To familiarize national and international wine buyers with the splendor, climate and terroir of the Willamette Valley — and also with the people involved in making Pinot Noir — the fourth annual Willamette: Pinot Noir Auction will be held on Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 6 in Newberg, Oregon. All festivities are for individuals in the trade and by invitation-only.
With 80 different wineries producing Pinot Noir for the event, the auction’s goal is to create an intimate setting for members of the trade to get involved with the producers of Oregon Pinot Noir.
We spoke with Shirley Brooks and Eugenia Keegan, the co-chairs behind the major event, about the history, success and other details about this auction.
1) Why was this auction created?
Brooks: I knew, along with my winemaking colleagues here, that we had to bring people to the Willamette Valley for them to fully get it. The buyers need to hang out with our hard-working winemakers and drink their wine in the region where it’s made. I also heard that the winemakers wanted to mingle with their trade partners. Spring is an exciting time to do this and so far, I’ve seen huge successes with the auction. Between 2017 and 2018 the number of registered bidders increased by 48 percent and the funds raised went up by 56 percent. This money benefits the sponsoring organization, the Willamette Valley Winery Association.
2) Who attends this event?
Keegan: Attendance is international — serious bidders come from Japan, Canada, Sweden, besides from every state in the U.S. Even Southern California is represented. The auction itself draws 400 attendees to The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, Oregon, which is all the room can hold. I’ve seen this event sell out every year.
3) What should a first-time attendee know about this auction?
Keegan: The event is vintage-oriented, with a single vintage showcased each year. This year we’re focused on 2017. I recommend first-time guests attend all the events, which include welcome parties hosted by Domaine Drouhin and Domaine Serene, an educational seminar, visits to wineries and even an after-party with beer for those who’ve tired of drinking wine. I believe a novice bidder will get the most out of the auction when he or she is fully engaged.
4) How do the wineries involved increase in popularity with consumers?
Brooks: Although consumers won’t be in the auction room, each bidder already has a sales plan for the wine he buys. Because of those sales plans, I foresee the auction could indirectly increase the wines’ popularity with consumers via wider national distribution, placements on retail and wine lists, better engagement at the point of sale and stories in the media.