Top winemakers and wineries from California and beyond will be in Atlanta March 22nd through 25th for the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction. Celebrating its 25th year, the auction has raised more than $26 million for the High Museum.
Whether it’s your first High Museum Wine Auction or you’re a regular, here are the wines you won’t want to miss at Saturday’s Vintners’ Reception. Bonus if you love Pinot Noir.
Au Bon Climat
Owner and winemaker Jim Clendenen is one of this year’s guests of honor. It is well deserved – beyond making delicious wines, Jim is a familiar face at the wine auction and always has entertaining stories. In addition to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Jim brings fun and unique wines for guests to sample. Au Bon Climat is based in Santa Barbara County, in California’s Central Coast.
Co-founders Michael Browne and Dan Kosta round out this year’s guests of honor. If you’re a fan of Pinot Noir you’ve no doubt enjoyed one from Kosta Browne. If you haven’t tasted these wines from Sonoma, you must make them one of your first stops.
Start with the Sauvignon Blanc from this Carmel Valley, California winery and you won’t be disappointed. Bernardus was founded by Bernardus “Ben” Pon, who is from the Netherlands (you’ll notice orange in the logo). Marinus, a Bordeaux-style blend, is a must-taste. Bernardus also makes single vineyard Pinot Noirs that when sipped side-by-side offer a glimpse at the different terroir. After the wine auction you’ll want to plan a trip to the tasting room in Carmel Valley Village.
Big Basin Cellars
In the charming town of Saratoga, on the edge of Silicon Valley, is where I first discovered Big Basin Cellars. Their small and unassuming tasting room doesn’t prepare you for the big and bold flavors of their red wine – Pinot Noir, Syrah and Rhone blends. Big Basin’s vineyards are located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Wine auction guests got their first taste of Big Basin at last year’s event; this year owner and winemaker Bradley Brown will be offering tastes of current releases. Big Basin also makes Chardonnay and white wines from Rhone grapes. I’m a big fan of their Roussanne.
Continuum made a big splash at the wine auction in 2014, when father and daughter Tim and Carissa Mondavi were guests of honor. Continuum’s vineyards are located on Pritchard Hill on the east side of Napa Valley, a stunning location if you have the chance to visit. Each year Continuum produces one wine, made from the estate’s best grapes, that truly captures a sense of place and the characteristics of that vintage. More recently they introduced Novicium, a second wine made primarily with grapes from younger vines. Continuum is a prized wine that all aficionados should have in their cellar.
A favorite discovery from last year’s wine auction, Domaine Della returns for its second year. Owner and winemaker David Hejl named the winery for his mother, who as he will tell you, was a truly remarkable woman. David’s experience crafting high quality Pinot Noir shows in each bottle of his wine. It’s hard to pick a favorite between his Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Be sure to join Domaine Della’s list for a chance to buy wine during the spring and fall releases.
Sam Lando is the kind of guy who you want to have a beer – or in this case, glass of wine with. Besides being engaging and entertaining, Sam is extremely knowledgeable about Pinot Noir, having worked with Kosta Browne winery. He’s another wine auction regular, and his table is always a popular spot. Lando makes flavorful and balanced Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations.
If full-bodied Napa Cabernet is your favorite, you must seek out Raj Patel of Patel Winery. As I wrote in 2015, “when Robert Parker awards your first wine a 95, you know you’ve made something special.” Patel wines are lush, layered and elegant, thanks to having access to some of the best grapes and the expertise of Luc Morlet, one of Napa’s top winemakers. Last year Raj debuted a Malbec, a deliciously spicy wine. This year he’ll be offering tastes of his 2014 Napa Valley Malbec, Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon and Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon.
Winderlea Vineyard and Winery
You could spend the entire Vintners’ Reception enjoying California Pinot Noir but be sure not to miss these Oregon Pinots. The name Winderlea evokes images of the breeze gently blowing through the vineyards in the Willamette Valley. Founders Bill Sweat and Donna Morris made their wine auction debut last year, offering tastes of their Chardonnay and single vineyard Pinot Noirs. I can’t wait to taste what they’ll have this year.
Of course, you can’t go wrong with Champagne. This year Champagne Billecart-Salmon will be offering tastes of its bubbly. I’d suggest starting there, then moving on to the wineries featured above.
The Vintners’ Reception at the 25th annual High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction will be held on Saturday, March 25th at 11 a.m., followed by the Live Auction. Located under the tents at the Green Lot at Turner Field.