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8 Biggest Food & Wine Fundraisers

8 Biggest Food & Wine Fundraisers


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With results from the 31st Annual Auction Napa Valley blazing across the Twitter-verse and the countdown clock on to Share our Strength’s Taste of the Nation in L.A., fancy food and wine fundraisers are at the top of our event radar. But one question we’ve always had about these events— and we’re probably not alone — is, "What exactly is the financial bottom line?"

After the celebs have posed for the social column photos, the caviar has been devoured, and the auctioneer has brought the gavel down on the last six-figure lot, how much benefit do the charities in question actually see? Answer: Sometimes, a stunning amount.

Annual big-ticket food and wine fundraisers are not only among the hottes

t tickets on a jet-set social calendar, but also a crucial fundraising channel for all sorts of charities, from community-centric children’s foundations to international philanthropic organizations. Here, we give notable numbers and background details on eight of the biggest and best.

Taste of the Nation

Though the amount raised is just a fraction of the major auctions, Taste of the Nation is part of a much bigger organization, and this event generates the group substantial buzz amongst Angelenos. In general, events not related to entertainment struggle to find traction in L.A., but this one has a sizeable following.

There is an auction, but the main event is a walkaround tasting event featuring nearly 50 Los Angeles-area restaurants. The $100 ticket price ($125 at the door) is hefty enough to ensure a fairly well-heeled crowd, but not so expensive that only corporate accounts and Weinsteins can afford it. It’s a big, friendly, food-inspired day party where craft brewers mingle with television execs, restaurateurs and Hollywood Hills types, all for a good cause.

Who attends: This year, expect Mary Sue Milliken and Michael Voltaggio among the celeb chef contingent, and comedians Randy Sklar and Kathy Griffin among celebs showing up just for the party. Notable numbers: Although last year’s L.A. event grossed just $230,000, TOTN events in all have raised more than $75 million.

Date: June 12, 2011

L’Ete Du Vin

Nashville’s signature wine charity event goes up against Auction Napa Valley for the title of "America’s Oldest Charity Wine Auction." Bold indeed, especially considering that it’s nowhere near wine country. However, though Nashville is not a wine industry town, it is a diverse city with a surprising number of wine collectors, business people and deep pockets.

Whether stepping up to repair damages from the 2010 flood or supporting local medical organizations on an ongoing basis, residents show solidarity for community and causes. And this charity’s cause — to support "organizations whose purpose is directly related to the treatment, patient care and eradication of cancer" — is among the noblest of all.

Who attends: Celebrity guests like Kix Brooks and Reba McEntire brush shoulders with doctors, scientists, local restaurateurs, and the owners of Krug Champagne and Chateaux Margaux.

Notable numbers: More than $16 million has been raised in 32 years. This year, the heavy-hitting connoisseurs will be bidding on a Chateauneuf-du-Pape tasting featuring 41 of the best wines going back to the early 1970s.

Dates: July 16, 2011

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No, Natural Wine Isn&rsquot &ldquoBetter for You&rdquo&mdashand 7 Other Major Wine Myths

And don't serve your whites straight from the fridge.

“Wine gave a sort of gallantry to their own failure.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

He’s right. Failure can be fun. And what won’t wine with a side of gallantry solve? That being said, when it comes to vino itself, we𠆝 really prefer to get things right. In hopes of bringing out the best flavor and aroma from our bottles of Bordeaux and bubbly, not because we really care what our in-laws think. (Right? Right!)

Here are eight major misconceptions you’re making when it comes to wine—plus the solution to your every red-white-and-rosé-related wrong�ording to Christopher Hoel, the founder of Harper’s Club and expert wine curator for Wine Insiders and Martha Stewart Wine Co.

By and large, Americans do not drink their wines at the right temperatures. Reds are served far too warm and whites too cold, even at top-notch restaurants. Rather than room temperature, try putting your reds in the fridge 20 minutes before serving for the best flavor. Whites and rosés, on the other hand, should be served only slightly cooler than reds. Take the bottle out of the fridge 20 minutes before serving to warm it up. Conversely, sparkling wines should be kept cold in order to maintain the integrity of the bubbles. Open the bottle straight from the fridge or ice bucket (no freezer!) and serve immediately for the best experience.

Yes, corks are steeped in tradition and it is certainly a special, ritualistic experience to ceremoniously pull a cork before indulging in a delicious bottle of wine. "Don&rsquot get me wrong, I love the theater of cork closures," says Hoel. That said, screw cap bottles should not be looked down upon, or considered the mark of a lower-quality wine. There are actually some incredible benefits to bottling with a screw cap. For one, screw caps do a much better job of protecting wine from cork taint, known as trichloroanisole (TCA). TCA can happen to all wines during production, but because cork is permeable, bottles sealed with it are more susceptible to damage and oxidation. Another pro of screw caps is that there&rsquos no corkscrew sediment in the wine&mdashplus they&rsquore easier to open. Because of this, many high-end winemakers (and almost all winemakers in New Zealand) have made the move to screw caps.

