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California Wine Pros Are Auctioning Napa’s Best Bottles to Support Restaurant Workers

Exclusive producers are putting rare bottles on the block through a new startup auction partnership.

wine auction napa ovid Courtesy of Ovid

If you thought you’d never be able to get your hands on a rare bottle of Screaming Eagle or Staglin Cabernet, now is your chance. And in doing so, you’ll also help support the swath of restaurants and their staffs laid low by Covid-19.

In the face of relentless disaster, a few professionals in the wine industry are handing wine lovers a silver lining—a platform for supporting the decimated restaurant industry and acquiring some enviable bottles in the process. Wine Country for Restaurants, an organization founded by a small team of Northern California wine pros (on a voluntary basis), has partnered with WineBid.com to roll out a series of online wine auctions supplied by donations from wine producers of all stripes. The first of the auctions launched last night, and will be live through the entire week. Proceeds will go to the national Restaurant Workers Community Foundation’s Covid-19 Relief Fund, with the mantra, “Let’s #86LostWages.”

The donor page on the organization’s website could double as a collector’s crib sheet: Bond, Dalla Valle, Dana, Favia, Harlan Estate, Ovid Napa Valley, Promontory, Quintessa, Screaming Eagle, Silver Oak, Spottswoode, Staglin Family, and more. They’ve all answered the call for one-off lots not generally available on the open market. Even collectors and restaurants themselves have stepped up with bottles from their cellars. According to co-founder Jonah Beer, vice president of Frog’s Leap Winery, “The enthusiastic response has been almost overwhelming. We all know that Screaming Eagle, Harlan and the like are approached all the time to support amazing causes. What seems to be hitting home for this cause is that we’ve all been wanting to do something—anything—for our hard-hit brethren in the restaurant world. But our options were so limited. We couldn’t support them by dining in their restaurants and ‘tipping long’ like we did during the fires. But now, with the auctions, we all get to do what’s needed.”

The first lineup of 25 or so lots includes bottles decidedly elusive in normal times: a magnum of Screaming Eagle 2015 The Flight; a 3-liter of Ovid 2014 Cabernet; a magnum of Caymus 2008 Special Select. And for at least the next four Sundays, another set of lots will roll out.

For its part, the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation is transparent about its allocation strategy for Covid-19 Relief Funds: 50 percent will go directly to relief for workers, who can apply online for assistance; 25 percent will go to nonprofit organizations that exist to support restaurant workers with services like food assistance, rental assistance, legal aid, etc.; and 25 percent will fund zero-interest loans for small businesses in the hospitality industry.

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