The Naples Winter Wine Festival (NWWF) reached new heights in early February, as 675 wine lovers gathered in a tent outside the Ritz-Carlton Naples, Tiburón to bid on lots combining luxurious travel and culinary experiences with rare wines. The auction, which benefits the Naples Children and Education Foundation (NCEF), has firmly established itself as the top charity wine event in the country.
"We are extremely thankful to everyone who contributed this year, which will allow us to further achieve our mission of improving the educational, emotional and health outcomes of underprivileged and at-risk children in our community," Rick Germain, NCEF trustee and 2023 festival co-chair, told Wine Spectator.
Following a triumphant return in 2022 after going virtual in 2021 due to COVID-19, the auction set another record this year, raising nearly $26 million for charity.
"We were excited to return to in-person gatherings for both 2022 and 2023, with each selling out under the big tent and achieving new all-time highs. These sold-out events are partly due to pent-up demand as supporters seek a return to normalcy, but we also are welcoming many newcomers each year who desire to experience the magic of NWWF firsthand," Lisa Juliano, NCEF director of events and communications, told Wine Spectator. She added that this year's funds will be especially impactful as many in the community are still struggling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Ian, which struck the area in the fall.
A recipe for success
Naples sets the standard for top charity wine events, in large part because it draws elite winemakers every year from both the U.S. and abroad. As in years past, the auction included online and fund-a-need components in addition to the culminating live auction, which took place on Saturday, Feb. 4 and raised nearly $20.4 million from 50 lots, of which 41 included wine. According to Juliano, in the past two years NWWF has focused on offering fewer lots while paying extra attention to the details of each.
The top lot, "Antinori: Legacy of Greatness," sold twice for a total of $1.05 million. The winning bidders will enjoy seven nights exploring Antinori's wine estates, including Tignanello, Badia a Passignano, Guado al Tasso and Castello della Sala. The lot includes a two-night stay at Palazzo Antinori in Florence, a private tour of the Uffizi, multiple trips by helicopter, exclusive meals and several large-format bottles of Antinori wines.
Four lots tied for the second-highest bid of $1 million. One of those, "The Glories of Piedmont and Lombardy" (doubled for a total of $1 million) will take two couples on a seven-night journey through northern Italy, guided by longtime auction supporters Shari and Garen Staglin of Staglin Family Vineyards. The lot includes stops in Lake Como, Barolo and Milan, plus a three-vintage vertical of Staglin Family Vineyards Stagliano Estate Sangiovese in etched magnum bottles.
Wine featured prominently in other top lots, among them an immersive trip to Portugal (sold for $575,000) including private meals, tastings, vineyard tours and more with Symington Family Estates at Graham's Quinta dos Malvedos and Dow's Quinta do Bomfim. A French travel package (sold for $550,000) will combine art, food and wine, beginning with private tours of Versailles and the Musée d'Orsay, followed by the chance to participate in the unveiling of the label of the 2021 Château Mouton-Rothschild alongside the artist and the Rothschild family. This year's festival honored Philippe Sereys de Rothschild as its honored vintner, and "Top Chef" contestant John Tesar was recognized as the event's chef de cuisine.
A focus on helping kids
The weekend got off to a festive start on Thursday with a party at Naples' Campiello restaurant, and on Friday morning, attendees learned about NWWF's impact on local children during the annual "Meet the Kids Day." That evening, guests enjoyed meals prepared by celebrity chefs—complete with wine pairings by a team of participating vintners and sommeliers—in the private homes of festival trustees and at other exclusive locations.
Funds raised by NWWF support more than 50 nonprofit organizations focused on "the physical, emotional and educational lives" of at-risk and underprivileged children in Collier County, which includes Naples and Marco Island; over 300,000 children have been served to date.
This year's auction brings the total amount raised for NCEF since 2001 to approximately $269 million. Next year's festival will again take place at the Ritz-Carlton Naples, Tiburón from Jan. 25–28, 2024.
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