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Taste of Vail wine auctions aim for proceeds at 'a whole new level'

CREATED: 2006-03-09 07:13 PM


Taste of Vail wine auctions aim for proceeds at 'a whole new level'

VAIL, Colo. - In its continuing mission as benefactor to Vail Valley Charities, organizers of the 16th annual Taste of Vail have decided to raise the bar.

This year, at various Chefs Showcase Dinners April 5-7 - as well as the festival's grand finale, the Grand Tasting, April 8 - world-renowned wine auctioneer Tom DiNardo will be perking wine collectors' interest as a driving force for donations. Tickets are on sale at

"We're very excited about bringing a professional auctioneer of Tom's caliber to Taste of Vail this year," says Mickey Werner, the festival's auction chairman. "It's the measure of our commitment to Vail Valley Charities."

Taste of Vail, after all, is a charitable, nonprofit organization. Over the past 15 years, the festival has contributed more than $300,000 to Vail Valley Charities; and in 2005, in conjunction with Ritz-Carlton, the Taste of Vail donated $13,000 to the Hurricane Katrina relief fund.

The Taste of Vail was created in 1990 by a group of Vail Valley restaurateurs as a marketing event to showcase the resort's world-class restaurants. Now the internationally famous community boasts more than 20 Wine Spectator award-winning restaurants - the most of any resort community in the United States. This year, as many as 5,000 attendees and volunteers are expected to participate in the 16th annual Taste of Vail, with chefs from more than three dozen local restaurants and winemakers and/or owners of 58 wineries from around the world participating.

Since its inception, however, wine auctions at Taste of Vail have been a mixed bag, with great - but not outstanding - results. Typically, they've been silent auctions during the festival's finale, the Grand Tasting. Last year, Werner, known as the "Wine Wizard" in local circles, with 28 years in the wine and spirits business, worked as auctioneer himself during the festival's one and only Chefs Showcase Dinner at Game Creek Restaurant.

"Taste of Vail is all about benefiting Vail Valley Charities and getting people to reach into their pockets to do so," says Werner, general manager of Alpine Wine & Spirits in West Vail. "I've been on a crusade for eight years for a real live auction, with a real auctioneer, to generate the interest Vail Valley Charities deserve. Now, I believe this is the right venue, with the right means."

This year's festival features three Chefs Showcase Dinners - each including a live auction:
• Wednesday, April 5, at Game Creek Restaurant, hosted by Executive Chef Thomas Newsted.
• Thursday, April 6, at Sonnenalp Resort of Vail, hosted by Executive Chef Adam Roustom.
• Friday, April 7, at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, hosted by Executive Chef Richard McCreadie.

Then, on Saturday, April 8, the Grand Tasting, Taste of Vail's annual, decadent, unparalleled tasting and culinary spectacle, features all participating restaurants, wineries and guest chefs. Guests indulge in more than 30 unique culinary offerings from around the Vail Valley, sample more than 150 different wines from around the world, dance the night away - and bid on a wide selection of wines, culinary and travel auction items.

"I'm incredibly excited to be involved. Taste of Vail is a very well known event covered by all major wine and culinary magazines. It's considered by many as the premier food and wine festival - in a class of its own," says DiNardo, who owns five world records for proceeds generated at charity wine auctions. "We're going to take Taste of Vail to a whole new level.

"When you compare Taste of Vail with other festivals, what's so appealing about the Taste of Vail is it's a multi-day event in a beautiful place. There's the wine, the food, the skiing and the surroundings," adds DiNardo, based in Lynden, Wash. "The fact my company was selected is quite an honor."

A true entrepreneur and veteran fundraising auctioneer, DiNardo founded DiNardo & Lord Auctioneers in 1993. Since then, charity wine auctions like the Taste of Vail - a phenomenon he calls "the hottest thing going in the auction business" - have become one of his specialties. His work, on average, has resulted in average revenue increases for his clients of up to 50 percent, he says.

Just this year, DiNardo has broken records at charity wine auctions in California and Utah. In January, for example, he worked a crowd during Zinfandel Advocates and Producers' annual Winemaker's Dinner in San Francisco into a frenzy for a total of $77,550; then in February, at the 2006 Culinary, Wine & Ski Classic in Park City, Utah, where organizers were hoping to earn as much as $50,000, DiNardo drummed up more than $130,000.

DiNardo worked in the wine industry in both California and Washington before entering into his chosen craft of auctioneering, gaining tremendous expertise in wine and developing what he calls a heartfelt "reverence for the grape." He's a sommelier candidate with the International Sommeliers Guild; a freelance writer for Wine Adventures and Wine Enthusiast magazines; a regular contributor to,, and; a featured contract auctioneer for Chicago-based ERI wine auction gallery; and a certified appraiser.

In addition to wine auctions, tastings and festivals, DiNardo regularly plies his trade as auctioneer for nonprofits, charities, churches, hospitals, foundations, museums, fraternal orders, clubs, universities, public and private schools, civic groups, theatres, symphonies, opera guilds, political causes and sportsmen's organizations.

"I've been doing fundraiser auctions since the beginning," says DiNardo. "I'm ranked in the top four, with five world records. I've established myself in fundraiser wine auctions selling some of the rarest vintages and most impressive-tasting wines ever from around the world."

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Media contact:
Stephen Lloyd Wood,
Media liaison, Taste of Vail
(970) 949-9774

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