $17,000.
Silent auction lots that generated a great deal of enthusiasm included ten-night stays at the buyer’s choice of any of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World in Italy and Thailand that sold for more than $6,000 each and a five-night stay for ten in a luxurious Costa Rica villa that sold for $9,000. Among the most popular wine lots were an etched 3-liter bottle of 1990 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon that sold for $1,200; a vertical “Legacy Pack” collection of 1990-2001 Von Strasser Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain District that sold for $1,650 and one case of assorted 1996, 1990 and 2000 Kistler Chardonnays that sold for $1,900.
Renowned vintners pouring their wines included Au Bon Climat, Caymus Vineyards, Clark-Claudon Vineyards, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Paul Hobbs Winery, Peter Michael Winery, Ridge Vineyards, Schramsberg Vineyards, Silver Oak Cellars, Tablas Creek Vineyard, Von Strasser Winery, and more.
Among the stellar lineup of celebrity chefs were Josiah Citrin of Melisse Restaurant, Celestino Drago of Drago Ristorante/Drago Centro, Frank Ostini of Hitching Post II, Ken Frank of La Toque, Nobu Matsuhisa of Nobu, Michael Cimarusti of Providence, Thierry Rautureau of Rover’s & Luc, and more.
Auction organizer and Director of Special Giving, Barbara Balik attributed the great success of this year’s and last year’s auctions to the quality of the lots, many of which were unsolicited donations. A Culinary Evening With The California Winemasters, according to the event’s founding sponsor and Co-Chairman, Allen Balik, is a unique gourmet experience, offering something for everyone, and it is a particularly worthwhile charity event in that 91 cents of every dollar raised goes directly into Cystic Fibrosis vital research and cure programs, making this the highest percentage of any non-profit organization in the country. Honorary Chairs for this year’s event were the Schweiger family of Schweiger Vineyards and Chef Craig Strong of Studio at Montage, Laguna Beach. Premier auctioneer DawnMarie Kotsonis conducted the live auction.
According to Barbara Balik, thanks to new treatments, people with cystic fibrosis are now living one year longer for every year of research. Sponsors, vintners, chefs and guests understand their support is the reason for this lifesaving reprieve. The date for the 23rd annual Culinary Evening with the California Winemasters event at Warner Bros. Studios is set for May 19, 2012.