ncef, naples winter wine festival, naples, nwwf, charity, philanthropy, auction, dinner, wine

A few things signify season in Naples is well underway: hordes of Midwestern license plates clogging our roads and parking lots (making the two, at times, interchangeable); all but required restaurant reservations (we miss you, summer dining specials); and the buzz surrounding the ultra swanky Naples Winter Wine Festival (which has, consequently, already sold out).

The festival, in a nutshell, is held each January at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort and, since 2001, has raised $123 million for underprivileged and at-risk children in Collier County through the Naples Children & Education Foundation. Yes, its support of the community is fabulous—but it’s also not-so-secretly an opportunity for attendees to go all out, with lavish private dinners hosted by renowned vintners from around the world and auction lots typically only accessible to the likes of Beyonce and little Blue Ivy. (They’re that good.)

With numbers like that—and a $8,500 ticket price per couple—the wine festival has generally been off limits to anyone who, oh, still works for a living. This year, however, NCEF has introduced its first-ever online auction to its fundraising repertoire, making it easy to be a part of the cause and still get in on some pretty great auction packages. Registration opened Monday and continues through Saturday, Jan. 24. (Here’s where to register.)

You’ll want to spend some time scanning through the 12 pages of auction items, but here’s a rundown of our favorites:

Napa Valley Getaway (#1007)
A long weekend in Napa at the Running Rabbit Ranch vineyard estate, complete with a private tasting with the vintners and a take-home stock from their personal cellar.

Third Street South Experience (#1027)
Hey, no need to travel. This one gets you access to a luxurious, private two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment within walking distance of the beach and Naples Pier and lunch at Barbatella and dinner at The Continental. (Check out our Date Night at: The Continental for the scoop on this new addition to Third Street.) Plus, shopping.

Singita Safari in Tanzania (#1031)
A four-night safari for one couple. Nights spent in tented camps, days on open Land Rover tours of Africa.

New York Excursion (#1036)
Three nights in a two-bedroom apartment at Trump International, a wine lunch with Kyle MacLachlan (ahem, Trey from Sex and the City), four VIP tickets to LIVE with Kelly and Michael, a five-course pairings dinner at Union Square Café and a personalized dinner at Charlie Bird.

As they say under the Wine Festival tent: Bid early, bid often! (Just not on the lots we picked.)

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