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A Culinary Evening With The California Winemasters, 23rd Annual — Saturday, May 19, Burbank, California

Vintage Affaire, 30th Annual — Saturday, June 23, Woodside, California

Central Coast Wine Classic, 28th Annual — Thursday, July 12 through Sunday, July 15, Avila Beach, California

St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church Cellar Classic, 3rd Annual — Saturday, July 28, Los Olivos, California

Our favorite charity wine auctions in California promise some exhilarating, high energy events this year.  Record-setting highs in 2006 and 2007 were followed by the recessionary years of 2008 and 2009, but charity wine auctions began to show signs of economic recovery in 2010 and 2011 and expectations are strong for 2012.

The 23rd Annual Culinary Evening With The California Winemasters Is Set For Saturday, May 19, 2012, At Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California

A Culinary Evening With The California Winemasters, benefitting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will once again take place on the “Midwest Street” backlot at Warner Bros. Studios on Saturday, May 19.

Guests will enjoy fabulous wining and dining under the stars in the setting of a quintessential Any Town USA, always a sold-out extravaganza, attracting approximately 1,400 wine and food lovers.  Throughout the exciting, magical evening, attendees will delight in gourmet cuisine from over 45 celebrity chefs from around the world, and wines from over 70 or California’s most talented winemakers, while participating in silent and live auctions.  Extraordinary items offered for bidding include rare collector wines and travel fantasies.

Honorary Chairmen this year are the Schweiger family of Schweiger Vineyards and Craig Strong of Studio, Montage Laguna Beach.  Auctioneers are Dawnmarie Kotsonis, Paul Frank of Gemstone Vineyard, a special guest auctioneer, and Rick Partlow, guest auctioneer.

There will be a special performance by Julia Rae, singer, dancer and actress.

Tickets for the event are $475.  Special Patron Packages are available: Diamond Table of 12 at $10,000; Silver Patron Package for eight guests at $5,000; and Gold Patron Package at $2,000 per couple.

Renowned vintners pouring their wines include Au Bon Climat, Caymus Vineyards, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Justin Vineyards and Winery, Paul Hobbs Winery, Peter Michael Winery, Ridge Vineyards, Tablas Creek Vineyard, Trefethen Family Vineyard, Von Strasser Winery and many more.

Among the stellar lineup of celebrity chefs are Celestino Drago of Celestino Restaurant Group, Frank Ostini of Hitching Post II, , Josiah Citrin of Melisse Restaurant, Jason Benavente of Nobu Los Angeles, Nash Cognetti of Tra Vigne, Rory Herrmann of Bouchon Beverly Hills, Claud Beltran of Noir Food & Wine and more.

This year there are several new chefs, restaurants and wineries making their debut:  Steve Murphy, chef from GameFish Restaurant at Snake River Lodge and Spa, Jason Balestrieri of Cantinetta Luca and Salumeria Luca, Raymond Lammers of Montage Deer Valley, Shigefumi Tachibe of Chaya Beverly Hills and Yuko Kajino of Chaya San Francisco.  New wineries include Littorai Estate Winery and Hyde de Villaine.


Among the fabulous lots to be auctioned off are “Both Sides of the Channel – Eight days in Britain and Bordeaux,” starting at the Connaught in London, then on to Great Fosters in Windsor Forest, finishing at the 5-star Grand Hotel de Bordeaux & Spa, launching its new wine concierge service.  Three couples will enjoy the 5-diamond Pelican Hill Golf & Spa Experience at the magnificent Newport coast hotel.  Sixty staterooms are reserved for a special 12-night cruise on the Mediterranean sailing off the coasts of France and Northern Italy.  Other getaways include trips to Costa Rica, Antiqua, Palm Island in the Caribbean, the Galapagos, Argentian, Peru and India.  Two people will delight in a private dinner with Emeril Lagasse while on their trip to New Orleans to see Super Bowl XLVII.   Another special dinner will offer four decades of Vega Sicilia.  For a magical, mysterious event, two couples will stay at Houdini’s Mansion in the Hollywood Hills.

