Foxen Winery’s Bill Wathen and Dick Doré will be honored with the Santa Barbara Vintners’ Foundation Humanitarian Award at the organization’s biannual 2008 American Riviera Wine Auction weekend, March 14 and 15, with all proceeds benefiting Direct Relief International.

Actor John Cleese will be presented with the Santa Barbara Vintners’ Foundation Wine Diplomat Award, and Andrew Firestone will host the event. Firestone, who will soon marry Serbian model Ivana Bozilovic, has also asked his friends to make donations to Direct Relief International in lieu of wedding gifts.

The two-day event will include a weekend of wine tasting and elegant dining involving Santa Barbara County’s finest winemakers and chefs, in addition to highlighting the humanitarian work being done by DRI. Both nights will feature wine tasting and auctions of wine lots and winery parties at renowned local vineyards.

The weekend starts the night of March 14 with “Viva Vino,” featuring entertainment from Cuban band Somas Son and salsa dancing at the Direct Relief International warehouse, 27 S. La Patera Lane.  Hungry Cat, Brothers at Mattie’s Tavern, and Seagrass will provide food, with wine tasting provided by eight Santa Barbara vintners.

The night of March 15 is the black-tie gala “Wine, Dine and all that Jazz!” at the Four Seasons Biltmore. It will include a gourmet dinner created by renowned chef Suzanne Goin, paired with an array of the region’s award-winning wines, and entertainment provided by the Nate Birkey Jazz Group and a live auction led by celebrity auctioneer Ursula Hermacinski.

The American Riviera Wine Auction is part of an eight-year collaboration between Direct Relief International and Santa Barbara’s winemakers. This partnership has helped raise $1 million for the efforts of DRI, a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit organization focused on improving quality of life by bringing critically needed medicines and supplies to local health-care providers worldwide. DRI recently played an integral role in providing aid to victims of last year’s San Diego wildfires, a cyclone in Bangladesh, and victims of last month’s deadly storms in the Southeastern United States.

Tickets for the March 14 event can still be purchased through Mann Productions by clicking here or by calling 323.314.7000. Tickets for the March 15 event are sold out, with a waiting list.