The day’s heat still wavers in the air, hiding behind tent flaps and resting in the still evening. The sun still has an hour to hang around before finally disappearing behind the mountains, and it’s gleefully watching over the hundreds of people milling around The Mercantile in Kelseyville. Here you’ll find winery owners and administrative assistants, school principals and county workers, exterminators and nurses, congressmen and construction workers. This cross-section of folk shows up every year for the same reason, and it’s not to swelter in the early evening heat. They’re all here for the Wine Auction, one of Lake County’s most important charitable events.
There’s something unique about the Wine Auction. It’s been around for over twenty years and is still going strong. And there’s a good reason why; the Wine Auction raises huge amounts for local schools, nonprofits, and volunteer organizations. Here’s a small sample of the groups that benefit from the generosity of this amazing evening: Lake County Youth Symphony, Lake County Arts Council, CLHS and LLHS Culinary Programs, Operation Tango Mike, People Services, Ely Stage Stop, Lake Family Resource Center, Kelseyville Food Pantry, Totes for Teens, North Shore Fire Fund, Operation Santa, Lake County Channel Cats, Mother-Wise, and all five of Lake County High Schools’ Fine Arts programs.
It’s a big list, and that’s less than half of the organizations that the Wine Auction’s donations support. We’ve written about many, and if you live in Lake County, you have been served by one of these organizations. Lake County needs these businesses and nonprofits to thrive, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars the Wine Auction raises help that happen.
The process of getting those funds, however, doesn’t involve hassling donors to give up cash for a good cause. Nope. This massive fundraising event occurs at one of Lake County’s best parties People arrive in formal wear; women in evening gowns and men in suits. They begin the evening sipping on champagne and tasting wine poured by local winemakers. Of course, dozens of local restaurants and the local culinary schools offer paired appetizers. Hundreds of people mill around, plates full of ceviche, barbecue, and cheesecake, chatting with their friends.
Over at the wine table, staff busily uncorks bottle after bottle of Six Sigma’s Tempranillo, Sol Rouge’s Gypsy Blend, and Cache Creek’s Blanc de Blanc. It’s impossible to walk twenty feet without running into a neighbor, acquaintance, or work associate. Long-time friends catch up on the past week, only to be interrupted by an old buddy from high school. Everybody’s talking with everyone, and the evening’s just begun to get going.
Of course, the Wine Auction has a spectacular meal. How couldn’t it? Most people, though, filled up on appetizers and conversation and forgot to leave room for locally crafted dishes prepared by The Saw Shop and Woodland Community College’s Culinary Program. Plate by plate, each dish is gently carried by students from Lower Lake and Clear Lake High School.
And, as the crowd digs into dinner, the auction begins. Who would have thought all the fundraising would hide in plain view? Lot by lot, money is raised, all while the diners chat with newly-found friends and servers bring more platters of food to each table. The bid gets raised time after time, until the evening has disappeared and been replaced by mid-September darkness and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been collected.
The ending of the auction serves as the beginning of the good work it does for the community. People wind down the evening, finishing the last of their bottles of wine and ending their conversations, knowing that just by enjoying themselves and being generous, they have helped Lake County thrive.
This year the Wine Auction raised over $200,000 for local charities. Thank you to all those who participated and gave generously to make Lake County a better place.