Editor's note: This is the second in a series of three behind-the-scenes articles about the Naples Winter Wine Festival, which will be written each day by one of the many volunteers, vintners and sommeliers who make the festival a success each year. Today is a feature about Ann Colgin, a vintner who is best known for her part in forging a world-renowned reputation for California's small production, hard-crafted red wines.
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Two words come to mind when I think about the Naples Winter Wine Festival — hope and generosity. I've been fortunate enough to be intimately involved with the festival since its inception in 2001, when we started with a handful of Naples residents who saw the need to help children of Collier County.
Watching these children grow up to receive college degrees and become contributors to a vibrant community, who would otherwise may not have had the chance, has been the biggest reward of all. This festival really changes lives.
The success of the festival stems not only from the generosity of world-class vintners, restaurateurs and sponsors, but the careful management of more than $94.5 million that has been raised for Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF). Participants know when they bid on one-of-a-kind auction lots they are directly making a difference in the lives of these children — from keeping them out of gangs through the implementation of afterschool programs, to basic health care such as dental work or eyeglasses. It's amazing to think that more than 125,000 children have benefited from the investments of NCEF.
I first got involved in the festival through various friends who were living in Naples. They reached out to me based on my previous experience in the auction world, to help create a unique event. They were so inspired by the various wine auctions taking place around the country and thought, "Why can't we do this for our community?"
A large percentage of people in Collier County are poverty stricken, which is often not highlighted to the general public. The founders of this festival wanted to shed light and give support to people in their local community. There was a group of us vintners in Napa Valley, including Jeff Gargiulo, Clark Swanson and Dick Grace, that were involved in the early days and helped make it happen. Today, vintners from all over the world contribute to each year's festival.
The energy and magnetic feel of the festival really comes together on Friday afternoon, which is Meet the Kids Day. The fact that bidders get to cross paths with parents and children who have been helped and hear the success stories of lives that have been changed is what really makes all of this meaningful. I don't think there is a dry eye that day, which is translated into generous bidding on Saturday. The passion and excitement behind this event is contagious!
One of my most memorable auction experiences was the year that I was named honored vintner in 2007. We organized a very fun auction lot that included 24 bottles of Colgin wine with a walk-on role on the hit television show "Grey's Anatomy." Not only were we able to raise an astounding $460,000 with that lot, but there was so much enthusiasm for the wines and excitement of an unforgettable Hollywood experience.
As I look forward to the festival's 12th year, I think back on all of the children that have benefited and the incredible energy cultivated by everyone attending. I can't help but be inspired for the future.
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Ann Colgin founded Colgin Cellars in 1992 with a vision of making the finest wines possible from exceptional hillside vineyards in the St. Helena area of Napa Valley. Colgin's winery property, IX Estate, is located in the Pritchard Hill area of St. Helena. Wine critic Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate considers IX Estate "as close to a viticultural nirvana as I've ever seen."
Colgin serves as a consultant to Sotheby's Wine Department and volunteers her charm with a gavel at top charity auctions across the country. She is a founding vintner and honorary trustee of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, and has served as one of its auctioneers since its inception in 2001.
To date, Colgin's donations of rare verticals and large format bottles of Colgin wines to carefully chosen charities dedicated to health care, community services and the arts have helped raise more than $7 million. Additional honors include: 2003 New York-Presbyterian Hospital first recipient of the Ann Colgin Award for Corporate Philanthropy, 2006 honoree for the New York City Opera Spring Gala, 2007 Naples Winter Wine Festival honored vintner, 2009 honored vintner of Nashville's L'ete du Vin and 2009 honoree of the St. Helena Hospital Gala. She is also an active trustee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.