In addition to all the special wine and travel lots, each year, there are also some amazing dinners offered.  This year, publisher of www.undergroundwineletter.com and previously of The Underground Wine Journal and Rarities, John Tilson and his wife, Laurie, who have donated many dinners every year for a number of different charities, including the Central Coast Wine Classic, are offering a dinner.    Their special dinners, whether held at the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara or at their beautiful Montecito home, are always highly sought after featuring exquisite cuisine perfectly matched with rare, extraordinary wines.  These are not-to-be-missed wine collectors’ dream dinners and if it’s a dinner at their home, a visit to their incredible wine cellar is included.  This year the Tilsons are offering one of their fabulous dinners in their home as an auction item for California Winemasters.   To read about their Ridge Monte Bello Retrospective Dinner please click here [2].

To read about their Diamond Creek Retrospective Dinner please click here [3].

To read about a special dinner at the Tilson home paired with Champagnes and old and rare wines from their cellar please click here [4].



This year there are two official event hotels, Hilton Los Angeles Universal City and Renaissance Hollywood Hotel & Spa.

Last year’s event generated $1.7 Million for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation making it one of the most extravagant auctions in history with over 900 live and silent auction items from fantasy trips to exclusive collector wines.  Winemasters is one of the most important CFF fundraisers in the U.S. and one of the largest single-day charity wine auctions in the world, having raised over $22 Million in 22 years.

Barbara Balik, Auction organizer and Director of Special Giving, says it is thanks to new treatments that 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.  According to founding sponsor and Co-Chairman, Allen Balik, the event 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 research and cure programs, making this the highest percentage of any non-profit organization in the country.

Co-Chairmen for the event also include: Ken Avedisian, Teresa & Bill Elder, Sharon & Hal Lampert, Patty McCormick, Pat Hitchcock O’Connell and Karen & Ray Wolkoff.  This year’s event is in memory of Founder and Co-Chairman, Marty Petersil, who passed away recently.

For further information and registration, please contact Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Telephone 323-939-0758 or email bbalik@cff.org [6].  For additional information on wineries, chefs and restaurants, tickets and special patron packages, please see the California Winemasters website: www.californiawinemasters.org [7].

The 30th Annual Vintage Affaire Will Take Place
on Saturday, June 23, 2012, in Woodside, California

Vintage Affaire, Silicon Valley’s premier wine auction, an elegant party with fine wines, gourmet cuisine, live music and one-of-a-kind auction items is taking place on Saturday, June 23, at an exclusive Woodside estate of a Silicon Valley icon.  Always a wonderful affair to remember, it is one of the largest wine and destination auctions in California.


Over the past 29 years, Vintage Affaire has raised over $6 million for Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Palo Alto.  These funds enable Vista Center clients to achieve their highest potential through programs that promote independence and improve the quality of life, including the low vision clinic and rehabilitation services such as counseling, orientation and mobility training, living skills instruction and more.

The event is organized by the nonprofit Vista Center Foundation Board of Directors and is staffed entirely by community volunteers.  Susan Martin is the President of VCF’s Board of Directors.  The auction typically includes wine lots from hard-to-find California vintages,  such as Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Colgin and Ridge Monte Bello; First Growth French Bordeaux and Burgundies, and emerging vineyards from Down Under.  In addition, there are VIP tours and tasting events at Napa and Sonoma vineyards, such as Fritz Hatton’s Arietta along with a 6-litre of the flagship wine; and wine country dinners in Napa, Sonoma and on the Peninsula, unique jewelry and art.  There are spectacular global travel items to spark a new romance or rekindle an old one: a luxurious 12-day cruise for two guests on the Crystal Serenity, visiting Turkey, Greece, Spain and Italy; a four-night stay for two guests in an overwater, mountain view bungalow at the fabulous Four Seasons Bora Bora; weeks in Sun Valley, Northstar Ski Resort, Puerto Vallarta, Big Sur and Sea Ranch.  Go on a fantasy flight over San Francisco Bay in a vintage 1944 aircraft.

Vintage Affaire offers two tiers of tickets, both of which support Vista Center.

