Around the time bidding reached the seven-million dollar mark at the Naples Winter Wine Festival, an auctioneer confidently roared into his microphone, “This is a recession-proof auction ladies and gentlemen!” Proving him right, the crowd put paddles to the air and raised more than eight million by the last gavel. It was a jump from last year’s economically dampened $5.5 million and a desperately needed boost to the Naples Children and Education Foundation.
“We’re asking people to give at a time when it’s not so easy to open up the pocketbook,” said event trustee Bob Clifford, “but right now is when these kids need our help the most.”
The weekend-long event, which represented the 10th anniversary of the auction, took place in a tent behind the Ritz Carlton Naples and kicked off with the introduction of the honored vintners of 2010, Bill and Deborah Harlan of Harlan Estate. Throughout the weekend, trustees held private wine dinners with chefs from top-name restaurants and vintners from the world’s most celebrated wineries. Clifford and his wife hosted a twelve course dinner with Rick Tramonto from Chicago’s Tru and Prince Robert of Luxembourg of Chateau Haut-Brion. At the dinner, a local wine collector presented the Prince with a very rare bottle of 1926 Chateau Haut-Brion. “I don’t believe we have anything from 1926. My family did not buy the property until 1935 so what was left from before that was scarce,” said Price Robert.
As per tradition, large format bottles littered the auction lots and commanded hundreds of thousands of dollars while stellar wines at each table lubricated the bidders. The highest bid came in at $440,000 for a week-long cruise in the Mediterranean for six couples aboard a private 170-foot yacht. A bid for $340,000 beat out Judge Judy for a seven-day escape to a private island in the Bahamas. At the end of the day, eight million dollars were raised and six hundred bottles of wine—about $13,333 per bottle—were opened in four hours. It was a showing that had trustees and organizers proud and brought the auction’s grand ten-year total to $ 82.5 million dollars.