By 6:30 p.m., the total hit about $12 million with the lots all sold. There was a special fundraiser targeted toward the hungry children of Collier County. That amount raised was $625,000.
5:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Supporting a Wine Festival trustee initiative to end childhood hunger, Lot 65 brought in a little more than $625,000. Festival-goers pledged donations in amounts, ranging from $1,000 to $25,000, on apple-shaped cards, which were dropped into tin lunchboxes that read “Lunch Boxes of Love.”
As the pledges were collected, a parade of kids who benefit from the money raised at the festival passed out chocolate chip cookies in brown paper bags, with heart stickers on them.
Even before the auctioneer finished announcing what Lot 67 had to offer, Robert Maier, from San Francisco, was standing in the aisle, paddle in hand, ready to bid.
The celebrity-style get-away included a trip to Los Angeles, tickets to the Emmy’s and walk-on roles on “Californication.”
Bids rose quickly, from $50,000 to $160,000. Auctioneer Humphrey Butler paused. “Now then. What’s happening here?” he asked as he looked for more bids.
Maier got into a bidding war with Anne Welsh McNulty, a festival trustee, who in the end came out as the winner. Her bid was $240,000.
“I’m disappointed I didn’t get it,” Maier said. “But I’m happy I bid it up.”
His wife, Mary Louise, said her heart raced with excitement when she thought her husband might win the trip.
“Next year, I’ll have him drink more wine,” she joked.
At the end, Butler announced a little more than $11.9 million had been raised under the tent.
But after getting a whisper in his ear from another auctioneer, he told the crowd this year’s co-chairs, Bruce and Cynthia Sherman, were donating $100,000 to make the total an even $12 million.
By 6 p.m., the total has hit $11 million with three lots to go.
5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Lot 55 — a collection of 29 bottles of Sine Qua Non, donated by this year’s festival chairs Bruce and Cynthia Sherman — raised $160,000. Gary Garrabrant, from Chicago, won it. He and his wife, first-time festival goers, love Sine wine.
“This is such a wonderful wine,” he said. “Now, we’re going to have more capacity to entertain friends. We’re just happy to support the cause.”
A few minutes later, Ralph Miesel’s decision to bid on Lot 56 — a 22-day trip around the world on a luxury jet — came at the last minute, after the auctioneer described it as a “second honeymoon.”
“Bidding on the trip was inspired by the fact that my wife and I are going to have our 40th anniversary and going around the world is something we never even dreamed of,” he said. “It benefits the kids and we get to think of them as we go around the world.”
Miesel, a Naples retiree, was attending the auction for the first time. “I stayed long enough to do some damage,” he quipped to a friend, who congratulated him.
By the time auctioneers got to Lot 58, the festival had raised more than $10 million. The crowd roared when the milestone was announced.
Bruce Sherman put together the lots this year as the 2011 festival co-chairman. He just couldn’t let Lot 59 — a sports experience for four that included tickets to the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four — go to someone else. He was the high bidder at $240,000.
He was egged on to bid higher.
“I love sports — to play and to watch it,” Sherman said after winning the lot.
Soon, there were just five lots to go in the auction.
By 5:30 p.m., the total has surpassed $10 million.
4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
By 4 p.m., people are starting to slow down.
Water bottles nearly outnumber wine glasses on the tables.
But there is work to be done.
Within a half hour, thanks to a rally and a $1 million bid on a one-of-a-kind bronze sculpture, the auction broke the $8 million mark, surpassing last year’s net total with more than 20 lots to go. By the end of the hour, it hit the $9 million mark, reinfused with an enthusiasm that won’t quit.
Auctioneer Lydia Fenet helped nurture along the bid that has proved to be the biggest so far, encouraging a bidding war that inched along after the $800,000 mark.
“A very savvy art collector,” she said, buttering the bidders up with compliments.
When she saw that same bidder being surrounded by women, whispering in his ear, she jumped on the opportunity to goad him, slipping into some good-natured ribbing.
“He’s surrounded by blondes now -- it’s clouding his judgment,” she joked.
As they pushed him to bid $850,000, and later $950,000, he was ultimately outbid at a round $1 million by Patty and Jay Baker. The Bakers, of Naples, did not hesitate in offering that final bid.
Patty Baker, who has attended the festival for seven years, said she was heartened by the show of charity at this year’s auction. She has been here for the good years — the $15 million mark — and the not-so-good years: the $5 million raised in 2009 when the economy was in the doldrums.
“I can always judge how the economy is based on how the auction goes,” she said.
And this year, things have come roaring back at the Naples Winter Wine Festival.
