Oenophiles are excitedly anticipating the Naples Winter Wine Festival later this month, the main fundraising event for the Naples Children and Education Foundation. When one is fortunate—and generous—enough to be the winning bidder of a festival auction lot, one must suspend all notions of the ordinary. Here is a glimpse into three unforgettable travel-themed lots won by several of the nonprofit’s trustees.
The Naples Winter Wine Festival will be held January 27-29. For highlights of the travel-themed auction lots up for bid this year, click here.
GLOBE-TROTTING BY FLOATING PALACE
Winning bidders: Lewie and Becky Card
For Lewie and Becky Card, the fairy tale came to life aboard a floating palace, The World Residences at Sea—the world’s largest private residential ship. Every port of call in their two-week itinerary in 2016 was a fantasy in itself: Barcelona, Monaco, Saint-Tropez, Nice … but indelible on their hearts is Sanary-sur-Mer on the famed Provence-Alpes Côte d’Azur.
Long known as a haven for artists and intellectuals, this picturesque French seaport tucked into a harbor between Marseille and Toulon merges the centuries, from medieval times to a mere few hundred years old. Visitors can literally take a stroll through history, from the famous stone Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs and narrow cobblestone lanes dating back to the sixteenth century, to a nineteenth century Byzantine church tower that presides over the town.
Sanary is also considered the holy grail of scuba, home of famous resident Jacques Cousteau and Frédéric Dumas, inventor of “modern” dive equipment. A tiny museum in the thirteenth century Romanesque tower, Tour Romain, features artifacts the legendary divers salvaged from shipwrecks.
What the Cards most relished though was the relaxation of lazy afternoons, fine wine, and romantic alfresco cafes. Locals claim there are more days of pure sunshine here than anywhere else in Provence. Adding to the charm are les pointus, traditional Provençal wooden fishing boats that bob in the harbor, painted in Mediterranean shades of aquamarine, red and white, yellow and (naturally) azure.
For Lewie, the whole experience was a movie-set moment. “I felt like we were on the set of the Steve Martin-Michael Caine film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” he says, reminded of one of his favorite movies. In fact, the comedy classic was filmed at several locations along the Côte d’Azur.
For locals, weekend festivals and traditional Wednesday street markets are de rigueur. By day, stalls overflow with olives and cheeses, textiles, produce, wines, and fish caught just hours before. There is music and, of course, the fragrance of lavender and other herbes de Provence.
“We were just so charmed by the morning street market,” says Becky, “and later, one of our best memories of the entire trip was an intimate dinner on a deck overlooking the harbor. The view was breathtaking. We’re boat lovers, so that made it so much more special.”
CALIFORNIA COAST RALLY
Winning bidders: Rick and Katrina Kash
When Rick and Katrina Kash emerged the 2015 auction winners of a one-week exploration of California outfitted by Bentley, they expected stays in California’s most famous resorts and hotels, from L.A.’s movie star glam Hotel Bel Air to The Post Ranch Inn of Big Sur. They also knew there were tickets for a performance at the Hollywood Bowl and that their escorts would be renowned Napa vintner Darioush Khaledi and his lovely wife, Shahpar.
But oh, the surprises! Awaiting them at the Hollywood Bowl was exclusive VIP seating to see iconic film composer John Williams conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Maestro of the Movies. “Simply breathtaking, absolutely unforgettable,” says Katrina. And there wasn’t one, but six different Bentleys to savor a unique driving experience each day. “I’m a convertible girl, so I loved the gold Continental GT,” Katrina says. “Rick’s favorite was the SUV.”
Their Big Sur accommodation turned out to be a rustic tree house, offering the couple a unique opportunity to slumber amid the tree tops with glorious views of the mountains from a private deck.
A pinnacle evening that could not be imagined in advance was the intimate Persian dinner in Shahpar and Darioush Khaledi’s home.
Though impossible to duplicate this amazing NWWF auction item, may we suggest a small “tasting” for your consideration.