The wine industry is mired in elitism, and it&rsquos easy to think that a wine needs to be expensive in order to be high-quality. This simply isn&rsquot the case. The fundamental process for making wine is the same for everybody, and there are plenty of delicious, elegant, affordable wines across every varietal and flavor profile. The important thing is to find wines that you like. Try different varietals, regions, and amounts of residual sugar within your budget. See what you enjoy, and then explore from there. Never feel limited by price. A $40 Merlot isn&rsquot necessarily four times better than a $10 bottle.


Urban Harvest Sunday Supper: $30,000

Tony&rsquos chef de cuisine Austin Waiter had big plans for Urban Harvest&rsquos spring Sunday Supper.

Though when he and the fine-dining restaurant&rsquos owners agreed to host the nonprofit&rsquos biannual fundraising dinner, they never imagined that Waiter would end up deep frying 1,050 pieces of double-brined chicken in one of Houston&rsquos most upscale kitchens. But that&rsquos exactly what happened over the first weekend in May, when nearly 80 vehicles pulled into Tony&rsquos circular driveway in Greenway Plaza. In place of valet, a small team of restaurant employees and Urban Harvest staffers loaded aluminum tins into the back of donors&rsquo cars.

The following Saturday, another 85 supporters picked up the ingredients and instructions to make mushroom bolognese, Sustainable Harvesters garden salad and Torta della Nonna using Harvest Grain Mills&rsquo Carolina gold rice. Approximately 60 people tuned into the cooking lesson hosted by Waiter via Zoom and ultimately raised more than $30,000.

Funds benefit Urban Harvest&rsquos mission to introduce produce and healthy cooking practices in Houston&rsquos fresh-food deserts. In addition to a weekly farmers market at St. John&rsquos School, a youth education program, Edible Academy workshop and citywide community gardens connect local growers to the area&rsquos most vulnerable residents.


These popular items alongside a good procurement strategy will help your fundraising generate maximum proceeds.

5. Wine Basket: Wine baskets are a mainstay in traditional nonprofit fundraisers because there is so much you can do with them.

Here’s a few popular wine raffle basket ideas to include in your offering:

  • Wine Focused: do red, white and champagne specific wine baskets to cater to all types. Ask major donors if they have wine to donate or know of connections they can ask.
  • Accotrements: add glasses, specialty wine openers, wine stoppers, and wine name tags to add some bling to your basket.
  • Gourmet Items: dress up your basket with cheese or chocolate pairings to cater to the tummy too.

Most people like to drink nice wine, making it the perfect raffle basket for your nonprofit fundraiser.

6. Sports Basket: The sports raffle basket is always a popular one because we all love, or know someone who loves sports.

Here’s how to create the ultimate sports basket sure to attract the ultimate bidding. Include:

  • Sports tickets
  • Signed sports memorabilia
  • Sports gear
  • Posters
  • Bobbleheads
  • Trading cards
  • Sports team programs and more.

Needless to say, this makes sports raffle baskets incredibly popular and a huge draw for raffle attendees no matter what team they root for!

7. Spa Basket: Spa baskets are fun, easy, and appeal to a variety of different bidders.

From fancy bath oils and at-home facial tools to in-person massages and meditation sessions, this is a great raffle item for those in any stage of a relationship.

Plus, because it’s a raffle basket, you can add in the physical items like bath salts and luffas alongside a spa certificate for a truly well-rounded charity basket.

8. Movie Night Basket: Movie nights are always a hit, and movie night raffle baskets at a raffle auction are even more so.

To make the most out of your movie basket, please include:

  • DVDs of popular movies
  • Coupon to Netflix
  • Bottle of wine
  • Make-at-home popcorn
  • Gift certificate for pizza, and
  • A bunch of traditional movie theater candy to round up your raffle basket.

Giving it away can lead to more sales.

Out of the gate, Heitmann sold Popcorn Palace popcorn (flavors include jalapeño and brown sugar caramel) anywhere and everywhere: e-commerce, wholesale accounts, fundraising, QVC, FTD, corporate gift accounts, and big-box stores like Costco. One day, he got a letter from a boy who used funds raised from selling Popcorn Palace popcorn to travel across the country for a band competition. "At that moment, the meaning of business changed for me," Heitmann says. He decided to focus on selling to organizations, like the child's band, that could use the popcorn to raise money. Most companies selling to fundraisers let them keep 30 to 40 percent of the sales, so Heitmann decided to give them an incentive to choose Popcorn Palace--he increased their take to 50 percent. He ramped up the business slowly, keeping an eye on the impact, and realized quickly that it was a smart move. The fundraising channel saw fast growth in both revenue and profit.

