Food & Wine

We’re rounding up the South’s best restaurants and world-class wineries. Watch for more to come!

Special Guests

Join us in welcoming our Special Guests as we celebrate our 25th year!

Special Guest of Honor

Jim Clendenen

Owner, Au Bon Climat, Winemaker

Jim Clendenen was born in Akron, Ohio to gastronomically impoverished parents during the culinary Dark Ages of the American 1950s. He graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with High Honors in Pre-Law in 1976. It was during his “junior year abroad” in 1974, while turning 21 in France, that he discovered life beyond tacos. After graduation, a one month stay in both Burgundy and Champagne convinced him to attempt a career in wine rather than continue on to law school.

In 1982, Clendenen decided, along with Adam Tolmach, to start a winery dedicated to Burgundian varietals in leased quarters. Adam left in 1990 to pursue his own efforts, leaving Jim solo at the helm. Through careful re-investment from its own production, Au Bon Climat (which means “a well exposed vineyard”) has grown to over 50,000 cases annually.

The winery has cultivated an international reputation for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Jim Clendenen, the “Mind Behind” Au Bon Climat, is recognized worldwide for his classically styled wines. In addition to his Burgundian-focused Au Bon Climat wines, Jim also established another brand, Clendenen Family Vineyards. This project of passion allows him to make artisan, small lots of distinctive wines from a wider spectrum of varieties in styles conducive to small lots. He has received high acclaim for Italian varietals, particularly his Nebbiolo that has a five year aging regimen in barrel.

In 1989 and 1990 Au Bon Climat was on Robert Parker’s short list of Best Wineries in the World, and in 1991 was selected by Oz Clark as one of fifty worldwide creators of Modern Classic Wines. Dan Berger of the Los Angeles Times named Clendenen the “Los Angeles Times Winemaker of the Year” in 1992.; Food & Wine magazine named him “Winemaker of the Year” in 2001. Germany’s leading wine magazine, Wein Gourmet, in 2004 named Clendenen “Winemaker of the World”; and in 2007, Jim was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.”

Left to right – Dan Kosta, Chris Costello, and Michael Browne

Special Guest of Honor

Kosta Browne Winery

Co-Founders and Winemakers, Kosta Browne Winery, Michael Browne and Dan Kosta

Kosta Browne has been an enthusiastic supporter of the auction for almost ten years, becoming the second highest contributor in our history. Many of you know Michael personally, from his many appearances at the auction, and on the occasion their 20th Anniversary and our 25th, we are excited to honor Kosta Browne for their dedication to the auction.

Kosta Browne began as a dream shared by Dan Kosta and Michael Browne. In the summer of 1997, while working at John Ash & Co. restaurant in Santa Rosa, California, Dan and Michael decided to venture into winemaking. They saved tip money and eventually had enough to buy a half ton of Pinot Noir, a used barrel and an old hand-crank stemmer-crusher, a purchase that marks the beginning of Kosta Browne. Since that vintage, they have nurtured relationships with the best growers and honed their winemaking skills, making sure to focus on the vision and values with which they began.


Michael moved to Sonoma County in 1987 from Washington State with the goal of becoming an architect. While working at local fine dining establishments to pay the bills, he fell in love with the pleasures of the local wines and was intrigued by winemaking and viticulture through his many visits to local wineries and vineyards. The idea of being involved in agriculture, as well as the craft of winemaking, pushed Michael into the pursuit of producing fine wines.

While still working at John Ash, Michael started working with Deerfield Ranch Winery in 1997 as a volunteer. He became Co-Winemaker in 2000, and this is where his passion developed into a love of Pinot Noir. “The challenges of this grape are many and the rewards and endless, but I have to say, I think my greatest joy is working hand in hand with some of the finest growers in Sonoma County”, says Michael.

When not crafting rocking Pinot Noir or walking the vineyards, Michael enjoys spending time with his wife, Sarah and their children – Logan, Lauren and Livia.


Dan Kosta is a native of Sonoma County where wine became an integral part of his life at the age of 5, learning about the enjoyment of wine from his father. At home, wine was served at nearly every dinner and discussion of wine always accompanied the pour. At his dad’s wine shop in Santa Rosa, Dan learned about labels, varietals and style. Later, Dan followed his passion for food and worked for more than 15 years in fine dining, with the majority of his experience gained at John Ash & Co. in Santa Rosa, California. He worked every position imaginable at the restaurant, finally landing as the Operations Manager and Wine Director.

Dan has consulted for restaurants in the Sonoma County area and sits on the Board of Directors for the Sonoma County Vintners Association and continues to participate in numerous judgings such as the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, West Coast Wine Competition, Grand Harvest Awards and the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

Dan spends a majority of his time traveling the country attending charitable events where the brand partners with many organizations.  “I love how wine and food bring people together and feel very fortunate where we can play a role in helping many worthy causes”, says Dan.

When not behind the scenes of a working winery or on the road, Dan enjoys spending time with his wife, Allison and three young children, Mazie, Maggie, and Sean.


It’s a Who’s Who of the South’s finest eateries. Stay tuned for more!


Here are the world-class wineries who will be participating in the 2017 Wine Auction. More to come!