It would be easy to slow down after reaching last year’s total, but veteran auctioneer Ann Colgin refuses to let the attendees relax.
At lot 52, a collection of wines and a private tour with vintner Jean-Guillaume Prats in Bordeaux, France, she demands attention as she feels the audience’s attention slipping away.
“Everybody! Pay attention!” she shouts at her crowd, before pushing the bidding upward to $80,000.
As she moves on to the next lot, a 14-day cruise with luxury accommodations, she challenges her audience: “Last year this went for $160,000.”
And not to be outdone, a winning bidder matched that amount. And so, the auction marches along with another 27 lots to go, and more than $9 million raised by the end of the hour.
This one just went for $1 million at around 4 p.m.
Auction Lot No. 42: She Is One Beautiful, Bronzed Babe: $1,000,000
A bronze sculpture by Spanish artist Manolo Valdés titled, Reina Mariana, and more. The Wine Festival’s featured artist this year created the piece.
3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Bidding for a one-of-a-kind Bvlgari necklace — Lot 25 — started at $50,000. It quickly doubled, then hit $120,000, the top bid.
After the winning bid, Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” blasted, with the chorus, “if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it.”
But the winner wasn’t a single lady. It was Jeff Gibbons, from New Jersey, who bought it for his wife, Meredith.
“My parents are friends with the Bvlgaris,” he said. “We love their jewelry and I love my wife.”
Of course, he said, it’s all for a good cause.
Last year, they won a lot of Scarecrow wine.
“It’s great,” Gibbons said of the auction. “It’s an amazing spirit of enthusiasm to help the local kids.”
Lot 28 — a 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia Sports Coupe — pit friends and fellow trustees, Bob Scott and Monte Ahuja, against each other. Trustees and volunteers chanted to drive bids higher.
“Go get ‘em,” Don Gunter, a trustee, told Scott.
The bid started at $100,000, but bids quickly went up from there.
When the bid hit $600,000, auctioneer Humphrey Butler said, “We haven’t even started.”
The noise in the tent escalated with the bids.
When Ahuja bid $950,000, Scott signaled that he was done, running his finger across his throat.
“Incredible,” Cynthia Sherman said of the winning bid, throwing her hands up in the air with joy.
Scott, the losing bidder, came over to congratulate Ahuja.
“Hey Monte, can I have a ride?” he asked, before shaking his hand.
“It was fun,” Scott said.
A representative for Ferrari said the car’s sticker price was about $270,000, but there’s a waiting list of a year to get one.
Ahuja said he had a 360 Ferrari and wanted to get a new one.
“Obviously, this is a good place to do it,” he said. “It was a little bit higher than I thought. My buddy, he jacked me up.”
A few years ago, Ahuja was the unsuccessful bidder on a 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drop convertible. The high bid was a record $2 million by Raymond Lutgert, founder of Naples-based developer Lutgert Cos., who died last year at age 90.
It took a team effort to win Lot 35 - a 10-day trip to Alaska on a private yacht for six couples. Bids started at $100,000 and shot up from there. The final bid came in at $480,000. The trip will be shared by five friends, who live in the gated community Mediterra, straddling the Lee-Collier line. One of the residents, Dave Gibbons, is a festival trustee, and he has another couple in mind to invite on the trip.
“We were in it to win it, whatever it took,” Gibbons said.
“We really love giving back to the community,” said Mark Graham, his friend and co-bidder.
Their other friends are Jeff Wessel, Brian Brady and Tom Everist.
“We are going to have a lot of fun and do a lot of good together,” Gibbons said.
The Scheindlins — “Judge Judy” Scheindlin — found themselves in the winner’s circle again with Lot 38 - a safari trip to Kenya. They had the highest bid of $120,000.
“We’re ready to go,” Judy Scheindlin said.
2:15 p.m. to 3 p.m.
It will pit friend against friend, and sometimes even drive husbands and wives to the brink.
The bidding wars at the Naples Winter Wine Festival Auction keep heating up, bouncing back and forth across the room between tables, occasionally causing spouses to raise a few eyebrows at each other over what amounts they are willing to lay on the line for a rare collection of vintage wines or a luxurious overseas trip.
But with every win, and sometimes with a loss, they remind themselves of one thing.
“It’s a great cause,” said Nancy Zirkin, a Washington, D.C., resident.
Throughout the 2 p.m. hour, Zirkin kept finding herself at the losing end of bidding wars, but she remained undeterred.
“I’m going to get one,” she said. “It’s all for the kids.”