Highway 1: A scenic drive along the rugged approximately 85-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway from Napa to Big Sur delivers breathtaking visuals around every curve: waves crashing against rocks, cavorting sea lions and breaching whales—all of which is especially exhilarating from a Bentley Continental GT convertible. The 17-mile portion that encompasses Carmel, Pebble Beach, and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula is photo-perfect.
Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur: “The entire resort is sheer enchantment,” Katrina says. “The view from the infinity spa overlooking the ocean took my breath away, and we loved the gorgeous hiking trails and artistry of many outdoor sculptures.” Each Post Ranch Inn accommodation is unique, but Cliff House, soaring above the shoreline, is considered to be particularly extraordinary.
Darioush: Wine Spectator magazine calls this wine estate “probably the most astounding example of hospitality in Napa.” The stunning first impression of this winery is a promenade of columns with double-bull capitals symbolizing the Hall of a Hundred Columns in the ancient city of Persepolis (near present-day Shiraz, Iran), the ancestral home of the Darioush family.
“This estate was my favorite part of our trip,” Katrina says. “It is all stunning, including the wine cellar and tasting rooms.”
If you go, try the Quintessential Experience, beginning with caviar and Krug Champagne, continuing with wine tastings and small plates in Darioush Khaledi’s private wine cellar, culminating in a selection from the vintner’s personal collection.
From Napa to Nashville
Winning bidders: Bill & Debbi Cary
In wine as in music, many different notes come together to strike a beautiful chord. It was the promise of this sensory combination that inspired Debbi and Bill Cary in their 2014 bid for this trip, which encompassed a taste of the best wine, food, and experiences of Napa and Nashville. One of the hosts was Jeff Gargiulo, who happens to be one of the 2017 festival chairs. He is both a musician and a winemaker, and he put the lot together with support from his friend and fellow Napa vintner David Duncan. The pair are founders of the country rock band, The Silverado Pickups, which includes other renowned winemakers along Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail. Jeff’s group has warmed up for Leon Russell and Tim McGraw, and they hang out with Nashville Grammy winner Billy Dean and other Nashville stars, so he has all the right connections to make magical things happen.
The Carys always loved hearing Jeff, David and Billy play at the NWWF’s Wine Down, when everyone gathers for live music (and more wine) immediately following the auction. “Like the Wine Down, this trip just sounded like fun, and it was,” Debbi says. “It was so relaxed, and full of surprises.”
After Napa, the original schedule called for accommodations at Nashville’s grande dame hotel, The Hermitage. “We were also scheduled for a dinner with the Gargiulos and the songwriters in the home of Silvia Roberts, where the popular TV show Nashville is filmed,” Debbi says. “We were delighted to learn that Silvia had invited us to be her houseguests as well. The entire home is exactly as it looks on the show.”
Part of the experience was for Billy Dean to work with the Carys on writing and recording a song, Nashville style. The Carys say they were in awe as the songwriters bounced around ideas for lyrics, sometimes testing harmonies and other times solo vocals. As they gathered in the living room of the Nashville set sipping wine with Dean and some other artists, Billy asked them to talk about things that were meaningful to them. “Because our son Bryan’s wedding was coming up, we decided on a song about how Bryan and Luisa met and fell in love,” Debbi says. “It was wonderful to see how it evolved. We presented the recording to them just before the wedding.”
The Nashville experience made for a once-in-a-lifetime memory, from an insiders’ tour of the Nashville music scene, including Blackbird Studios (owned by John McBride, husband of Martina McBride), to Writers Night at the world-famous Bluebird Café, to a personal phone call from Kenny Rogers. “He was so sweet, just ‘how are y’all enjoying Nashville,’ kind of thing,” Debbi says. It was a highlight of their Nashville experience.
Even when the trip was over, the magic lingered. A few weeks later a large box arrived, containing a bespoke Fender guitar, customized to feature the Gargiulo Vineyards and Silver Oak logos. It doesn’t get more “wine/country” than that.