Guests at the Club Level ($225) will enjoy the Silent Auction, Pouring Vintners, Elegant wine and amuse-bouches from our Guest Chefs, and Live Auction.

Patron Level guests ($475) will enjoy all of the Club Level events, plus a lovely dinner on the estate grounds following the Live Auction, and an invitation to the spectacular Vintage Evening at a private residence in Silicon Valley a few days before the event.

John Glines, who has conducted auctions all over the west coast, will once again be the auctioneer.


Last year’s Vintage Affaire was dedicated to the memory of Marilyn Pratt who was involved with the event for over 20 years, functioning, along with her husband, David Pratt, as Vintage Affaire Wine Advisors.  Marilyn also served as Event Chair in both 1986 and 1994.

For information and registration please contact Vista Center at 650-858-0202 or visit the website, www.vintageaffaire.org [10] for additional information, including a list of vintners, chefs, unique auction items and tickets.

The 28th Annual Central Coast Wine Classic Is Taking Place
July 12-15, 2012, at Avila Beach, California

Wine enthusiasts will gather at Avila Beach for the festivities of the 28th Annual Central Coast Wine Classic, from Thursday, July 12 through Sunday, July 15, a four-day extravaganza celebrating the wines, cuisine, music, art and the laidback lifestyle of California’s Central Coast.  The Wine Classic will once again showcase special wine tastings, symposia, winery dinners, auction events, and great camaraderie, all offering gracious hospitality and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere in the gorgeous setting of California’s Central Coast with its panoramic ocean views.

Thursday, July 12

Events begin on Thursday afternoon with a Barrel Tasting at Avila Lighthouse Suites, offering guests the opportunity to taste a comprehensive array of unreleased wines from a variety of California wineries.


That evening, the gala Dinner at Hearst Castle in San Simeon will be a fabulous six-course meal with matching wines from Vintner Dignitaries,  featuring the culinary artistry of Central Coast Chefs, Laurent Grangien of Bistro Laurent in Paso Robles, Kurt Grasing from Grasing’s in Carmel, Michael Hutchings from Michael’s Catering in Santa Barbara, Ian McPhee of McPhee’s Grill in Templeton, Frank Ostini from The Hitching Post in Buellton and James Sly from Sly’s in Carpinteria, coordinated by Chef James Sly’s Team.  The annual black-tie affair at Hearst Castle, dining under the stars, overlooking La Casa Grande, the Greco-Roman swimming pool and the Santa Lucia Mountain Range at San Simeon, is a magical event, always sold-out ($1,250/person Patron Sponsorship Required, which includes the Barrel Tasting, Auction, Auction Luncheon and Reserve Tasting.

Friday, July 13

Friday events feature several symposia:  The Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir Symposium, including Au Bon Climat Winery, Babcock Vineyards, Carlson Wines, Chanin Wines, Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post Wines, Melville Winery, The Ojai Vineyard, Rusack Vineyards and Storm Wines, will be held at the Avila Lighthouse Suites ($50/person).

The Napa Valley Cabernet Symposium, “The Venerable, the Relatively New & the New,” featuring Alpha Omega Winery, Brand Vineyard, Clark-Claudon, Diamond Creek Vineyards, Herb Lamb Vineyards, Lokoya, Melka Metisse, Padis Vineyards, Peter Paul Wines, Pride Mountain Vineyards and Rudd Winery, will take place at the Avila Beach Golf Resort ($65/person).  On Friday evening, Justin Vineyards & Winery will host a Winemaker Dinner at Lido Restaurant at Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa in Shell Beach.  Also on Friday, there will be a VIP Outdoor Winery Dinner Dance at the Avila Beach Golf Resort, hosted by special Wineries from San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County and the Napa Valley, the Reception featuring the wines of Ancient Peaks, Center of Effort and Sinor-La-Vallee, with Dinner presenting the Cuisine of Meghan Loring and the exhilarating music of the Red Skunk Jipzee Swing Band ($95/person).

Saturday, July 14

Saturday morning is the Roederer Estate Methode Champenoise Symposium, hosted by Arnaud Weyrich, Vice President of Production and Winemaker, presenting a once-in-a-lifetime Vertical Tasting of Roederer Estate L’Ermitage in Magnums, at Avila Beach Golf Resort ($50/person).


