Sonoma Winemakers Go Wild for the County’s Annual Barrel Auction

Local vintners are urged to create uncommon wines for the event

In spite of the event’s name, the wine is not delivered in barrels but as finished bottles.

The third annual Sonoma County Barrel Auction, which takes place Friday, April 21, in Santa Rosa, gives winemakers in that county the opportunity to go wild and crazy by producing one-of-a-kind wines in lots of between five and 20 cases — wines that have never been produced before and won’t be again. The auction also offers wine merchants the opportunity to share these rarities with consumers if their bids are successful. (Bidding is restricted to those in the wine trade — distributors, retailers, and restaurants — though individual consumers with good trade connections can recruit someone do the bidding for them.)

Some of the wines offered for auction are cuvées that their winemakers have always wanted to make but weren’t sure there would be a big enough audience for. Others are collaborations between neighboring wineries who are normally competitors. “We created the auction three years ago to showcase the best this region has to offer, and the 2017 auction lots live up to that challenge like never before,” says Jean Arnold Sessions, executive director of Sonoma County Vintners. “We view each wine bearing the official Sonoma County Barrel Auction label as a statement to the world of quality and potential of our region.” In short, the Sonoma County Vintners Association asks its members to be creative and think outside the traditional cask.

One example: Kosta Browne will be offering 20 cases of pinot noir from the Freestone Vineyard that has been fermented in a wide range of vessels before blending, including a concrete egg, amphorae, and open-top stainless, concrete, and wooden tanks. Williams Selyem has made a blend of pinot noir from three of its estates rather than specifying particular vineyard designations. Winemakers from Arista, Benovia, and Three Sticks are combining their skills for their lot, and Dry Creek and Rochioli are working together with a musqué clone sauvignon blanc for their blend.

Altogether, there are 115 winemakers — including 43 first-time auction participants — presenting a combined 90 lots representing all of Sonoma County’s 17 distinct American Viticultural Area (AVA) appellations. These include both well-known regions — like Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Valley, and the Russian River Valley — and newer AVAs — like Fort Ross-Seaview, Fountaingrove, and Moon Mountain.

It should be noted that, in spite of the event’s name, the wine is not delivered in barrels but as finished bottles, available months from now, whenever they are finished. Proceeds will fund SCV’s annual activities. Trade members who have not been invited may request an invitation at Those who can’t attend can request proxies to do their bidding. Curious consumers can also access the site to scan the lots being made available.


The auction will take place a Santa Rosa’s Vintners Inn, which will also host an invitation-only luncheon and preview tasting on Thursday.