What is a bottle of wine worth?
On Saturday, Dec. 15, I learned another valuable lesson about the generosity of others, especially the great people living in the Merrimack Valley. Trust me, there are a lot of them. People who are full of kinds hearts and big wallets at Christmastime.
When I accepted Warren Shaw’s invitation to appear as a guest on the annual WCAP Radiothon to raise money for the Salvation Army, I told him I wouldn’t come empty-handed. I brought a signed bottle of Drew Bledsoe’s 2009 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon to be auctioned to the highest bidder. The bottle cost $100 and Drew Bledsoe signed it nearly three years ago at the Lower Newton Falls Wine Shop when I interviewed him about his Washington State winery. The 2009 Doubleback is aging well; it is now rated a solid 91-94-point bottling by independent wine experts who say it can be cellared for 8-10 years.
I told Warren that, this being Christmas, the bottle could likely bring in $200 to $300 on its own, but with Bledsoe’s distinctive signature, topped off with his own famous handwritten “11” — the uniform number he wore with the New England Patriots — it might bring in a a few dollars more.
The auction started at 8:10 a.m. and 50 minutes later the bottle sold for $1,000 — with another $700 tacked on by other generous bidders who told Warren to keep the dough even if they lost out on the wine. In the end, the bottle brought in $1,700 for the Shaw Gang’s effort (the radiothon would finish six hours later with more than $100,000 in donations!)
It felt good. The Wine Goddess – my wife – couldn’t believe I parted with my only signed bottle. Yet she’s the one who’s always told me it means more if you give until it hurts. In this case I considered myself blessed.
The real heroes of this story, however, are the husband and wife attorney team of Ernest Linuk and Martha Finnegan of Billerica . They made the $1,000 bid that, when it was announced, ignited a raucous “Praise the Lord” moment that even had the dignified Major Everett Henry stomping his feet.. When I contacted Linuk at his Boston office, he told the story behind the bid.
Linuk said he and his wife were attending a concert at the Tweeter Center several years ago when the stage act “called out” Drew Bledsoe who was sitting unobtrusively in the audience. “He was about two rows back from us and you could see he really didn’t want the attention. He just wanted to enjoy the show like everyone else. I remember my wife saying, ‘Oh, that poor guy.’ ”
Ernest and Martha were listening to the radiothon when the Bledsoe bottle was mentioned. “My wife said, ‘We’ve got to get that’.”
The bidding was aggressive and Linuk called once to offer $750 and then clinched it in the auction’s closing moments at $1,000.
“It was for a good cause and we wanted the bottle,” said Linuk.
They say miracles come in small packages. Thanks to all the bidders, and especially to Ernest Linuk and Martha Finnegan, I’m more a believer than I ever was.