The always exciting headline event, the Rare & Fine Wine & Lifestyle Live Auction, Silent Auction and Luncheon is set for Saturday at noon under the great tent, at the Official Host Auction Venue, the Avila Beach Golf Resort in Avila Beach.  The Eclectic Cuisine of Chef Rick Manson of the upcoming Far Western Tavern in Old Orcutt will present the luncheon.  Renowned auctioneers David Reynolds and Greg Quiroga will wield the gavel at the Auction featuring an amazing array of rare and fine wine and comprehensive packages to various destinations throughout the U.S. and around the world, including extraordinary Relais & Chateaux hotels and restaurants ($125/person).

Every year the Wine Classic offers fabulous lots but this year’s Auction features some really over-the-top lots.  Highlights of 2012 include: a Wine Spectator “Top Ten” Wine Dinner with Wine Spectator Wine Writer Jim Laube at Ken Frank’s La Toque restaurant in Napa; an Orion Expedition Cruise to Exotic The Kimberley Islands near Australia and New Guinea; a Relais & Chateaux French Wine Country Excursion from Paris to Bordeaux to the Rhone to Burgundy to Champagne and returning to Paris, with visits to stellar wine properties and dinners at Relais & Chateaux restaurants as well as at Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy and Pierre Gagnaire in Paris; a VIP trip to 2014 Monaco Grand Prix Automobile Race; a Micato Luxury Excursion to India; a Wine Country Excursion to South Africa; a New York Fine Dining Trip; an Aman Resorts Seven Night Sri Lankan Stay at Amangalla; and stays and dinners at Diamond Creek Vineyards and Chappellet Winery.  For a more complete listing of many of the Wine Classic’s truly remarkable lots for 2012 please click here [13].

As you can see, in addition to all the special wine and travel lots, each year, the Wine Classic also features some amazing dinners.  Again this year, Publisher of www.undergroundwineletter.com and previously of The Underground Wine Journal and Rarities, John Tilson and his wife, Laurie, have donated one of their fabulous dinners in their beautiful home in Montecito.  Their special dinners, whether held at the Four Seasons Biltmore or in their home, are always highly sought after featuring exquisite cuisine perfectly matched with rare, extraordinary wines.  To read about their Ridge Monte Bello Retrospective Dinner please click here [2].

To read about their Diamond Creek Retrospective Dinner please click here [3].

To read about a special dinner at the Tilson home paired with Champagnes and old and rare wines from their cellar please click here [4].

Sunday, July 15

Sunday morning starts with the Paso Robles Red Rhone Varietal Symposium, featuring  Cass Winery, Clos Selene, Eberle Winery, Justin Vineyards & Winery, Hearst Ranch Winery, L’Aventure, Linne Calodo, Red Zeppelin Winery, Saxum Vineyards, Tablas Creek Vineyards & Winery, Villa Creek Winery and Vina Robles Winery & Vineyards, at the Avila Beach Golf Resort ($50/person).  The finale of the festivities is the Reserve Wine Tasting at Avila Beach Resort in the afternoon, offering the Most Special Wines of 50 California Wineries, with culinary samplings from fine Central Coast restaurants, accompanied by the eclectic rhythmic music of Soul Sauce, at the Avila Beach Golf Resort ($50/person).

The Wine Classic has grown from an afternoon wine tasting to become a highly successful, very popular fundraiser, where education is key, attended by wine lovers, vintners, chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers, honorees and press.  The Classic, founded by Archie McLaren, who remains the event’s Chairman and driving force behind it, offers something of interest for everyone.  The Classic began with and continues to fulfill the multiple purposes of promotion of the Central Coast wine industry, education of event participants, encouragement of the symbiotic pairing of food and wine and the raising of money for the Wine Classic Foundation.  The Foundation, established in 2004, awards monies to fund project-specific grants to non-profits involving studio arts, performing arts, and healing arts in the counties of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Over the past eight years, the Foundation has conferred grants totaling $1,883, 386 to 91 such non-profits.

