Naples Winter Wine Festival auction raises $26 million in 4 hours for Collier kids in need
On Feb. 4, the 23rd annual Naples Winter Wine Festival’s auction raised nearly $26 million, a record-breaking amount, in just over four hours for the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), the Festival’s founding organization.
The final tally? Unknown until Feb. 7 when the auction's online component closes at 5 p.m.
Wine Spectator magazine ranks NWWF as the world’s No. 1 charity wine auction since 2015. NCEF’s CEO Maria Jimenez-Lara confirmed this, adding that what keeps this auction at the tippy-top rung is that each year offers something new and different.
“From new cadres of chefs and vintners to creative auction lots that inspire festivalgoers to support our community, the festival attracts not just Neapolitans but people from across the country,” said Lara.
Case in point: two-time Emmy award winner Sela Ward was spotted in the crowd. She shared a story that Jennifer Lopez bought her Bel Air mansion in 2016 for $28 million, and this week, JLo put it on the market for $42.5 million.
Gucci-clad Wilfredo Emanuel, a semifinalist on HGTV’s Martha Stewart-hosted Table Wars, was a guest and sponsor, donating his non-pareil tablescaping expertise for a party of up to 24 guests.
Gary Harlan, owner of N Color Salon since 2001 and dressed in Prada, was there to support his clients and the “great organization. They do a lot for the community in many different ways. It's an incredible cause.”
Before paddles were raised, nearly 650 guests sipped wines and nibbled hors d’oeuvres alfresco while feasting their eyes on fantasy cars up for bidding displayed around the property. Inside featured several dozen displays of glamorous wine-inspired getaways boasting private jet or first-class transport.
Several guests were spotted with “tastevin” noted on their name tags while wearing the traditional cups sommeliers use to taste wines dangling from a chain around their necks.
Repeat guest Adam Gerry explained that successful bidders over the $100,000 mark are given a tastevin and said he uses his to "collect tears the next day."
“When you realize how much you bid on the auction lots, it’s very good for the children,” said Gerry.
For Kevin Buckler, the philanthropist behind lot 20 and founder and CEO of Adobe Road Winery and The Racers Group, it was a busy weekend in Naples with the simultaneously scheduled NWFF and Cars on 5th.
“We’re delighted to donate to this great charitable cause that aligns with our values and the exclusivity, quality and prestige of the event. We are pleased to offer an experience that money alone cannot buy,” Buckler said.
Buckler’s lot topped out at $140,000.
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In a town where the median age of residents is 65 years old, the festival also attracted a younger audience this year, with many guests under 45.
Falling into that demographic is 33-year-old Jenny Lenz, a frequent on-air expert for CNBC and Fox Business News who is managing director of Dolly Lenz Real Estate. She was among lot 32's 40 winning bidders at $25,000 a pop for dinner at the soon-to-open Butcher Private.
“This event is my absolute favorite because of its specific mission of making a difference in children's lives. They raise the bar to incredible levels and nicely harass patrons to open their wallets,” said Lenz.
Jay Hartington, Marissa Collections’ 43-year-old CEO, said this year’s festival was his 14th time attending though he had to skip out for his daughter’s soccer game.
“It's a great continuing commitment to the children of this community,” he said, mentioning that one of the singers who performed during the Feb. 3 NWWF trustee’s dinner at the home of Dr. Amy and John Quinn was among the children previously supported by NCEF’s work.
Speaking of John Quinn, he was the winning bidder of back-to-back auction lots totaling $1.450 million. Keep an eye out for his new 2023 Bentley Bentayga when driving around town.
For Top Chef legend John Tesar, whose Orlando restaurant scored a recent Michelin-star, 2023 is his sixth time at the Festival and first as chef de cuisine, a culinary honor.
“This is one of the greatest events of all time. The people are amazing. You see the results on how serious this community is with the hard work and the implementation of its initiatives,” Tesar said.
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Echoing the Festival’s “In Perfect Harmony” theme, NCEF’s 2023 top priority tackles health of the mind, body and soul with an emphasis on mental health initiatives following the stress endured by many families following Hurricane Ian.
In March 2022, NCEF awarded more than $22.6 million raised through the live auction to 50 Collier County nonprofits serving underprivileged and at-risk children.
Every dollar raised during the auction benefits kids in need. NCEF and NWWF’s partnership has now raised $269 million since 2001.
Diana Biederman is NDN's food and restaurant reporter. Connect via email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Naples Winter Wine Festival's auction nets near $26 million in 4 hours