For AC/DC bassist Cliff Williams, it wasn’t Benovia Winery and the promise of a tour and taste of its acclaimed chardonnays, pinot noirs and zinfandels that drove him and his wife, Georganne, to bid in a frenzy. On Saturday, the couple entered a bidding war at the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest with Vicki and Richard Pitbladdo, trustees of the event, until voices at the beach club at Miromar Lakes rose and guests could barely hear the emcee announce both couples had pledged 0,000 each, doubling the auction item. “You know, it could be something that you want or you don’t want, and certain things you’d prefer to have,” Williams said of the auction. “Some things are more appealing than others, but it’s really fun. You get into a little bidding war there and it’s great — it just vibes the whole thing up.” The auction brought in .5 million — .5 million raised at auction, with Joe Anderson, of Benovia Winery, and Tom Golisano pledging to match funds raised for The Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. With the matched funds, the event tripled the million the wine charity auction raised last year and it all came down to helping local children. Proceeds benefit the children’s hospital, the music therapy program at Florida Gulf Coast University and the pediatric nursing program at Edison State College. “Philanthropy is vital for children services,” said Jim Nathan, president and CEO of Lee Memorial Health System. “The principal payer for children services, Medicaid … is in serious trouble financially and we don’t turn children away. We want them to thrive and be successful and this just reinforces that the people here really do care about the future of children in Southwest Florida.” More than 300 guests strolled underneath palm trees sampling hors d’oeuvres of lump crab salad with olive oil custard or Waygu beef carpaccio with horseradish cream and took sips of crisp aromatic white wines and full-bodied reds at start of the event. While lavish auction items, like a private dinner with Williams at his home and a cooking harvest tour of the wine regions of Italy, brought in ,000 to ,000, the Pass the Hat auction, a smorgasbord of items attendees pitch in during the auction, went for 0,000. It was filled with prizes such as a Green Bay Packers Super Bowl ring, Pink concert tickets and seven scholarships, including two full ride scholarships to FGCU, four to Edison State College, and a 0,000 scholarship to the University of Virginia College at Wise. Dan and Heather Creighton will gear up for the Grand Prix in Monaco and pack their bags for the Ozarks to hear Dave Matthews Band croon in the twilight outdoors. Creighton raised his auction paddle amid rustle of pom poms from the Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders and applause from guests , swiping the winning ,500 bid for the Grand Prix. “Everybody is just kind of pushing for the same great cause. It’s a local cause, it’s for children, that’s what I love most about it,” he said.
“Everybody is just kind of pushing for the same great cause. It’s a local cause, it’s for children, that’s what I love most about it.”
Dan Creighton, bidder
Live auction by the numbers
1. ,000 – SWFL Wine & Food Fest Vintner’s Variety: A large format wine bottle from each of the fest’s wineries.
2. $ 25,000 – Dinner in your home for 10 by chef Roy Yamaguchi, namesake for Roy’s restaurants.
3. ,000 – Theater trip to New York City, including hotel and dinner.
4. ,000 – Choose either the 2013 Kentucky Derby, Masters, Final Four, with travel and hotel included.
5. ,000 – Five nights at a boutique hotel in Buenos Aires for two, with special tours, trips, meals and more.
6. ,000 – A 19-inch stone sculpture of draped cubes by Marton Varo and tour of marble mecca, Carrara, in Italy.
7. ,000 – Four nights at Napa Valley’s Calistoga Ranch, with spa, wine country tours and more.
8. 5,000 – Festival’s signature painting by Ella Sterling of Naples, born three months premature and now an active kindergarten student.
9. ,000 – Mark Loren-designed one-of-a-kind wine pourer made with 1 ounce yellow gold and diamonds, plus wine from AC/DC bassist Cliff Williams’ wine cellar, and dinner for six by Cru chef Harold Balink at Williams’ home.
10. 2,000 – Lifesaving Fund a Cause lot, such as Giraffe Omnibeds.
11. ,000 & ,000 – Husic Vineyards wine trip for four in the Stags Leap district of Napa Valley.
12. ,000 – 2013 Wine Auction Weekend in Chicago for two, with tastings, dinners and hotel.
13. ,000 – Angelina’s Ristorante dinner for 12 at your home with 100-point wines.
14. ,000 – A dozen 100-point wines
15. ,000 – Three nights in Prague, a seven-night Danube river cruise from Vilshofen to Budapest with celebrity chocolatier Norman Love, which includes stops for tours and sights.
16. ,000 – VIP treatment at a Dave Matthews Band concert at the open-air Oak Mountain Amphitheater with an AAA Four Diamond hotel and spa stay and restaurant dinner.
17. ,000 – Four days as an extra in the independent film “Hemingway & Fuentes,” starring Anthony Hopkins, Annette Bening and Andy Garcia, with airfare and a hotel in the Dominican Republic.
18. 0,000 & another 0,000 – Visit the 2012 signature vintner, Benovia Winery in the Sonoma Valley, fly aboard a DC-3, dine in a top restaurant and get VIP tickets to a charity concert at BR Cohn vineyards.
19. ,000 – Dinner at Cote d’ Azur in Naples with top wines and go home with twelve 750-milliliter bottles of Bordeaux rated between 91-100 points by Robert Parker.
20. ,000 & another ,000 – Attend with children or grandchildren the 2013 Teen Choice Awards with three nights at the Hilton Los Angeles Universal City in Hollywood.
21. ,000 – Dinner for eight at Sea Salt in Naples, with a limo bus and eight top wines, plus six 750 milliliter bottles of 1995 Ermitage Blanc L’Oree Chapoutier to take home, and a painting by Tampa artist Rodney Alexander.
22. ,000 & another ,000 – Four nights at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, a Forbes four-star boutique hotel in the heart of historic Santa Fe with dinner at two award-winning restaurants and tickets to the opera.
23. ,000 – A golf trip for four to play golf at five top courses in Ireland or Scotland, with massages and cigars.
24. ,000 – A three-hour Top Gunfighter jet experience on a military L-39 jet in St. Petersburg followed by a 0 voucher for a night out or a night at a spa resort.
25. ,500 – Airfare for two and five nights at Fairmont Monte Carlo, plus two Grandstand B seats for the qualifying race and the Grand Prix Monaco.
26. ,050 – Wine Smackdown at FGCU’s state-of-the-art wine education lab with a Champagne reception followed by tasting led by Master Sommelier Andrew McNamara with Bleu Provence food and wines rated at 90-100 points by Robert Parker.
27. ,000 – Eight-day Rhone River cruise for two from Arles to Lyon with meals and excursions.
28. ,000 – A candlelit dinner and Spanish wine on Captiva Island for three couples with the “Dexter” author.
29. ,000 & another ,000 – The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking harvest tour of the wine regions of Italy for four, with eight nights in several Italian cities with tastings, excursions, dinners and cooking classes.
30. ,000 & another ,000 – North Captiva Island getaway with wine and for a week at a private residence with dinners at restaurants and fishing school.
31. ,000 – Four-night stay at Hartwell Estate Vineyard in Napa Valley with the Staglin Music Festival, dinners and wine.
The final Pass the Hat auction went for 0,000.
Several silent auction items and others pledged funds to bring up the total funds raised.