Honorees this year include among others:  Bryan Babcock, Babcock Vineyard; Boots Brounstein, Diamond Creek Vineyards; Dr. Ron Light, Wine Collector & Gourmet and James Berry “Pebble” Smith, James Berry Vineyard & Saxum Vineyard.

Please contact Archie McLaren for further information and registration – email: archie@slonet.org [14]; telephone: 805-544-1285; fax: 805-595-2742; Wine Classic website: www.centralcoastwineclassic.org [15].

The 3rd Annual St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church Cellar Classic Is Scheduled for Saturday, July 28, 2012 in Los Olivos, California

St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church in Los Olivos in California’s Santa Ynez Valley is hosting the 3rd Annual Cellar Classic Auction of Rare & Fine Wines on Saturday, July 28.  The event will take place in St. Mark’s garden courtyard.  The Cellar Classic is coordinated by a group of dedicated wine industry volunteers led by Steve Pepe (owner of Clos Pepe Vineyards) and Brooks Firestone (owner of Curtis Winery).


(Cellar Classic Photos Credit: Mike Mesikep)

The Cellar Classic features both a live and silent auction offering rare, collectible wines from Bordeaux, including Chateaux Latour, Mouton Rothschild, Lafite, Haut Brion and Pavie; Burgundy, such as Maison Leroy, Faiveley and DRC;  California cult wines, including Opus One and others.  Rhone wines from Chapoutier, a large format Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir signed by Robert and Margrit Mondavi and an 18-litre 2010 Rhone blend specially made by California winemakers.  Also to be auctioned off are wine tours and dinners and wine-related gifts and fantasy lifestyle packages.  Professional auctioneer, John Glines, will again wield the gavel.  Gourmet hors d’oeuvres and cheeses will be served during the event as well as local wines, accompanied by various musical selections.  All food and wine served during the event as well as the rare wines, live and silent auction items are donated by St. Mark’s members and friends.  All proceeds benefit St. Mark’s and its extensive community programs and services in the Santa Ynez Valley.

The event made history by raising $103,020 at its first Cellar Classic held in 2010, auctioning 30 lots of rare and fine wines and unique lifestyle events, before a sold out audience of 120 guests.  Last year, the Cellar Classic raised $130, 117, the largest single-event fundraiser in church history.


Donated wines for this year’s Cellar Classic include vintages of Chateau Latour, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau Haut Brion, Chateau Lynch Bages, Maison Leroy, Chateau Pavie, Chateauneuf du Pape, Joseph Phelps Insignia and a magnum of Mondavi Pinot Noir signed by Robert Mondavi and his wife, Margrit.

According to The Reverend Randall Day, St. Mark’s Priest and Rector, “We embrace a spacious Christianity where there is room for absolutely everyone.  St. Mark’s is the home of a vibrant Episcopal congregation as well as serving as a meeting place for the area’s Jewish community, along with many other organizations including Food Bank, Valley Community Theatre, and 12-step recovery groups.  We actively support the arts with our Schoolhouse Music Evenings and other concerts throughout the year as well as hosting exhibitions of photography and art.  Our Pre-School provides top-flight early childhood education for those of all faiths.  Everyone is invited to attend the Cellar Classic, truly a wine industry event.”

Steve Pepe, Co-Chair, commented, “In the Cellar Classic’s first two years, the event has been a rousing financial success raising more than $200,000.  We hope to continue to provide important community service support such as a $5,000 donation funding area children to attend the nearby St. Vincent de Paul’s Circle V Ranch Camp.  St. Mark’s depends on the generosity of its parishioners especially the wine industry surrounding it to provide sufficient funds to continue its mission to openly serve an increasingly diverse population with a very wide range of needs.”

Cellar Classic tickets are $100 per person including wine, hors d’oeuvres and entertainment – available only in advance with payment by check, credit card or PayPal.  To receive an invitation and purchase tickets or to donate wine for the auction, contact Steve Pepe at steve@clospepe.com [18] or telephone at 805-735-7867 or call St. Mark’s office at 805-688-4454.  Visit the website at www.SMITV.org [19].