Takeaway -- Maximizing profit margins isn't the only, or necessarily the best, way to boost your company's profitability.


Casual Easy Recipes Low on Prep Time

Cocktail: This menu is all about keeping it easy. I think the thing to serve is beer – a burger and a beer is a classic food and drink combination.

Appetizer: Guacamole – I think it is a fact that everyone loves guacamole, and I love to serve it with burgers, because it tastes great on a burger. You can make your guac from scratch, or you can get store-bought.

Main Course: Cheeseburger Tacos – Putting burgers in tortillas is genius because it let’s you add more toppings without the burger getting so tall that it is impossible to eat. Form the burgers in advance, mix up some animal sauce, cook some bacon, and arrange burger toppings on a platter. Serve the cheeseburger tacos with grilled corn, and Garlic Parmesan Grilled Potatoes, or for something lighter, a Shopska Salad.

Dessert: Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie – This no bake pie is a delicious treat!


Spinach Mushroom Fettuccine Alfredo

We’ve been spending more time than ever in the kitchen. Before social distancing, we cooked quite a bit at home, but now we cook almost exclusively at home. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time we had take-out. And all that cooking sure does make a lot of dirty dishes!

Have you ever noticed that the most delicious recipes make the biggest, stickiest messes? You know like lasagna, sticky wings and Fettuccine Alfredo? These are some of my family’s favorite recipes, and also recipes that make huge sticky messes! But that’s okay when I have Palmolive® Ultra Strength and Scotch-Brite® Advanced Scrub Dots Non-Scratch Scrubbers to clean my cookware.


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Fast Food Restaurant Night Fundraisers

When we covered restaurant night fundraisers before, we were looking at them through the lens of sit-down chains. However, fast food restaurant nights have been growing in popularity, and, well, it’s no secret that fast food isn’t the healthiest food option out there.

At the same time, though, eating fast food once in a blue moon isn’t going to hurt. The problem is that these fundraisers are so easy to put together that they become a frequent and reliable fundraiser for schools, meaning you’ll be asked to eat at them a lot more.

Tons of restaurants allow fundraising nights, and if you have to run a restaurant night fundraiser, opt for a sit-down chain where there are healthier options on the menu. You’ll also receive more of the money back as the meals will cost more. There are also some faster dining options where you can order healthier items, like Panera Bread or Chipotle.


Who Is the Most Powerful Person in Wine?

I have a few thoughts on who wine's king of the hill is, and one clue about my choice as you consider yours: She is not a he.

When he was alive, Ernest Gallo was certainly king of the hill, heading up the world's largest wine company. Big distribution companies flex muscles in many states.

Robert Mondavi, at the height of his career, was the most influential, at least in this country.

For a long time, Ab Simon, when he ran Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines Co., presided over the largest importer of classified-growth Bordeaux and many of France's and Europe's finest properties.

No, the person I'm thinking of is a petite young woman who heads up one of wine's biggest sellers. Annette Alvarez-Peters heads up Costco Wholesale Corp.'s alcohol sales, the nation's largest retailer of said products. Sales totaled $2.3 billion last year, and about half that is from wine.

Most wine lovers are keenly aware of Costco's approach to wine. Most of the stores are well-stocked with marquee names and high-quality wines. Markups are 15 percent above wholesale. Selection ranges from very good to astonishing at times. One thing the company does is gear its wine sales to its local clientele, including local wines that you might only find in a traditional wine shop. Each store's buyer is charged with mixing up the products so customers find new discoveries.

Alvarez-Peters, in an interview with Wine Spectator sister publication Market Watch, in which she is named retailer of the year, cites examples. The Santa Maria store features more Santa Barbara wines, while the Paso Robles store promotes wines from that area. Costco even has its own line of regional wines under the Kirkland Signature label. A few years ago Costco was the largest importer of classified-growth Bordeaux.

Sometimes what you find in different stores can be startling. This past month readers forwarded two links to rarities being sold at Costcos in different parts of the country. One showed a photo of a three pack of 2007 Screaming Eagle at a Redwood City, Calif., Costco, for $1,500 a bottle. Another showed a magnum of 2000 Pétrus for sale in Texas for $11,699.

I'd like to hear your thoughts about which person or people in the wine world have the most power or influence today. Alvarez-Peters is my candidate.



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