She found herself battling over Lot 19, a trip to Vermont and upstate New York, with a private tour of the Baseball Hall of Fame with Cal Ripken Jr. When the bidding hit $140,000, her husband, Harold, looked at her and shook his head. She set her jaw, taking on the hard air of a businesswoman trying to seal a deal.
Just as it seemed the bidding was over, Harold Zirkin looked away, and Nancy thrust her bidding paddle into the air. Her husband looked at her in alarm, and she shrugged her shoulders. He was reluctant.
“He was,” she said, even after she was out-bid at $160,000. “But we bought something here in 2008, and he loved it, so he’ll love whatever we get.”
Fast forward 20 minutes, and Bob and Joan Clifford have just won a trip for four couples to Geneva, Switzerland, followed by a private golf trip for 16 people with PGA stars Anthony Kim and Vijay Singh.
“My wife was giving me some interesting looks along the way up the bidding,” he joked after the lot was won.
“I was determined to get this lot because the actual trip and components of it appeal to me and my family,” said Clifford, a trustee of the festival. “Every nickel of it will go to benefit the underprivileged and disadvantaged children of Collier County.”
One couple that claimed to be in perfect sync over whether to bid was Dave and Cheryl Copham, of Fort Myers.
They put down $300,000 for a perfectly restored 1956 red Corvette.
The win had special significance for them.
“We actually had one when we met in 1965,” Dave Copham said. “It was not that pretty though.”
The couple has spent eight years at the festival, taking home an auction lot every year. This year’s win beat them all, they said.
They said they have their eye on at least one or two more items, with the auction scarcely one-quarter of the way through. But, they’ll never tell which ones.
“Our friends would bid against us,” Dave Copham said with a laugh.
Just shy of 3 p.m., after scarcely two hours of bidding, auctioneer Humphrey Butler makes an announcement: the auction has surpassed a total of $3 million.
1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.
Just before bidding started, Bruce and Cynthia Sherman, this year’s festival co-chairs, in unison told the crowd: “Bid high. Bid often. It’s all for the kids.”
The tent was filled with the sound of shaking maracas, held by dozens of volunteers.
Lot 1, offering five bottles of Taittinger Brut La Francaise, four of them from the renowned Artist Collection Series, fetched $40,000. Bids started at $5,000.
“It’s only money, honey,” Ann Colgin, one of the auctioneers said during the bid.
“I think it’s a wonderful start,” said Tom Lund, a festival trustee.
He predicted the action would lumber along at first, kind of like an airplane, and then take off.
Lot 2, offering Magnums from all of the festival’s participating vintners, sparked a bidding war between cousins, “Judge Judy” Sheindlin and Bruce Sherman, the co-chairman for this year’s festival.
Sheindlin was the winning bidder, going up to $100,000.
“I have to go over and give him a kick in the behind,” she said jokingly about her cousin, who forced up her bid.
“As soon as I see her lift a paddle, I know I’m in trouble,” quipped Sheindlin’s husband, Jerry.
After his wife won the lot, Jerry jokingly told Bruce, “I’ll sell you half for $60,000.”
On Lot 4, bidding was intense again. It offered seven nights for three couples exploring Sedona, Ariz., and Sante Fe, N.M. It included air.
“It’s a great trip to a wonderful part of the world,” said Bob Scott, the winning bidder and a festival trustee.
Lot 6, a four-day Tuscan trip, went to two couples: Kirsten Ferrara and Al Rupp and Shirlene and Bob Elkins, wine festival trustees.
With the winning bid of $110,000, Ferrara went wild, throwing her hands in the air and dancing in the aisle next to her table.
“I can’t wait for the food and wine,” said Shirlene Elkins.
“It’s all for a good cause. It’s good,” Ferrara said.
On Lot 8, a new auctioneer, Humphrey Butler, was taunting the crowd, trying to get festival-goers to bid higher.
“Words like cheapskate come to mind,” he said.
The lot, offering an extra long weekend at the Ritz-Carlton on Nob Hill and three nights at Meadowood Napa Valley, fetched $90,000. The winners? Festival trustees, Ann and Bill Bain. The couple’s first grandchild, who is six months old, lives in California, so that made the trip especially attractive.
“We have a few reasons to go there,” Ann Bain said.
Lot 10, “London Calling, a trip for two couples to the 2012 Olympic Games, was calling trustees John and Barbara Jordan, the highest bidders at $400,000. The couple got into a bidding war with Anne McNulty, a fellow trustee.
When the Jordans won the lot, it brought other trustees to their feet. Some ran over to hug and kiss the Jordans, who at that point had bid higher than anyone for any lot.
