Off the tux

Back in 1987, the newborn Washington Wine Commission announced a black-tie auction of Northwest wines to raise money for charity and to celebrate their growing industry. The celebration turned out to be premature; the event was canceled due to lack of interest. If at first you don't succeed. . . . Last year, the 13th annual Auction of Northwest Wines raised $1.6 million for Children's Hospital, and the proceeds from this year's auction on Aug. 25 are likely to top that. But times change, and this year the WWC is striking out in some new directions to keep pace. A name change is long overdue. Washington state now has over 150 wineries. "Oregon has had its own annual wine event for years. So should we," says WWC director Steve Burns. And so the Auction of Washington Wines it shall be henceforward. The biggest change of format, however, is the addition of a wholly new event. Picnic (no "the," please, we're too cool), set for the Thursday before the black-tie event on Saturday, is a shrewd move to accommodate new demographics. Wine drinking is more broadly popular today, but it isn't just Gen-X wine fans who jib at putting on a tux; there are billionaires in the Northwest you couldn't get into a tux at gunpoint. "We've been hearing for a long time a desire for a less formal event. Picnic is a first draft to accommodate these desires," says Burns. "It's not just permission to wear casual clothes; the whole event is casual." When attendees arrive, they're to be supplied a bucket containing various amenities—wineglasses, corkscrew, cheese and cheese-board, crackers, and more—including a blanket to stake a claim on a spot on the Chateau Ste. Michelle lawns. Buffet stations offer food and drink, but hors d'oeuvres trays will also pass your way should you choose to stay put. Be assured the average auction lot will not go for over $2,000. There's a program, but no constraint to follow it. Meet winemakers. Conduct your own tasting. Make your own party. Purchasers of $500 tickets to the Saturday black-tie event also qualify for admission to Picnic on Thursday. It will be interesting to see how many take advantage of the opportunity—and whether that tux will seem a viable option afterward. For additional information about the Auction of Washington Wines and Picnic, call 667-9463, ext. 204. Would you like to propose a toast? E-mail us at

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