The tables were set with white linens, wine glasses and silverware for five courses. The band, the San Francisco-based Grupo Buongiorno, started the evening with signature flamenco, bossa nova and samba. And about 240 men and women, dressed in bow ties and evening dresses, filled Hutchins Street Square for one of Lodi’s biggest art, wine and food fundraisers.
On Saturday night, Artisan Master's Wine & Art Auction raised $31,000 for local arts and cultural programs with silent and live auctions. In its second year, the event — the Lodi Art Foundation’s biggest fundraiser — raised about $6,000 more than the nearly $24,000 raised at the first Artisan Masters last year, event chair Ros Bollinger.
The funds will be used throughout the year to provide scholarships to local students in fine arts, culinary arts and the study of agriculture and viticulture, including classes at Hutchins Street Square and programs at San Joaquin Delta College’s culinary program and L.H. Horton Gallery.
Those in attendance — many winemakers, grape growers, restaurateurs and Lodi business owners — considered the $225-a-seat fundraiser to be a worthy cause that offers the kind of exposure many think Lodi needs to be taken seriously as a wine center.
“It’s hard to claim to be a quality wine region without wineries willing to step up like that,” said winemaker Dave D’Art, of the 19 wineries who hosted tables at Artisan Masters, even though many winemakers are in the midst harvest.
While Napa and Sonoma have elegant events centered around wine, art and food, Lodi has never had anything like it, D’Art said. “Wine, art, food, music — those are all the senses.”
It wasn’t all locals who attended. Many came from out of the area, like Marshall Harris, a grape grower from Alexander Valley, who bought tickets to the event after receiving a flier in the mail. As he browsed the auction items, he looked around the lobby full of people in evening dresses and tuxedos.
“I"m very impressed,” he said, adding his surprise that there was a high turnout with costly ticket prices.
After mingling, wine tasting and noshing on oysters, mini brioche with Zinfandel braised beef and poached prawns offered by Delta’s culinary students, the crowd was ushered from the lobby into the low-lit Kirst Hall. The band was on a stage, and about 20 tables were decorated with dozens of wine glasses and tall rose bush centerpieces.
Winemakers, buddies and Artisan Masters co-chair persons, David Lucas and D'Art began the evening with a comedic and upbeat welcoming.
“If Naples, Fla. could raise $4 million and they don’t even own a grapevine, I want to see us raise $5 million in five years. We can do that,” Lucas said.
The wine and food quickly became the focus of the evening. Each of the 19 tables was hosted by a winery, and vintners poured different wines of their own based on what they determined would pair well with the five courses.
At table 14, Tom and Carmela Hoffman, owners of Heritage Oak Winery, poured the first glass, a fragrant 2010 Sauvignon Blanc he selected to go with the first course, lobster medallions with langoustine royal.
Around the table, everyone agreed that the light and citrusy wine was a good option. No surprise, since it is Heritage’s biggest seller.
With each course, winemakers poured a new wine in a fresh glass. Hoffman chose a 2010 Chardonnay to pair with citrus smoked local salmon, an ’09 Tempranillo with Grimaud Farms Duck and duck liver pate, and his Vino Tino with peptic and black pepper-crusted rack of lamb.
In the kitchen, about 40 of Delta’s culinary students of all levels worked hastily to prepare plates with artistic embellishments for the next course. They worked under the direction of chef Mark Berkner, who helped plan the courses for the evening.
Dessert, chocolate creme with vanilla custard ice cream and coffee sabayon were prepared by pastry and baking instructor Robert Halabicky and his students.
In the dining room, people at each table continued to taste and pour more wine. The music remained upbeat, and the crowd grew slightly louder under the comfort of wine. It was time for the live, energetic auction.
Eight art pieces were donated to the event auction by local artists. Samuel Bassett, Pepe Pool and Jean Justeau contributed their powder-coated steel sculpture, titled “Ephemerial Spiral.”
Paintings by Mardie Dalzell Driftmier, Tina Moore and Jim Coston, and Tony Segale were auctioned, as were photographs by Michael Randolph and Arturo Vera, and a glass bowl, titled “Basket of Sun,” by Mira Woodworth.
Lodi Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Pat Patrick introduced the auction, as well as auctioneer Joe Gates. First item: A photograph by Michael Randolph, titled “Onion Fields.” Gates started the bidding at $200 and rattled through numbers as guests paused from their plates to catch his attention with the wave of their auction numbers. His final call closed the deal at $700.
The live auction also included exclusive winemaker dinners and tours. The highest-bidding item of the night was a Lange Twins and School Street Bistro private dinner for eight. Bidding closed at $6,000.
The second-largest auction item was the specialty Artisan Masters barrel, which went for $5,700. The barrel is filled with 2010 Michael-David Petite Sirah from Clements Oaks II Vineyards and held until it’s done. The barrel head will be customized with the winner’s name, and the wine will be bottled with a custom label. It is now an Artisan Master’s tradition.
Looking around the room at tables full of people enjoy wine and friends, D’Art sums up the evening with one word: “Success.” The evening, he says, turned out a little better than he expected.
For Bollinger, the event chairwoman, the best part of the evening was seeing the many aspects — fine wines, fine art, farm-fresh foods and the people behind them — come together.
“Together, we can do amazing things,” she said.
Contact Lodi Living editor Lauren Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.