Last Saturday, local teenagers from the Barron Collier High School drum line performed on the lawn of the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Fla., to get the Naples Wine Festival off to a rousing start. And the energy level never flagged. Bids totaled $14 million during the live auction, the second-highest total for the eight-year-old event, which placed first on Wine Spectator's Top 10 U.S. Charity Auctions list for 2007.
The theme this year was "Inspiring Tomorrow's Heroes," a nod to the work the Naples Children & Education Foundation, the beneficiary of the auction, performs with at-risk and low-income children in the local community. On Friday, guests at the three-day event took buses to a charity in Immokalee, Fla., to meet kids supported by money raised in the auction. Festival chairman Don Gunther cited this trip as one of the event's highlights. "I cried so much during the 45 minutes while the children were talking [about their lives] that my shirt was wet," he said. Since its inception, the foundation has donated more than $69 million to local children's charities.
"We're very fortunate that this year we had 23 new winning bidders. That's a good sign—new people that are interested. Says a lot about our staying power," said Gunther.
Handheld noisemakers and volunteers waving brightly colored star cutouts kept spirits high throughout the auction. Bidding was especially fierce for an elaborate package that combined walk-on roles on the TV shows Desperate Housewives and Back to You; tickets to the Oscars; and a trip to Cabo San Lucas. Staglin Family Vineyards put together the lot, which brought in an astounding $1 million from bidders Barbara and Bob Crown.
The top wine lot of the event was a 30-bottle vertical of Shafer that went for $240,000. A set of 75 bottles of 2000 Bordeaux, including offerings such as the Château Pavie St.-Emilion Grand Cru and Château Peby Faugeres St.-Emilion Grand Cru, sold for $180,000.
Other highly competitive lots included a 2009 Bentley Brooklands Coupe, and two Screaming Eagle motorcycles, which ended up going for $450,000 and $240,000, respectively.
Gunther said that energy in the tent and the camaraderie at the auction helped boost the bids. "Everybody congratulates everyone on contributing," he said. "People are trying to get to heaven, not to get something for a good value."
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions