SB Wine Auction

By Lynda Millner   |   March 1, 2018

The Ritz-Carlton, Bacara was the site of the 10th Santa Barbara Wine Auction given by the Santa Barbara Vinters Foundation (SBVF) to benefit Direct Relief. The charity has many supporters, with 530 of them showing up in black tie for this every two-year event. The foundation is the charitable umbrella under which the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association (SBCVA) conducts its philanthropic work. 

Since its inception, the Vintners have raised more than $4 million to benefit Direct Relief. That has been leveraged into almost $100 million in medical aid to equip frontline health workers, free clinics, and other health care facilities to treat the world’s most vulnerable people. 

This year, the event was dedicated to our own tragedies starting with the fire in northern California wine country, down to the Thomas Fire and the mudslide. According to president of the SBVF, Direct Relief is active in all 50 states and 98 countries. It is rated by many groups including a 100-percent fundraising efficiency from Forbes and the #1 spot on Charity Navigator’s list of the 10 best charities. Everyone’s Heart CNBC ranked Direct Relief #1 among “the top 10 charities changing the world in 2016.”

Thomas Tighe is president/CEO of this outstanding charity. As he said, “We have a network of over 1,400 nonprofit health centers and clinics in all 50 states. We thought about canceling this event due to the tragedy here. Upon reflection, the boards of SBVF and Director Relief concluded that the purpose for which the event always has been held – to help those in need – is more important now, as the needs exist in our own community.”

The evening began with a VIP reception and the silent auction, mostly wine related. Dinner was the creation of chef John Cox from The Bear and Star restaurant in the Fess Parker hotel in Los Olivos. He has teamed with Parker siblings Eli and Ashley Parker to open this refined ranch cuisine inspired by Texan family recipes, with a touch of California thrown in.

Direct Relief design committee member Kathleen Ousley, former board member Helga Morris, and event chair Jen Jones
Chris Kleveland and board person Patricia Kleveland with Beth Green and Steve Green from the board

In the dining room, there were 46 tables with 46 different wineries, each hosting a table. What a taste delight. I remember in the early 1980s when there were only 12 wineries in the whole valley. One of the 12 was that of Fred Brander, who this evening was awarded Vinter of the Year. I only like sauvignon blanc made by Brander, but I didn’t realize that Fred is known all over. One master of wine wrote that Fred’s sauvignon blancs not only rank as the best in California but also in North America. He’s sometimes called “King of sauvignon blanc.” Fred is now creating exceptional cabernet sauvignon as well.

Some of the leaders of these groups are SBVF president Steve Fennell, Direct Relief board president Angel Iscovich, M.D., and SBCVA board president Matt Murphy. The event manager was Jen Jones with co-chairs Lori Baur and Gillian Kulp. Emcee was Chris Harrison, who is host of ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Dawnmarie Kotsonis played the important role of auctioneer for the live auction. At one point, there was a match bid of $50,000. The gala brought in more than $1 million. 

During the Thomas Fire, Direct Relief supplied 400,000 N-95 particulate masks to the public. In the hours following the mudslides, they purchased universal terrain vehicles and other equipment, which were immediately deployed and put to use by four lead local response agencies. They provided tetanus shots to those working in the debris and more.

Next time you are donating, remember Direct Relief and call (805) 969-4767 for information.

Design chair Gillian Kulp and husband Peter at the Direct Relief fundraiser
John Roma (past board president) and wife Mary with Siri Marshall (board) and husband Bob

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