Photo by Marisa Lane

1)     The live auction at last Saturday’s Naples Winter Wine Festival reeled in a loot — $12.2 million.  Why should we care? With the political bantering in America over wealth and class structure at an all time high, it’s refreshing to hear about generosity in motion. It was great to hear that cash was flowing as freely as an uncorked bottle of bubbly. As Daniel de Polo, president of Napa’s Darioush Winery, put it: “I have never witnessed a more enjoyable and productive redistribution of wealth in America.”

2)     Locals here in Wine Country played a vital role in the auction. Ann Colgin of Napa’s Colgin Cellars, for one, served as one of the auctioneers, and she had a keen eye on the auction lot line-up. As she put it: “This year we had so many one-of-a-kind lots, including many with a strong connection to the Napa Valley.”

3)     Whether you’re a wine-lover or you simply follow auction events, Naples’ fundraising prowess is impressive. In 11 short years it broke through the $100 million mark, something that took Auction Napa Valley 31 years to accomplish. This is not a judgment, just an observation. I repeat – this is not a judgment, but the Naples success story offers all auction organizers world-wide something to ponder.

Naples’ live auction peaked in 2007, raising a total of $15.6 million compared to Napa’s high of $10.5 million in 2005. What’s more, Naples’ highest bid was $2 million for a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe in 2007. By contrast, Napa’s highest bid was $1.1 million for a trip to Italy, wine and an intimate gathering with the vintners in 2007. Colgin said Naples’ strength is its lifestyle lots, which include trips and cars, while Napa’s strength is promoting Napa Valley wines.

4)     If you care about fashion, you’re bound to see the latest …  possibly even twice. Colgin and Naples co-chair Joan Clifford unknowingly wore the same orange dress by designer Giambattista Valli. “We had a great laugh when we saw each other,” Colgin said.

5)     The top selling lots give us insight into our culture.

The priciest lot at $1.2 million, which inspired multiple bids, features a private concert with Grammy-award winner LeAnn Rimes at a Naples beachfront estate, paired with a dinner prepared by chef Tom Colicchio.

The top wine lot, donated by Prince Robert of Luxembourg, president of his family’s Bordeaux estates, including Château Haut-Brion, features eight rare bottles of Haut-Brion from 1935, 1945, 1959, 1961, 1975, 1989, 1990 and 2009, and six bottles each from the 2010 vintage of Haut-Brion Blanc and Rouge. The lot sold twice, at $550,000 each.

Bidders, it turns out, are willing to pay top dollar for fame and royalty.