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Originally published Monday, August 18, 2014 at 8:02 PM

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Kids win big thanks to annual Auction of Washington Wines

Nicole Brodeur drops in on the Auction of Washington Wines Weekend and the Soiree Blanc.


Seattle Times staff columnist

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Out on the lawn, 74 strangers sat eating and drinking. Others were using the bathroom. Still others were lined up on the dock, waiting for a free ride in his seaplane.

Why would Walt Pisco bring this on himself?

“Are you kidding?” Pisco asked me. “Why wouldn’t you?

The Auction of Washington Wines weekend may set a record for corking and quaffing, but it has always been, quite seriously, for the kids. The 27th annual event raised $1.8 million for uncompensated care at Seattle Children’s hospital and Washington State University’s viticulture and enology program, where older kids learn to be winemakers.

On Friday, nine Winemaker Dinners were held all over the area, pairing state winemakers and local chefs at $250 a plate.

“Children’s is a big part of my family,” Pisco told me, declining to elaborate. I get it.

Chef David Varley of RN74 was working away in his spacious kitchen, and serving outside were winemakers Chris Gorman(Gorman Winery), Mark Ryan (Mark Ryan Winery) and Trey Busch (Sleight of Hand Cellars). Their last memorable union was at Queensryche’s theatrical production of “Operation Mind Game,” playing jurors.

And — wait a second — there was vodka from Glass Distillery owner Ian MacNeil, who quickly pointed out that his vodka is made from Northwest sauvignon and chardonnay grapes. He and Ryan told me to check in on their new project: brandy. It’s going to take 10 years, so don’t rinse out your snifter just yet.

A few miles away, uber-developer Craig Kinzer and his wife, Danna, opened their Lake Sammamish spread with wines brought by Bryan Keay from Sparkman Cellars, Chris Peterson of Avennia and Todd Alexanderof Force Majeure. In the kitchen was Chef Steven Snook of Salish Lodge & Spa.

“Family, good livin’ and damned fine wine,” Keay said, repeating the winery’s slogan. “That’s our order of priority.”

Back in the kitchen, Snook told me of training under the fiery and foul-mouthed chef Gordon Ramsay of “Hell’s Kitchen” fame.

“You’d get dragged into the wine cooler and get the rollicking of your life,” he said. “Later on, he’d take you back into the wine cooler and build you back up.

“He was great at shouting at people.”

White night

One of the weirder walks over the weekend was along Seattle’s waterfront Sunday night, when Hempfest was letting out and Soiree Blanc was starting up.

Stoners in shorts and socialites in white crowded the sidewalk until they reached Pier 63, where the crisp broke away from the baked and gathered for a dinner they had brought — and set up — themselves. Everything white.

The event, in its second year, was organizer Steven Petersen’s response to not being able to find the local version of Diner en Blanc, which started in Paris, has spread all over the world — and is by invitation only.

“I did this because I couldn’t find them!” Petersen said.

Soiree Blanc is a fashionable flash mob. Petersen, a Realtor, didn’t choose the location until 2 p.m. (runners-up: Gas Works Park and the lawn outside the Museum of History & Industry), then posted it on the event’s Facebook two hours later.

By 5:45, the pier was covered. A few groups set up tables as long as fallen redwoods and still others, like Kim Brotherton and Donna Pacanovsky, sat at tables for two. There were chandeliers and Champagne and china. All white.

One group set up a living room, with couches, tables and a silk plant.

“We brought the whole nine yards,” Richard Skogerson told me from his club chair.

“Did you bring your Porta-Potty, too?” cracked his wife, Melinda. “That would have been helpful.”

Perched in the center, playing guitar was Enrique Henao — a friend of Shakira, who happened to be in town. Oh my.

“There’s a rumor she might come,” Petersen whispered. “But she will be introduced as Isabella.” (She didn’t show, but met Henao at a later gig.)

A Microsoft executive assistant who would go only by Pamela wore a white-feather headpiece and a white-feather boa and brought only-white food: Cheese and crackers. Coconut cake.

“And white underwear!” said her friend, Katie Rowland. Of course it was.

Top car

As the story went, Jon Shirley and his late wife, Mary, used to plunk car engines right on their kitchen table and work on them, so devoted they were to knowing and restoring old cars.

The Microsoft millions came (Shirley is a former president and board member), and the couple hired mechanics, but still kept their heads under the hoods of an increasingly gorgeous collection of cars.

On Sunday, it all came together when Shirley’s 1954 Ferrari 375 MM was named Best of Show at the 64th Annual Concours D’Elegance in Pebble Beach, Calif., arguably the most prestigious car show in the world.

The car was originally built for Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini. Shirley bought the car in 1995 and spent two years researching and restoring the car — and did it again after it “got beat up,” in road rallies, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Shirley is one of the increasingly rare owners who doesn’t just own his cars. He drives them. He should get an award for that, too.

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.



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About Nicole Brodeur's Names in Bold

On Tuesdays, I tell you about my travels through some of the week's social and philanthropic events — not just the ones for the swells, but those for work-a-day folks who care about making this region move and improve. 206-464-2334

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