The Naples Winter Wine Festival (NWWF) shattered its previous record and raised more than $20 million for its founding organization this past weekend. It is the highest amount ever raised at a U.S. charity wine auction, continuing the upward trend after a record-breaking 2019.
Over 700 guests, including comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, pro golfer Greg Norman and TV personality Judge Judy Sheindlin, gathered at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Fla., to celebrate the festival's 20th year. Thanks to a yacht-sized lot that sold for $1,050,000 and other jaw-dropping bids, Saturday's live auction raised $15.5 million, surpassing last year's $13 million. Since its inaugural event in 2001, the festival has raised over $212 million for the children of Collier County, Fla., through the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF).
"The entire Naples Children & Education Foundation team is in a state of grateful shock by the immense generosity of our festival guests for this 20th anniversary celebration," NCEF CEO Maria Jimenez-Lara told Wine Spectator.
The festival kicked off on Thursday with an intimate Bordeaux tasting and luncheon featuring wines of the Left and Right Banks, including verticals of Château L'Évangile and Château Lafite, with honored vintner Saskia de Rothschild of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite). That was followed by Meet the Kids Day and a series of intimate dinners on Friday starring 20 award-winning chefs, Thomas Keller and Emeril Lagasse among them, 33 celebrated vintners and 20 Master Sommeliers.
"Every year, the festival provides a one-of-a-kind experience where guests can bid for unique auction lots and sip on the rarest wines, but really, it's all about the kids," co-chair Barbie Hills told Wine Spectator. "In fact, Meet the Kids Day is always one of our most popular events, as it gives our patrons a chance to see the impact they have had on the local community."
Saturday's live auction featured 61 lots of rare wines, luxury travel packages and a 2020 Aston Martin from the upcoming Bond thriller No Time to Die, which sold for $550,000. A one-week trip for five couples to either southern France or Italy aboard the superyacht Majestic, along with its 16-member crew, sold for $1,050,000. The live auction's Fund-a-Need lot, earmarked for children's mental and physical health initiatives, raised over $5 million.
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U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, whose district includes Naples, purchased one of the top wine lots—35 magnums and two bottles from participating vintners—for $230,000. A six-person visit to Domaine Faiveley in Burgundy, along with six magnums of Domaine Faiveley grands crus from 2015, went for $160,000. A dinner for 20 guests, featuring magnums from the 2000 vintage of Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Margaux, Château Latour, Château Haut-Brion and Château Mouton-Rothschild, sold for $360,000.
Other luxurious, wine-infused experiences included a dinner at Château Lafite with a take-home goodie bag of 12 bottles from six decades, including the 1905 vintage, which sold for $340,000, and a two-day visit to Los Angeles with cult Cabernet star Ann Colgin, along with a 20-bottle collection from Colgin Cellars. That lot sold for $220,000.
Naples continues to set the high bar for wine charity, but the philanthropy matters more than records, according to Jimenez-Lara. "This record-breaking $20 million will go directly toward life-changing programs and initiatives that provide health and education services and will improve the lives of children and give them more opportunities for lifelong success."