ST. PETERSBURG — The Museum of Fine Arts is getting a jump on the fundraising wine season with its inaugural wine auction and gala Feb. 11.
Dozens of wines, donated by businesses and individuals, will go on the auction block to benefit the downtown museum. Among the most intriguing is a six-bottle vertical collection of 1999-2004 Merryvale Vineyards Bordeaux valued at $900.
The wines are heavy on California vintages, but another Bordeaux, a 1989 Chateau Montrose from France that is rated 96 points by wine expert Robert Parker, might elicit great interest from patrons, especially if they can cellar it for a few more years. It would be most amiable with a plate of soft French, such as Brie and Camembert. The Chateau Montrose is valued at $300.
Also up for auction is a $1,000 bottle of 2005 Schrader Cabernet Sauvignon "Old Sparky," rated 96 points by Parker. Schrader Cellars in Napa Valley is owned by Fred Schrader, formerly of St. Petersburg. He can't make it to this year's event, but promises to attend the 2012 auction, organizers say.
In addition to wine, some of the other auction items include etched wine glasses from St. Petersburg artist Duncan McClellan and vacation getaways in Utah and North Carolina.
Margaret Amley and Pat Campbell-Stichweh are co-chairwomen of the event, which is organized by the museum's Margaret Acheson Stuart Society. Amley says the auction is patterned after one that the High Museum in Atlanta has held for 18 years. Last year's auction raised $1.3 million for the museum.
Amley and her committee received guidance from the High auction organizers, as well as from experts at American Spirits in St. Petersburg and Bern's Steak House in Tampa. The wine offerings, though, came together almost organically, she says.
"So many of the people associated with Stuart Society members are wine collectors and have wine cellars well known in this area," she says.
The list of wines include "limited edition, hard-to-get cult wines that you just can't go into wine stores to buy."
The most lucrative wine auction in the United States is staged every winter in Naples and raises money for children's programs in Collier County. The Naples Winter Wine Festival, held last weekend, brought in $12 million, which made the event's 11-year total $94.5 million. The top wine lot was 100 bottles of 100-point wine in a custom cabinet that went for $400,000.
An even longer-running charity wine event is hosted by the Abilities Foundation, which will attract about 4,000 sippers to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg for its 22nd annual tasting event on March 19. Go to abilitiesfoundation.com for more information.
Another upcoming wine event for charity is the Tampa Bay Wine & Food Festival, which benefits Abilities and the Moffitt Cancer Center. It is May 15-16 at the Don CeSar Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach. For more information, go to unleashyourpalate.com. (Note: The website is not yet updated for 2011.)
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at email@example.com.