“For us always, it’s about the children and making sure we participate in a way that can change children’s lives,” Barbara Jordan said.
John Jordan said he didn’t set a ceiling for his bid.
“We never know,” he said. “We just kind of go with it. At the end of the day, it’s more money for the charities we’re here for.”
They plan to take the Shermans on the trip with them.
“It’s a good bucket-list item,” John Jordan said about Olympics.
_ Leslie Williams Hale and Laura Layden
Noon to 1:15 p.m.
The auction started at about 1:05 pm. Bidding started at $5,000 on lot 1, for a wine collection.
Before the bidding, festival-goers tasted foods from eight restaurants at the two Ritz-Carlton resorts in North Naples.
In years past, chefs from other Ritz-Carltons flew in for the event, serving up specialties from their out-of-town restaurants.
But this year the focus was on the local chefs.
“This year, it’s fun. It’s more about us,” said David Codney, executive sous chef for the two Ritz-Carlton resorts.
Guests sampled marinated olives and lentil salad from Bites; nibbled on escargot from The Grill, and tried slow-cooked veal from The Terrace. The Sushi Bar served up surf and turf, spicy tuna and tofu.
Gumbo Limbo offered some of its favorites: lobster quesadillas and grouper tacos.
The newly reopened H2O restaurant at the beach resort served up a “CLT,” cucumber, lobster and tomato sandwich. Lemonia offered a Moroccan lamb kabob and crispy calamari.
Global, the newest restaurant at the golf resort, had a sampling of bar foods from around the world, including mini bratwurst from Germany and udon noodles from Asia.
The dessert and cheese station was spectacular. The offerings included a passion fruit lollipop, a key lime test tube and coffee milkshakes. Dessert chefs worked late into the night and then reported to work at 6 a.m. Saturday. They prepared 2,000 desserts for the crowd.
“This is our biggest event,” said Jorian Weiner, a public relations manager for the Ritz-Carlton. “It’s important. We have to make the food and wine good.”
Dick Westfall, a retired investment banker from Naples, attended the festival for the first time this year, along with his girlfriend, Barbara Johnson, a General Motors retiree who has volunteered at the event for years.
“My highlight has been the children,” said Johnson, who attended a “Meet the Kids Day” early Friday. “It’s been very moving.”
Westfall liked that the food offered outside the tent was all local. Asked what his favorite food was, he said, “everything I’ve eaten.”
At 12:30, the Naples High School band started playing outside the tent. A singer was practicing “God Bless America.”
Bidders began trickling into the brightly-colored tent at 12:40 p.m., with the band playing.
“The fun is about to begin,” a voice boomed over the microphone. Kids from the charities the festival supports gathered on the stage, waving home-made American flags.
The tent grew quiet, as Grammy Award-winner Heather Headley belted out “God Bless America.”
_ Leslie Williams Hale and Laura Layden
One room. One purpose. Millions of dollars worth of potential.
The Naples Winter Wine Festival auction is less than an hour from kicking off, and wine festival trustees this year decided to start the day off right. Festival attendees are being directed to register in a room cooled to a brisk 52 degrees.
For a group of roughly 500 people who are being asked to bid hundreds of thousands -- maybe millions -- of dollars, cooling them down might be counter-intuitive. Indeed, when the wine starts flowing and the bidding starts, the whole point is to warm them up.
But this year, festival-goers have no choice but to start the day with a tour through the lot room, a banquet hall containing the 70 auction lots on which attendees will be bidding today.
Volunteers don gloves as they thumb through alphabetized packets, looking for registrations as people trickle in.
And curiosity gets the best of even the most stoic attendee, as gleaming photos of African safaris and bottles of 100-point wines beckon them to take a closer look. The temperature of the room is an effort to preserve these wines, many of which are old and sensitive to changes in temperature.
In a far corner of the room, Terry and Karen Murphy stood to marvel in front of lot 31. A specially constructed case of 100 bottles of 100-point wines, the “perfection” lot, stands gleaming and, well, perfect.
Terry Murphy, of Elmhurst, Ill., asks what the lot might go for: $50,000, $60,000?
It’s anybody’s guess, but the refrigerator-sized case of virtually perfect wines is gaining plenty of buzz this year, and might be one of the most sought-after lots. And in an auction where lots have been known to go for $500,000, even $1 million, the potential for this lot is boundless.
“A collection like this has never been assembled -- until now,” reads the description of the lot. “This wonder of world wine is a legendary cellar unto itself.”
