The Willamette Valley Wineries Pinot Noir Auction will expand its mission this year. (photo by Easton Richmond Photography)

Even for the pros who are there to work, the annual springtime Willamette Valley Wineries Association (WVWA) Pinot Noir Auction is a blast—dozens of growers and winemakers (some even collaborating) offering limited edition wines to top buyers, all to benefit the region’s marketing efforts. It’s been one of those all-too-rare displays of unity, of acting for the greater good. 

So it’s actually no surprise that, though the event has had to go virtual, it is also pivoting to benefit someone else.

A significant portion of the proceeds from the fifth annual auction, to take place August 11-13, will benefit the James Beard Foundation’s Open for Good Campaign. This year 74 lots of Pinot noir, and six of Chardonnay, from the 2018 vintage will be auctioned to help provide critical resources for independent restaurants affected by loss of business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The wineries of the Willamette Valley have always counted members of the wine trade, both on and off premise, as our most important partners, and our community wanted to come together to extend a hand in this moment of crisis,” says Auction Chair David Millman. “We have created a stunning lineup of wines, reflecting all of the characteristics which make the Willamette Valley so special for growing Pinot noir. We are inviting members of the trade to join us, knowing their bids will support not only Willamette but restaurants around the nation.”

While the pre-set minimum opening bids for each lot will help support the WVWA as usual, all proceeds above and beyond those figures will go to the hospitality charity. Participants will also be invited to support Open for Good by pledging additional funds. 

Wines from this auction have been instant rarities, appearing as specials in fine restaurants around the nation and in tasting rooms; all are produced in quantities of just five, 10, or 20 cases, and are exclusive to the auction. The full lineup of lots and descriptions is available here.  

Also new this year will be a preview series of virtual tastings, open to all, to be held August 3-7. Grab a glass and settle in for some deliciousness, for good.