Charity Wine Auction Raises More Than $5 Million for Children’s Charities

The enthusiasm of bidders at the ninth annual Naples Winter Wine Festival rose above the economic downturn as festival-goers raised more than $5 million under the auction tent, with 100 percent going to children’s charities. The festival is the most successful charity wine auction in the world as ranked by Wine Spectator since 2004. During the auction, attended by 500 guests at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, auction-goers bid on 65 one-of-a-kind lots, with winning bids ranging from $20,000 to $350,000.

“No one is immune from the economic challenges, and so we are especially heartened by the phenomenal generosity of our patrons, donors and sponsors at this year’s auction,” said Tom Galloway, 2009 festival chair with his wife, Connie, and trustees of the Naples Children and Education Foundation, founding organization of the Festival. Connie added, “Yesterday, festival guests saw firsthand the impact of foundation grants. They toured a new pediatric dental clinic and early learning center made possible by festival proceeds. They heard a dad talk about his autistic son and the festival-funded organization that helped him: ‘You saved him when I could not.’ They heard a migrant farmer’s daughter tell how proud she is to be the first in her family to go to college thanks in part to NCEF-funded programs. Those children and thousands more are why we’re here. It’s all about the children.”

Festival-goers’ generosity reached a fever pitch for a 10-day Caribbean voyage aboard a 170-foot yacht for 12 for $350,000. The highest bid for a wine lot was $150,000 for five Magnums from Domaine de la Romaine-Conti (DRC), widely considered the most famous producer of wines in the world. The lot featured Magnums of La Tache from 1999, 2000 and 2001 and a 2002 Montrachet and a 1971 La Romanee-Conti. Other wine lots included a vertical of Screaming Eagle in Double Magnum format complete with private vintner dinner, which was auctioned off for $110,000. A winning bid of $60,000 captured the auction’s opening lot, 28 Magnums of wine signed and personally selected by the festival’s 28 esteemed vintners.

Fantasy trips and experiences also brought in high bids. The “ultimate house party” at Blackberry Farm with country star Lee Ann Womack was auctioned off for $240,000. A winning bid of $220,000 entitles three couples to go on a nine-day wild boar hunt in Tuscany. A precious jewelry lot, which included a Bulgari diamond-and-pearl necklace, a trip to Rome and tickets to a Bulgari private jewelry gala, was auctioned off for $160,000.

Since trustees of the Naples Children & Education Foundation founded the festival in 2001, it has raised more than $74.5 million to improve the lives of underprivileged and at-risk children in Collier County, Fla. The funds raised at the 2009 festival will be distributed by Naples Children’s Education Foundation (NCEF) trustees to children’s charities in March.

Festival events began on Friday, with guests experiencing firsthand how festival proceeds benefit needy children. In the evening, intimate vintner dinners at trustees’ homes were prepared by famous U.S. chefs and internationally acclaimed vintners. Saturday kicked off with a wine-tasting and culinary feast prepared by Ritz-Carlton chefs from across Florida. A wine-down party Saturday evening will be followed by a Sunday celebration brunch prepared by several WCI Communities’ chefs. The 2010 festival, which will be the 10th anniversary, will be held Jan. 29 – 31. For more information about the 2009 Naples Winter Wine Festival, go to