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In Celebration and Support of the Arts | The Sun Valley Wine Auction

photography by DEV KHALSA

Vintners Dinner

The annual summer event supports the region’s cultural anchor—the Sun Valley Museum of Art.

For more than four decades the Sun Valley Wine Auction has hosted celebrated vintners and wine lovers who gather for three days each summer in support of the Sun Valley Museum of Art, a modest structure founded in 1971 in the heart of Ketchum, Idaho, in which local artists are exhibited in its small gallery. The community’s cultural anchor, this museum-on-a-mission enriches the region through transformative arts and educational experiences.

The museum is home to a multitude of varied visual arts, performing arts, humanities and education outreach programs that serve nearly 24,000 people annually, 4,000 of whom are student participants in schools throughout Idaho’s Wood River Valley. Responsible for approximately 50 percent of the museum’s annual budget, the auction enables the museum to offer its arts programs free of charge. 

“The wine auction—a Sun Valley tradition for more than 40 years—is our major fundraising event of the year,” Jennifer Wells Green, executive director of the Sun Valley Museum of Art, says. “Over the course of several days, the event brings together an extraordinary mix of new and longtime friends and donors. The funds raised provide unparalleled experiences and scholarships in the arts for our community, especially our teens and young adults.”

Sun Valley Wine Auction

The three day event gathers 50 high-end wineries, each of which share their wares with event goers during the course of varied vino-oriented programming, such as the nine vintner dinners held at the private Sun Valley homes of museum supporters. Renowned chefs are flown in to collaborate with the vintners on perfectly paired menus, such as that enjoyed at Carol Swig’s Sky Horse Ranch where Chef Kent Rathbun of Dallas’ Shinsei and Lover’s Seafood & Market crafted ideal courses to complement the wines of Dr. Madaiah Revana and his Revana Portfolio: Revana Family Vineyard in St. Helena, Alexana Winery in Newberg, Oregon, and Corazon del Sol in Mendoza, Argentina. 

Revana, a cardiologist, and his Revana Portfolio frequently collaborate with the United States’ top charity wine auctions. Passionate about giving back to organizations focused on childhood health and education, Revana has participated in the Sun Valley Wine Auction since 2018. 

“It’s the community in Sun Valley that makes this auction unique,” Revana says. “Everyone is so passionate about children’s education and their access to the arts. These events are about connecting, sharing, and building real friendships; many people we meet end up staying in touch and visiting us at our wineries in Oregon, Napa and Argentina.”

“Many of our friends from Sun Valley have become great supporters who share our story and wines with their friends, and who we have enjoyed staying in touch with throughout the years.”

Sun Valley Wine Auction

“The wine auction—a Sun Valley tradition for more than 40 years—is our major fundraising event of the year,” Jennifer Wells Green, executive director of the Sun Valley Museum of Art, says. “Over the course of several days, the event brings together an extraordinary mix of new and longtime friends and donors. The funds raised provide unparalleled experiences and scholarships in the arts for our community, especially our teens and young adults.”

Auction attendees were treated to something new this year with the addition of four symposia hosted by Sun Valley newcomer, Scout Wine & Cheese. The curated series of wine tastings from Scout’s garden patio included flights of four varietals handpicked by the Scout team to showcase a specific region, such as South Africa, for whom Vinspire’s Neil Grant provided insight. The former president of the South African Sommelier Association, Grant has long been revered as one of South Africa’s finest wine experts and restaurateurs. 

Featuring the largest gathering during the festivities, the always anticipated picnic, live auction and concert found hundreds of participants enjoying a seemingly never ending flow of wines such as those from Sonoma County’s Three Sticks, Ram’s Gate, Williams Selyem and Verite (among many others). Representing Napa were ZD, Paradigm, Lombardi Wines and longtime auction supporters Trefethen and Chappellet, represented by Lorenzo Trefethen and Cyril Chappellet, whose mothers Janet Trefethen and Molly Chappellet helped to launch the auction 41 years ago. 

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Chappellet wines

“We’ve been thrilled to be involved with the Sun Valley Wine Auction in some capacity since the beginning,” Chappellet, president and CEO of his family’s eponymous winery, says. “We participate in more than a dozen wine-related fundraisers each year that take us from Napa to Naples to Atlanta to Nashville to Sun Valley. We love Sun Valley! We spend quite a bit of time in the area, so we really understand and appreciate the community, and as part of the community, we really enjoy being involved with the auction.”

“Supporting the arts is extremely important to our family, as is our history helping to found the auction.” 

Contributing to the bulk of funds raised was the live auction and its impressive array of offerings, such as ‘Bordeaux, Chateaux, Fourmeaux’ contributed by Napa’s VGS Chateau Potelle winery—a seven day, all-inclusive trip to Bordeaux for two and ‘Party in a Box’—a music and wine-filled Sun Valley Valentine’s Day party for 40, contributed by Sonoma County’s Senses Wines founders Max Theriot, Myles Lawrence-Briggs and Christopher Strieter, wine auction participants since 2019.

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“We are proud to support select non-profits around the world where we can make a tangible difference and in communities we enjoy working with,” Strieter says. “The Sun Valley Wine Auction was among the first wine auctions in which we participated. This is an opportunity for us to support a fantastic cause while sharing our passion with a group of people who share that same love of wine, food, and art. Any time we are sharing our wine ‘in the wild,’ we increase our brand awareness. But telling the story and sharing with individuals that specifically have an appreciation for wine allows us to do it in a more meaningful way.”

A highly sought-after item in the auction was ¡VIVA ARGENTINA!, provided by Revana Family Wines and auction sponsor Essentialist, the private member service for passionate travelers. The curated tour and tasting journey for four to the Mendoza region raised more than $40,000. 

In addition to its Mendoza auction item, first-time sponsor participant Essentialist provided free annual memberships to Grand Cru ticket holders. 

Gala Event

“When we first learned about this event, we felt it was a great opportunity as it combined the right community of people with the vintner focus, in a beautiful destination and for a great cause,” Essentialist founder and CEO Joan Roca says. “Sun Valley is a place that many of our members love and we also have close ties to Napa/Sonoma through our editor and insider community, so the merging of the two felt like a perfect fit for our brand.

“Between the Sun Valley community and the vintner community, there was such a convivial feel to the event with both old and new friends present and everyone excited to be there,” Roca added. “Community is such an integral part of what we do at Essentialist, from our own team, our editors, and insiders to our members and our engagement with local communities in the destinations to which we curate travel, so this connection was special for us.”

“I found that the week’s events resonated with Essentialist’s tagline of There’s a difference between visiting a place and truly getting to know it,” said Wells Green. “I love that there is a difference between tasting/drinking wines and truly getting to know the vintners and the museum’s community over the course of three days. Each event provided a unique opportunity to spend time with the vintners and their wines.” 

Sun Valley

“This is an incredible community, a beautiful place, and a great cause,” added Strieter. “I love coming up here for the wonderful intersection of nature, community, and ability to make an impact.”

Next year’s Sun Valley Wine Auction is July 19 – 22, 2023.

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