Krug Champagne managing director Olivier Krug was recognized as the event's honored vintner, which meant that the weekend afforded attendees, myself included, several opportunities to enjoy a glass of Krug. But I wasn't truly Krug'd until Friday night's dinner, at which chef Barbara Lynch of Boston's Menton restaurant created six courses paired with six different Krug bottlings, including a sneak preview of the soon-to-be-released 2003 vintage.
Chef Lynch played with textures, flavors and ingredient temperatures to create dishes that not only showcased her skill and that of her team, but also allowed Krug's wines to shine. This was the first time many guests had ever enjoyed a tasting menu paired entirely with Champagne, and each course gave rise to wine- and food-pairing conversations that continued through the next two days as the dinner guests told other festival attendees about the experience. (Several different dinners were held on Friday night.)
It was a fantastic evening of wine and food, and when Bill Nunnelly-one of the guests I sat with and the donor of an auction lot of a 33-bottle collection of Harlan-was asked about the oldest vintage in his lot, he replied that he just couldn't remember, "because I've been Krug'd tonight!" (I have to give Bill the nod for coining the phrase.)
Like Krug, Lynch and Master Sommelier Larry Stone (who oversaw wine service for the evening and poured throughout the weekend), dozens of winemakers, chefs and sommeliers from around the globe participated in the festival. With the help of the event's volunteers and trustees, they orchestrated opulent dinners on Friday night, poured their wines all weekend long and created auction packages of extravagant restaurant experiences, multi-bottle wine lots, luxury travel and more. Ultimately there was one goal in mind: to spur guests to raise their paddles at Saturday's auction.
It must have worked, because festival attendees bid fiercely for the auction's elaborate lots. All told, the net proceeds from Saturday's 66 live-auction lots-including the Fund-a-Need paddle raise in which guests offered donations-were $13.5 million, all of which goes to the Naples Children & Education Foundation. The NCEF funds a wide variety of programs and initiatives in Naples' Collier County for underprivileged and at-risk kids. The success of the organization's contributions was on full display on Friday morning, when attendees met the real stars of the weekend, the kids who benefit from NCEF's funding and participate in these programs.
Toddlers from the YMCA's preschool programs were doling out hugs like candy on Halloween, and middle-school students explained the vegetable garden they planted and are caring for on a building roof. Middle schoolers talked about the benefit they receive from tutoring other children in kindergarten through third grade, and high school juniors and seniors described how mentoring is helping them navigate the road to college.
Meeting these happy and energetic kids set the stage for a fantastic weekend. It also served as a great reminder that we can all do something to help those who need it, and that there are plenty of ways to combine that drive with other passions and interests.