This past January, hundreds of wine enthusiasts and philanthropists descended on Naples for the 15th anniversary of the Naples Winter Wine Festival. Guests enjoyed the finest wines from around the world, tasted handcrafted meals from some of the United States’ most celebrated chefs, and bid on amazing travel and wine experiences during the thrilling live auction.
Guests also had the opportunity to participate in two new events this year, including a historic tasting seminar and luncheon featuring older vintages of the greatest Krug champagnes, moderated by Olivier Krug himself. Krug was joined by special guest and noted wine critic Antonio Galloni, who provided attendees with fascinating insight into Krug and the Champagne region.
The entire Naples community and wine enthusiasts from around the world were invited to bid during the Festival’s first-ever online auction, which featured an array of exclusive items, including exceptional wines, unique fine art, jewelry and fashion, intimate dining experiences, and incredible travel adventures. Among the accomplished vintners from the 15 global wineproducing regions, five countries, and two continents attending the Festival was Marchese Piero Antinori, one of the most prestigious names in Italian wine making, who was named Honored Vintner.
Mr. Antinori’s wine, along with that of his renowned colleagues, was poured by over a dozen Master Sommeliers, a distinction that only 219 wine professionals have earned worldwide, offering guests the ultimate tasting experience. Leading the group was Master Sommelier Larry Stone, who returned to the Festival for his third year, this time as Honored Sommelier.
What started as a mere conversation among wine loving philanthropists 15 years ago has blossomed into one of the world’s most prestigious charity wine auctions, raising millions of dollars for underprivileged and at-risk children in Collier County.
Through the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), Festival funds have been distributed to 40 of the most effective nonprofits in
the community, providing around 200,000 children with the resources they need to excel.
In addition to these critical grants, NCEF has invested over 13.5 million dollars in seven long term, multifaceted, collaborative strategic initiatives that address areas of particular need within the community. For instance, initiatives focused on dental and eye care have led to the creation of NCEF’s Pediatric Dental Center and provided more than 45,000 children with vision screenings, with over 9,000 of school age children receiving eye glasses.
The transformative impact of NCEF is immeasurable. Here are just a few of the organization’s incredible achievements over the past 15 years:
- Each year, NCEF donates over $1.5 million to help 40,000 children receive healthy meals in remote and needy sections of Collier County.
- More than 705 premature babies were transported in the NCEF Neo-Natal ambulance and are now thriving children.
- NCEF makes an annual investment of $4.4 million to after school and summer programs that have helped two low socioeconomic high schoolsimprove graduation rates from 65 percent to 81 percent, surpassing the state average for at risk student graduation.
- More than $12 million has been donated to help 9,500 children live in safer environments due to injunctions for protection, custody orders,and guardianship orders obtained through several community based organizations that are dedicated to advocating for children.
- More than 8,000 children have had access to high quality early childhood programs.
- Over 15,000 children who live in the most isolated and rural areas of the community now enjoy medical care within minutes of their home.
The 2015 Naples Winter Wine Festival was yet another fruitful year, combining three days of the very best in food and wine with a year long impact for underprivileged children.
The Festival’s success could not have been possible without the support of the Board of Directors, current and emeriti trustees, staff, partners, sponsors, volunteers, and the entire Collier County community, all of whom worked tirelessly to make this event a smashing success. It is through their effort that every dollar raised under the tent benefits children in need. Grant recipients of this year’s Naples Winter Wine Festival will be announced on March 9, 2015.