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The intoxicating glory of the Naples Winter Wine Festival

By raising nearly $26 million for Collier County children, the Naples Children & Education Foundation’s Naples Winter Wine Festival proves its caliber.

BY February 10, 2023
2023 Naples Winter Wine Festival
2023 Naples Winter Wine Festival Live Auction (Photo by AP Alexander)

The Naples Winter Wine Festival is, in a word, intoxicating. 

That may be evident by the name, but the name doesn’t fully encapsulate the impact of auction day. This year’s fundraiser—themed “In Perfect Harmony” with vibrant rainbow hues—shattered another annual record even before the online auction closed. In about four hours, the Naples Winter Wine Festival raised nearly $26 million for the Naples Children & Education Foundation’s efforts to support underprivileged children in Collier County. This year’s Fund a Need effort raised money to support access to healthcare, mental health, oral health and vision needs.

So what does the most impactful night of the year look like? You pull up to the Ritz-Carlton Naples, Tiburón, where a valet whisks your car, and worries, away. From there, make your way downstairs into a ballroom packed with the 50 extravagant wine lots for which you’ll soon raise paddles. 

As you wind through the ballroom to the outdoor festivities, live music invites. Indulge in hors d’oeuvres prepared by Ritz-Carlton chefs from around the country, while rubbing elbows with impactful philanthropists, like high-caliber NCEF trustees known for work around the country and the world. 

Decadent fare from masterful chefs included the melt-in-your-mouth lamb confit from chef Carlos Sierra of the Ritz-Carlton’s Dove Mountain in Arizona. Chef Jose Ballester from the Ritz-Carlton’s Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico plated a razor clam crudo finished with kisses of sweet potato puree and olive oil caviar that shone like gems in the late-morning sun. A Ladurée and Roseblood d’Estoublon collaboration paired a seductively fresh rosé with notes of blackcurrant buds alongside blush-pink macarons perfect for a mid-auction snack or post-auction indulgence. 

All this before the auction begins.

A cappella group Straight No Chaser ushered attendees inside with a rousing performance before tablemates began vying for high-caliber opportunities—one lot offered a trip to explore Northern Italy and a vertical of Staglin Family Vineyard Stagliano Estate Sangiovese from the 2017, 2018 and 2019 vintages in etched Magnum bottles. 

Among the top lots: A shiny, new Bentley Bentayga Azure, EWB with a snow quartz exterior with a journey throughout the United Kingdom (including private tours, hotel stays at the likes of The Lanesborough London and fine dining including a stop at The Macallan Estate and Distillery in Scotland) added for good measure that went for a whopping $1 million. There was more where that came from. That included a seven-night excursion through the Antinori wine estates that sold twice for $550,000 and $500,000; a 40-couple buy-in for $25,000 apiece for a dinner experience at the upcoming Butcher Private from Sails owners Corinne Ryan and Veljko Pavicevic and a secondary 40-couple buy-in also at $25,000 each for a private evening with comedian and author Sebastian Maniscalco at The Club Room at Campiello in Naples. 

It’s thrilling to witness millions upon millions of dollars directed toward Collier County children in need—hearing the crowd roar when a lot crosses that $1 million threshold is electrifying. To feel a wine-fueled warmth creeping into your cheeks and conversation is simply a sweet garnish.

That is the Naples Winter Wine Festival, after all: A chance to bid high and bid often for luxe lots offering once-in-a-lifetime adventures with measurable impacts on kids in our community. No matter what you do or do not walk away from the tent with, you know: It’s all for the kids. 

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