The Murphys are attending the festival for the first time this year, guests of festival trustees Bob and Joan Clifford.
“It’s unlike anything we’ve ever experienced, and the cause is so wonderful,” Terry Murphy said. “I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’ve been to a lot of auctions.”
“Never seen anything like this” is exactly what the event’s organizers go for.
In its 11th year, the festival keeps getting bigger. Set under a towering tent on the lawn of the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, the decor positively sparkles with splashes of lime green and royal purple. And the profusion of stemware on the tables -- cabernet glasses, chardonnay glasses, champagne glasses -- help.
Photo by LEXEY SWALL // Buy this photo
Cynthia Sherman, who is chairing the event this year with her husband, Bruce Sherman, dons a purple hat and clutches a green shawl that perfectly mirror the decor she was responsible for selecting.
The two grin, heady with the knowledge that the biggest portion of the festival -- and one of the biggest charity events in the nation -- is about to get under way.
Last year’s auction raised $8 million after a sluggish 2009 event raised just $5 million.
Asked if they have any predictions for this year’s event, Bruce Sherman demurs.
“We have a tradition of 10 years of never predicting any dollar amounts because every dollar raised under this tent goes to the kids,” Bruce Sherman said. “And every dollar raised is a dollar more than they had yesterday.”
The theme for this year’s auction is “Uncorking a New Decade,” and Cynthia Sherman said Friday’s “Meet the Kids” day helped bring that home for attendees.
“You’re uncorking potential,” she said of the children helped by the wine festival.
Bidding on the lots begins at 1 p.m.
MORE COVERAGE OF THE 2011 NAPLES WINTER WINE FESTIVAL
2011 NAPLES WINTER WINE FESTIVAL
- Video: 2011 Wine Festival auction
- Video: Perfectly Paired
- Video: Wine dinner of tropical splendor
- Video: Study shows needs of local children
- Video: Preparations for a wine dinner
- Photo Gallery: Wine Festival Auction Action
- Photo Gallery: Wine Festival Pre-Auction Gala
- Photo Gallery: Wine Festival vintner dinner at the Evanstad home
- Photo Gallery: Wine Festival Vintner Dinner at Lund's Home
- Photo Gallery: The perfect home for the perfect wine
- Photo Gallery: Naples Winter Wine Festival Meet the Kids Day 2011
- Photo Gallery: Wine Festival Auction Lots
- Photo Gallery: Preparation for Wine Festival Vintner Dinner
- Photo Gallery: TutorCorps breaks cycle of poverty through education
- Photo Gallery: Inside the Lutgert kitchen for Wine Festival
- Photo Gallery: Spanish sculptor donates bronze sculpture for wine festival
- Photo Gallery: Naples Children and Education Foundation updates child well-being study
- Photo Gallery: ABLE Academy gives critical developmental help
- Winter Wine festival auction raises $12 million for kids’ charities
- Naples couple tops auction bidding at $1 million for sculpture
- What the wine festival auction lots were sold for
- Live Blog from the Auction: 2011 Naples Wine Festival totals $12 million for kids' charities
- Lavish dinners, children’s event pop cork on 2011 Naples Wine Festival
- Kids in need: Bay Colony home hosts Wine Festival dinner in 'tropical splendor'
- Kids in need: Taste of Oregon comes to Port Royal for lavish Wine Festival dinner
- The perfect cabinet for perfect bottles
- In pursuit of perfection: Wine seller and writer Bruce Nichols helps put together the ultimate wine lot
- Kids in need: Wine Festival enriches YMCA programs by $2.3 million
- Kids in need: YMCA of the Palms staff works with Naples Children & Education Foundation
- VIDEO/PHOTOS: A red 'Vette, a safari and Regis among wine auction lots
- Kids in need: Foster care numbers rise in Collier, but some singing success - AUDIO: MONIQUE SINGS
- Kids in need: Tutor Corps uses student tutors to help get other kids ready for college
- Kids in need: Half of food bank meals in Collier go to kids, enter Lunch Boxes of Love
- Kids in need: Child sexual abuse increasing in Collier, agencies step in to help
- Kids in need: Naples wine festival a sign economy is recovering?
- Kids in need: Bruce and Cynthia Sherman chair 2011 Naples charity wine festival
- VIDEO/PHOTOS Study: Collier population of kids booming, their lives improving
- From cozy to haute cuisine: The Lutgert home kitchen was built to satisfy family and vintner dinners
- No longer locked inside: Dylan Chatham gets critical help from Naples Children and Education Foundation
- Kids in need: Wine Festival sponsors win Edison college community service award