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Vintner dinner hosts Joan and Bob Clifford at their condo. / Kinfay Moroti/news-press.com

If you go

What: Naples Winter Wine Festival
Where: The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples
When: The live auction is today
Cost: Packages are $8,500 per couple
More information: Call 888-837-4919 or visit napleswinefestival.com

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On one marbled countertop at The Regent condo towering over the Gulf of Mexico in Naples, Raymond Weber smoothed some smoked chicken liver terrine on a delicate rye crisp he baked the day before. He’s the chef de cuisine of Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles.

Standing two shoulder-widths away, Spago, Beverly Hills, executive chef Lee Hefter directed another chef who runs six Los Angeles restaurants to let the sizzling Dover sole rest a bit on the griddle. Then Hefter squeezed out dabs of creme fraiche beside a glistening black mound of caviar on a savory blini.

“Gluten-free is no problem. Just cook one of the Dovers with no flour,” he told the chef as he learned of the dietary restriction of one of the 36 guests.

Managing partner of the Wolfgang Puck Dining Group, Hefter flew from California with his chosen chefs to create one of the best dinner parties in Naples Friday night. The vintner dinner was one of 16 highly sought-after affairs at the finest homes across Naples, part of the Naples Winter Wine Festival.

The chefs, vintners and trustees donate their time, talent and money to help.

“It’s a fun event, a good charity and it’s nice to get out of your element,” Weber said as he topped the liver terrine with shallot marmalade. Piano music floated through the living room with a panoramic Gulf view, where later, a barge will shoot off fireworks.

This dinner was hosted by Bob and Joan Clifford, trustees of the festival’s founder, the Naples Children and Education Foundation, which has used the festival to raise more than $107 million to help poor and at-risk children in Collier County since 2001.

Couples who bought a package to attend the same vintner dinner with another couple as well as attend today’s live auction event paid $20,000.

NCH Healthcare System president and CEO Allen Weiss sat down with his wife, Marla Weiss, at a table that glowed from within and was laden with oncidium orchids. Driven by semi-truck from Kehoe Designs in Chicago, 1,500 stems brightened the dining room, including more orchids cascading down a sparkling wall decoration, like a waterfall of sunshine.

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Soon the first course arrived, plated by all five chefs: Maine diver scallop sashimi with multicolored shaved radishes, citrus ponzi, chives, microgreens and shaved wasabi.

“The food is unusual and interesting: the menu, the choices, the preparation,” Weiss said before turning to his plate.

The five-course meal was paired with Darioush shiraz and cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley, as well as Kistler chardonnay and pinot noir.

Darioush Khaledi chose the finest cabernet his Bourdeaux-style winery makes, and he chose Shiraz because he’s from Shiraz, Iran, he said. His wife, Shahpar Khaledi, said she was proud to participate in this cause.

“Especially after this morning when we met some of the kids we’re helping, I was crying so much,” she said. “A young man was talking about taking care of his two nephews and working hard.”

Eight-time festival guest Russ and Tracy Scurto have bought many auction lots over the years, taking them to places such as the Salvatore Ferragamo Il Borro winery in Italy. Clearly a oenophile, that begs the question: What is Russ Scurto’s favorite wine?

“Tonight it’s Darioush,” he said, raising his glass with a laugh.

The main wine-aficionado event with a live auction of 65 lots including the world’s best wines, trips around the world and VIP entry into the biggest sporting and cultural events, is today. Those lots, which sometimes go for up to a million dollars, have been key in helping more than 150,000 children so far.

“It makes the wine you drink a whole lot more fun, knowing that in a roundabout way it’s helping kids,” Bob Clifford said before he laughed. “Just keep it away from them.”

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