Almost $26 Million was raised at the Naples Winter Wine Festival this past weekend, breaking previous records for the amount garnered by this annual fundraiser. The money benefits at risk and underprivileged children in Collier County, Florida. It is one of the top charity auctions in the world and since its 2001 inaugural event it has raised nearly $269 million.
Participants of the Naples Winter Wine Festival 2023 were wined and dined in high style the entire weekend. The event kicked off on Friday evening with eighteen private parties at board members, trustee and patrons’ homes with gourmet meals cooked by stellar chefs from around the country paired with amazing wines poured by outstanding vintners. For example, Donna Solimene hosted guests at the home of Cece and James Koons and lucky participants were regaled with a delicious meal cooked by Chef Beau MacMillan of Cala in Scottsdale, Arizona featuring Wagyu Beef sourced by Chef James Porter of Terra Market. The wines of Grace Evenstad, owner of Domaine Serene and Château de la Crée, paired perfectly with each course. Guests who attended dinner at Anne Welsh McNulty’s waterfront home were hosted by Ms. McNulty along with Beth and Jeff Wessel, and enjoyed the cuisine of Chef Brian Baxter of Nashville’s The Catbird Seat paired with Krug Champagne and Tempranillo from Bodega Numanthia of Toro, Spain.
Saturday afternoon festivities began with an incredible wine and food bacchanal under a huge tent adjacent to the even larger tented pavilion that housed the auction. Bidding was fast and furious from the start with eager and energetic bidders. Some standout lots were “Escape to a Caribbean Masterpiece with Cuvée” which included private air transport on a Challenger 300, accommodations, dinners, sailing, snorkeling and relaxing beach time. The package raised $650,000 for NWWF’s charities. Another exciting lot was “Château Mouton Rothschild: Where the Elegance of Wine and Art Meet” that sold for $550,000 and included insider access in Paris, luxury hotels, and a private tour of Versailles before being whisked away to Bordeaux for a private unveiling of the 2021 Château Mouton Rothschild label, cocktail reception, and dinner at the estate.
The Naples Winter Wine Festival ended on Sunday morning with an elegant brunch and the announcement of the total money raised. Guests were constantly reminded that all the money raised is “all for the kids” and those who arrived early on Friday had the opportunity to meet many of the beneficiaries at the “Meet the Kids” event. One of the remarkable organizations was Valerie’s House, which helps children work through the grieving process after the death of a family member. Sarah Andrus, Director, Collier County Valerie’s House explained, “The money raised at the NWWF helps us ensure that children and teens do not have to grieve the death of their loved ones alone. It helps us ensure that 6-year-old Angel will always have a safe place to talk about how she’s feeling, missing her mom who died. It helps us ensure that 15-year-old Megan can meet with her peers and immediately feel understood and supported, as she is grieving the death of her parents. It helps us ensure that the children of Collier County will not be limited by loss and will go on to live fulfilling lives.”
Another of the dozens of beneficiaries that stood out was Gargiulo Education Center whose goal is to develop educated and confident students within the Naples migrant community. Mary Asta, Executive Director and Board Member stated, “The Winter Wine Festival is a very exciting and important time of the year for many. The amount that is raised can determine feast or famine. In our case, the successes we have in our Entrepreneurial, Finance, Academics and Social Etiquette programs, not only teach the students, but through the students’ milestones, it shows the parents that they too can break free of poverty. In my five year tenure, I have personally witnessed at least 12 families change their destinies and many more have hope of a bright future. This could not be done without the Winter Wine Festivals Naples Children and Education Foundation. They have literally changed the world in a mere 23 years.”