Monday, May 30 , 2016, 9:20 pm | A Few Clouds 57º

Santa Barbara Vintners’ Foundation Raises a Glass, Funding for Direct Relief

The eighth Santa Barbara Wine Auction brings in a record $1 million for the Goleta nonprofit and its mission of helping those in need around the world

By Melissa Walker, Noozhawk iSociety Columnist | @NoozhawkSociety |

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery from the event.]

Wine aficionados near and far journeyed to the Bacara Resort & Spa on Saturday night for the Santa Barbara Vintners’ Foundation eighth Santa Barbara Wine Auction, held every two years to benefit the Goleta-based nonprofit Direct Relief.

“Tonight is the Santa Barbara Vintners’ Foundation pulling out all the stops for Direct Relief, and all of the fans of their wines and fans of Direct Relief getting together, not for an emergency for once,” Thomas Tighe, Direct Relief's president and CEO, told Noozhawk. “So it’s a nice, kind of celebratory evening, and we’re just thrilled. It’s the biggest fundraiser that Direct Relief does. The vintners do all of the work, so what’s not to like? They are just a wonderful group of people.”  

More than 600 guests gathered in support of the organization and to sip delicious varietals from an array of wineries and a delectable dinner from celebrity chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal and Son of a Gun restaurants in Los Angeles.

“I am proud to be here with those that started this auction in 1999, with more than 40 of my fellow Santa Barbara vintners hosting tables tonight, and to be a very small part of a huge volunteer effort to bring tonight to fruition,” said Frank Ostini of Hitching Post Wines and president of the Santa Barbara Vintners’ Foundation.

The partnership with the wine community continues to grow, and this year was the biggest yet in both attendance and money raised from the Wine Auction. The auction, which dedicates 100 percent of the event funds to Direct Relief, reached a record $1 million goal set for 2014.

“With your support tonight, Direct Relief can continue to bring life-changing medical resources to people and communities affected by poverty or emergency situations,” Tighe said.

A VIP reception invited guests to walk a red carpet to the Bacara’s Silver Screen Lounge to survey auction items and soak in the cool sounds of the Montecito Jazz Project.

The ever-popular event brought out the star power with Jane Lynch of Glee fame, Susan Sullivan from Falcon Crest, Joanna Kerns from Growing Pains and a Direct Relief board member, actor Emilio Estevez and many more.

One of the most inspirational attendees was Direct Relief’s 106-year-old volunteer, Edythe Kirchmaier, who again showed her dedication toward this critical cause.

Kirchmaier volunteers weekly at the Goleta location and first started with Direct Relief in 1974, when she and her husband worked overseas in Taiwan for three years supporting the organization before settling in Santa Barbara, where the couple continued their relationship with Direct Relief until Kirchmaier's husband died on her 100th birthday, in 2008.

Chris Harrison, host of ABC’s top-rated reality show The Bachelor, welcomed the large crowd, who were dazzled by a breathtaking performance from the Zen Arts aerialists as dinner was served.

A special awards presentation honored 2014 winners Barbara Banke and Rick and Diana Longoria.

Banke is the chairwoman and proprietor of Jackson Family Wines. The law school graduate has argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court while also shaping top wineries across California, including La Crema and Matanzas Creek. Additionally, the Jackson family are also strong charitable supporters, having contributed $500,000 to help launch a domestic violence resource in Sonoma County and were instrumental in establishing the Jess S. Jackson Sustainable Winery Building at UC Davis.

Owners Rick and Diana Longoria of Longoria Wines have long been held in high esteem for their generous support of new and rising vintners across Santa Barbara County since relocating from Napa in 1998 to start operations in Lompoc with a tasting room in Los Olivos.

The Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association’s charitable arm is the foundation, which contributes to the local community with proceeds from various events towards art, educational and scholarship-based organizations.

The contributions of volunteers in the areas of administrative support, program research, public outreach, inventory, unpaid internships and events are offered only at the Direct Relief facilities in Goleta. Overseas opportunities are not available.

The efforts and support from Direct Relief to areas and people in crisis — locally and worldwide — would not be possible without the generous support of volunteers and supporters, and the evening’s message included both good cheer and big hearts toward another successful and growing event.

“Since the inaugural event in 2000, the foundation’s support has totaled over $2 million in cash that, combined with the support of companies and organizations, has translated into critically needed health care for millions of people throughout the United States and the world,” Tighe said.

Click here for more information about Direct Relief and ways to help, or call 805.964.4767.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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