WILLAMETTE: The Pinot Noir Auction raises more than $1 million


by L.M. Archer
April 08, 2019

Newberg,Ore. – This weekend, the fourth annual Willamette Valley Wineries Association WILLAMETTE: The Pinot Noir Auction raised more than $1 million, surpassing all previous records.

“The excitement’s palpable,” said Shirley Brooks of Elk Cove Vineyards, co-chair of the 2019 auction, along with Eugenia Keegan of Jackson Family Wines.

Held at the Allison Inn and Spa in Newberg, Ore., and helmed by veteran wine auctioneer Fritz Hatton, this year’s standing-room only auction comprised a total of 92 lots from 89 winery participants. These included 86 one-of-a-kind Pinot noir lots, and six collaborative Chardonnay lots, all from the 2017 vintage, proffered in quantities of five, 10 or 20 case.

“We were fortunate to be one of the folks who got to put together a collaborative lot, with two other producers,” says second-generation winemaker Adam Campbell of Elk Cove Vineyards. Campbell enlisted two other pioneer wineries – Ponzi and Sokol Blosser, and the three came up with a combined lot with Chardonnay produced from Jory soil, Laurelwood soil, and marine sediment soils. “So it was a first for us to be be able to taste a combined wine from all three soil types, ” says Campbell.

Over 450 members of the wine trade and media attended the auction, totaling 128 bidders representing 26 states and three countries. The average price paid per bottle climbed to $160, constituting a 29% increase over the previous year – and an astounding 81.5% uptick since the auction’s inception in 2016. Total 2019 auction revenues tallied up to nearly $1.1 million, including sponsorship and ticket sales.

Top lot sales consisted of Lot 92: Five cases of Duck Pond Cellars Pinot noir, “First Blood”: $60,000; Lot 89: Five cases of Domaine Serene Pinot noir, “Barrel 23”: $54,000; Lot 75: Five cases of Antica Terra Pinot noir, “Alder Creek”: $32,000; Lot 25: Five cases of Alexana Winery Pinot noir, “I’ll Have Another”: $30,000, and Lot 63: Five cases of Bethel Heights Pinot noir, “An End, A Beginning”: $26,000.

The two-day event also incorporated a series of private tastings, wine dinners, and gatherings, including an Immersion 2017 Master Class moderated by wine writer Elaine Chukan Brown, with panelists Harry Peterson-Nedry of RR Wines, Thomas Savre of Lingua Franca, Adam Campbell of Elk Cove Vineyards, and Maggie Harrison of Antica Terra. Each panelist presented two wines from two other producers, and vintages other than 2017, which they felt contained similarities to the 2017 vintage.

“I thought it was really dynamic having this great panel of people up there talking about bigger topics than just their own wine,” said co-chair Brooks. Despite variations in producers, vintages and soils, the wines all shared undeniable ‘sibling’ characteristics, including the region’s trademark natural bright acidity, complex textural components, and undeniable sense of place.

Guests also shuttled between simultaneous, catered pre-auction tastings at Domaine Drouhin and Domaine Serene in Dundee. “The 2017 vintage was fantastic,” says Arron Bell, Assistant Winemaker & Operations Manager for Domaine Drouhin and Drouhin Oregon Roserock, “I think that it was a warmer vintage, but a warmer vintage with a bit of finesse.”

All proceeds from WILLAMETTE: The Pinot Noir Auction support the marketing, branding, and educating efforts of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association (WVWA), a non-profit industry association dedicated to achieving recognition for Oregon’s acclaimed Willamette Valley as a premier Pinot noir–producing region.

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