Naples Wine Festival: Good food, good wine for a good cause

Corey Perrine/Staff 
 Climbing on their backyard statue Bob and Terry Edwards are seen about to pose for the event photographer, Michelle Reed, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 at the Edwards residence in Naples, Fla. There were 22 invited guests at the home during the Naples Winter Wine Festival that benefits the Naples Children and Education Foundation. People came for wine, food and entertainment for a positive cause.

Photo by COREY PERRINE, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Corey Perrine/Staff Climbing on their backyard statue Bob and Terry Edwards are seen about to pose for the event photographer, Michelle Reed, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 at the Edwards residence in Naples, Fla. There were 22 invited guests at the home during the Naples Winter Wine Festival that benefits the Naples Children and Education Foundation. People came for wine, food and entertainment for a positive cause.

Preview of Wine Festival auction lots

Guests preview lots before auction.

Any good meal needs collaboration.

Whether it is a blending of ingredients in a dish or the taste of the wine after that perfect bite, it's about partnership.

Collaboration is also essential for a successful charity event. So there was probably no better way to kick off Naples' largest charity event than with the pairing of wine and food to benefit children in Collier County.

"We enjoy wine and we enjoy food, but most of all we enjoy seeing the smiles on the kids' faces," said John Jordan, a festival trustee a co-host of a vintner dinner.

Sixteen homes opened their doors Friday to those Naples Winter Wine Festival attendees for dinners, which paired famous chefs from across the world with some of the world's best wine makers.

The vintner dinners are the prelude to today's auction, which will raise money for the Naples Children & Education Foundation, the charitable arm of the Naples Winter Wine Festival.

Festival co-chairman and vintner dinner co-host Bob Edwards said he was excited about the lots that were lined up this year and was looking forward to the auction.

"It all benefits the children of Collier County," he said.

Bob and Terry Edwards' dinner, which they co-hosted with Jordan and his wife Barbara, was held in the Edwards' contemporary home in the Pine Ridge neighborhood in North Naples. The 22 guests sat among three tables decorated with giant centerpieces composed of red flowers like garden roses and anthurium to play off the Edwards' collection of contemporary art.

Michael Anthony, the executive chef and partner at the Gramercy Tavern in New York, said he developed his menu around the region the restaurant is in and the season.

"We want to tell our story using the lens of the region," he said of the local ingredients that he purchased in New York and brought with him.

He also chose the dishes because they pair well with the wine from the Shafer Vineyards of Napa Valley, Calif.

"You have these powerful and beautiful wines with a full profile," Anthony said. "The food has to live up to the wines."

Among the dishes were a poached lobster with ancient grains, cauliflower and a burnt orange sauce, and a braised beef cavatelli dish with carrots cut into perfect cubes.

Bob Edwards said his goal for Friday's dinner was for his guests to have a good time, but to also start thinking about the charities they would be help and the dreams they could make possible.

When asked if he had a goal for today's auction, Edwards said he didn't have a specific number in mind.

"For each lot, I have ideas of what I would like to see them go for," he said. "In any given year, we have given $6 million to $9 million to the charities. That is obviously a hurdle you want to clear."

John Jordan said partnerships are important to the wine festival's success.

"It is a group of people who can do something together and make a larger, systemic difference for Collier County children," he said of the trustees.

Jordan said many of the lots for today's auction come about because two or three couples get together and decide they want to donate something, or someone knows someone willing to donate an item.

"We wouldn't be able to do what we do without the patrons and the donors," he said. "It's like old home week. Everyone coming together."

Both the Edwardses and Jordans said they have been impressed with the way the different charities collaborate to help children in Collier County.

"Every agency is extremely important to the children they serve," Barbara Jordan said.

Edwards said he has been impressed by how the organizations that benefit from the festival have collaborated with one another.

"The collaboration grows," he said. "The directors (of the agencies) communicate with each other. They work to figure out how they can help the whole child."

Alex LaPratt, the sommelier at New York-based Jean Georges, came to the wine festival to work as the sommelier at the Edwards/ Jordan dinner.

"It's a great cause," he said. "I don't have the kind of money to contribute to this, but if I can contribute my work to a great cause, I want to do that."

Naples resident Jane Fitzgerald, who is attending her first Wine Festival, said she was excited to get involved.

"Any time you can help the children in the community," she said, "you should."

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