Wine auction raises $3.5 million for children’s charities
By Michelle Farnham
April 30, 2023
MIRAMAR BEACH – While a storm blew outside, DCWAF President Karah Fridley-Young welcomed more than 600 people to the waterproof 2023 Destin Charity Wine Auction tent. It was an afternoon of wine, friends and charity, raising $3.5 million for 16 Northwest Florida children’s charities.
“It is inspiring and truly astounding to be under this tent with so many generous individuals, businesses, and people that I call friends,” Fridley-Young started. “Our mission today is clear: there are children in our community who need our help, and we are going to show up for them today.”
She set up this year’s Mission Moment video, “Play Ball,” which included participants from the 16 charity partners playing a baseball game, concluding with the evening’s theme: One Team, One Mission.
Lane Redding, 2023 board chairman of the DCWAF, announced proceeds of the Friday evening patron dinners: exquisite wine meals hosted at 11 locations along the Emerald Coast.
“We raised an impressive $550,000 last night,” Redding reported to a tentful of cheers. “Two dinners raised over $100,000, and I want to recognize those: the (Randall and Maria) Whites’ dinner and the (Jack and Candis) Wilsons’ dinner. Let’s raise a glass to fundraising!”
Welcome to the tent!
Lots of lots
Auctioneer Charles Antin was back for another year, encouraging bidders to bid often and bid high.
“Are you sure?” he encouraged one patron waffling over a bid. “You’ll be watching ‘Seinfeld’ reruns in your pajamas while she will be out having the time of her life!”
The first lot of the night is always Magnum Force, made up of 50 signed magnums from 18 years of past and present vintners, bringing in a generous $55,000.
Other notable lots included a trip to Kamalame Cay Bahamas for $105,000, a week on the Amalfi Coast for $45,000 – sold twice – and a tour of Portugal for $45,000, also sold twice.
The capacity crowd quieted itself for Lot 29, a special initiative to benefit The Ellison McCraney Ingram Foundation. Named for the late 9-year-old son of longtime DCWAF supporters Doug and Merrisa Ingram, up for grabs was a 9L large format bottle of 2020 Thompson 31Fifty Russian River “Ellison’s Cuvée” Pinot Noir. Attendees seemed inspired by the charity’s mission funding scholarships, and bids quickly rose to 35, 40, $45,000, when a quiet bid of $100,000 came in from a table near the back of the room. The crowd jumped to its feet for a well-deserved standing ovation.
Sip and savor
Guests were treated to a pre-auction Reserve Tasting, enjoying bites from the likes of Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, Ovide, Bijoux and upcoming Seaside spot The Daytrader, as well as wine from a lengthy list of celebrity vintners.
Destin artist Harley Van Hyning was on hand to showcase the print he donated toward the auction: a locally caught yellowfin tuna. He was impressed by the crowd, incredible wines and amazing food around him. Van Hyning specializes in the gyotaku style of Japanese print-making.
“I take a very non-traditional approach, where I use color, acrylics, and different weights of canvas to basically record a life form, give honor to the life form, and bring it back to its natural beauty so that it can educate and be appreciated by us here on land.”
To keep auction bidders powered through the 3-hour live auction, Swiftly Catered Private Chef rolled out a four-course meal, starting with charcuterie boards, a Southern wedge salad, beef short ribs over whipped potatoes, and dark chocolate crémeux tarts and strawberry parfait.
Paul Hobbs of Paul Hobbs Winery in Sebastopol, Calif., was honored as this year’s honorary vintner, while Scott Schwarz of The Surf Club in North Carolina was awarded the title of honorary chef.
In addition to the 66-lot live auction, money is also raised through a cellar auction, silent auction and a super silent auction.
In its 18th year, auction proceeds now totaling more than $30 million benefit AMIkids Emerald Coast, Ascension Sacred Heart of the Emerald Coast, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast, Children in Crisis, Inc., Children’s Volunteer Health Network, Ellison McCraney Ingram Foundation, Emerald Coast Autism Center, Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, Habitat for Humanity of Walton County, Mental Health Association of Okaloosa & Walton Counties, Opportunity Place, Inc., Point Washington Medical Clinic, Shelter House of Northwest Florida, The Arc of the Emerald Coast, Westonwood Ranch, and Youth Village.
Photos by Michelle Farnham