Introducing Willamette: The Pinot Noir Barrel Auction

An exciting new industry event, with tremendous potential to spread exquisite Oregon wines far and wide, will debut in Wine Country this April: The first annual Willamette: Pinot Noir Barrel Auction. Here are the bullet points:

* A long list of wineries will produce a unique cuvee available at the auction ONLY.
* The event is invitation-only
* The event is trade-only — retailers, restaurants, importers, and distributors
* The proceeds will benefit the Willamette Valley Wineries Association, to benefit their marketing and branding operations

From their website: “An invitation-only tasting and live auction of inimitable 5, 10, and 20 case lots of 2014 vintage Willamette Valley Pinot noir exclusively for members of the wine trade.”

At my last count of wineries listed as participating, there were more than 65 producers involved in the event! Trade attendees include notable local members of the trade as well as out-of-state folks, and some international visitors, I’m told. The events will take place at various wineries, as well as the Allison Inn in Newberg, in the heart of wine country.

This event is fascinating on a lot of levels. First, it is clearly ambitious: If 65 wineries each produce a five-case lot, that’s going to be 325 cases available minimum. And, the minimum bid is being set at $50 / bottle for those cases. If all those cases sell for that much money, and you throw in ticket fees and other revenue streams, Willamette could generate some serious cash. Indeed, the organizers hope to gross some $350K for this first-year event.

Here’s How They Do It in Napa

But they won’t raise that money with the enthusiastic help of some larger Oregon wine retailers — a group one would think of as a key bidding group. Although most Oregon wine shops earn good money selling Oregon pinot noir online, only a small number have so far signed up for the event (I’ll be there). That said, the target is to garner 125 bidders.

Similar events abound. Oregon’s West Coast winegrowing neighbors have well-established events.  Washington throws the Auction of Washington Wines to promote their region, which brought in $2.5 million at their 2015 event, which has been running since 1988. Premiere Napa Valley, a trade-only auction to benefit the Napa Valley Vintners, sold $5.9 million of wine at their 2014 event, it was reported, with an average bottle price over $800!

It’s also inevitable that the event will draw comparisons with the Salud Auction, which is held every November, on the other side of the annual calendar from the Willamette event. The 2014 Salud raised $725K through a series of events including an auction of special cuvees. But that event is driven by consumers paying top tax-deductible dollar for the wine, and the proceeds go to charity. Willamette buyers will generally have to mark up the wines for resale at least one price level.

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Posted by Robert Wolfe copyright reserved, 50 word passages or shorter permissible only with author attribution.

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