Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Sun Valley Wine Auction Pivots as it Celebrates 40 Years
The Sun Valley Wine Auction has trotted out some colorful acts over the years, such as this one on stilts, as part of its Sun Valley Wine Auction Gala Dinner.
Sunday, July 18, 2021


In January organizers were prepared to go with a virtual week-long wine auction for the Sun Valley Museum of Art. But by the end of April, with COVID restrictions beginning to ease, they decided to run with three days of in-person events.

That’s when they got creative. They kept the 11 vintner dinners, grateful for hosts that took a leap of faith to open their homes even with the pandemic.

They shelfed the popular Vine & Dine picnic, which attracts between 1,500 and 2,000 people each year, for a smaller wine picnic, auction and concert for 350 people at Trail Creek.

Locals have assisted in spotlighting some of the wine lots.

And they substituted a progressive wine walk and tastings encompassing 26 wines and bites served up by the Sun Valley Culinary Institute at private homes along the Big Wood River for the annual wine tastings that lure hundreds of people under a big tent or at Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge.

“We’ve got a great street with great neighbors and it’s going to be so much more fun and casual,” said Ron Green, who championed the idea of a River Ranch Wine Walk.

“It’s very Sun Valley—a walk along the river, sharing good wine,” added Wine Auction Director Peter Burke.

The Sun Valley Wine Auction will celebrate its 40th anniversary during three days of events Wednesday through Friday, July 21-23. And, while the U.S. Postal Service didn’t get invites to people because of the COVID pandemic, all the events sold out in two weeks online.

In 2013 members of Cirque Berzerk warmed up a gala dinner audience before performing acrobatics from the rafters of the dinner tent later.

“I’m so grateful for the support of this community,” said Burke. “Nonprofits are the character of this town and people are showing up for them.”

The wine picnic will feature the jazz band Sammy Miller and The Congregation, which will take the stage Friday evening on the lawn of Trail Creek Cabin. It will include a live auction and paddle raise with Wells Fargo providing $25,000 to use as a match. Jazz band.

“We will absolutely revisit the Vine & Dine next year,” Burke promised. “But at the time we were planning this we didn’t even know if it would be legal to assemble a crowd of 1,500 people.”

The wine auction has its genesis in a visit Sun Valley Center for the Arts founder Glenn Janss paid to the inaugural Napa Valley Wine Auction in June 1981. Why not do this to raise funds for the then-fledgling Sun Valley Center for the Arts?! she decided.

These noisemakers were used to applaud bidders one year.

A month later she assembled a few vintner friends and guests to auction off some bottles on the lawn of Elkhorn Springs. Over the years, Auction Napa Valley emerged to become the world’s most celebrated charity wine event and its spawn--the Sun Valley Wine Auction--has taken its own place among the country’s best charity wine auctions.

This year’s event chairs are Cyril and Blakesley Chappellet who own Chappellet Winery in Napa Valley, Calif., and have homes in Sun Valley and Montana, as well. It was Cyril’s mother Molly Chappellet who co-founded the Sun Valley Wine Auction with Glen Janss.

Molly Chappellet’s children are working with Glenn Janss’ children to put on this year’s Sun Valley Wine Auction.

“We’re seeing a lot of second-generation participation, said Burke. “There is something familiar about this with these people showing up. It feels like more of a celebration of life.”

Cirque Berzerk brought the circus to the Big Top at the Sun Valley Wine Auction midway through the auction’s 40-year run. The gala auction and dinner was shelfed this year due to the COVID pandemic but patrons may still bid on auciton lots.

While tickets for the 2021 Wine Auction events are sold out, people can bid on 27 auction lots between now and Friday, July 23, at https://www.sunvalleywineauction.org

Lots include a guided fly-fishing trip with Nick Price of Picabo Angler paired with lunch for two catered by Kellee Havens and cellar gems from the SVMoA wine vault. Another is a three-day weekend at the Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Mont., with wine-paired meals and selects from the Chappellet vault, along with an exclusive tour of Chief Joseph Ranch where the TV series “Yellowstone” is filmed, two wool blankets and four custom etched magnums of Chappellet.

Auction lots can be viewed at the Sun Valley Museum of Arts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, July 23.

The wine auction provides half the funds to keep SVMOA’s arts programs and educational initiatives alive. The Museum has awarded more than 700 scholarships to students and teachers totaling a million dollars with the help of the Wine Auction.

Since 2010 the Museum has given 414 school tours and offered many more art classes to the county’s 4,000 school kids.

Last year’s virtual wine auction garnered more than $350,000 for auction items offered online and another $600,000 in a virtual paddle raise

“We made our million-dollar mark, which is what we need to provide free programming and art instruction for the kids,” said Burke.

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