Leonardo DiCaprio’s Star-Studded Santa Rosa Auction Raises $11M for Environmental Causes

This story was last updated Sunday, September 16, at 9:00pm. Keep checking in for more information. 

One of this year’s most buzzed-about benefit art auctions took place in Sonoma County this Saturday, September 15. But if you weren’t among the exclusive few to attend, or happening to drive down Grange Road in Bennett Valley, you might very well have missed it.

While most of Sonoma County was busy enjoying their Saturday evening – browsing their social media feeds, watching a Netflix series, maybe taking a sip or two on a glass of local wine – Leonardo DiCaprio was hosting a “zero-waste live auction benefit” at Jackson Park Ranch in Santa Rosa.

The invitation-only event, organized by DiCaprio’s charitable endeavor The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) in partnership with Jackson Family Wines, raised $11 million for projects addressing climate change and protecting biodiversity. The auction brought the total financial impact of LDF to over $100 million, according to the foundation.

During the evening, LDF and DiCaprio also made donations to support disaster relief efforts for those impacted by Hurricane Florence, and to the Just and Resilient Future Fund, which supports “recovery assistance for the most vulnerable” following last year’s wildfires in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties.

The event was co-hosted by DiCaprio and Laurene Powell Jobs, philanthropist and widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs. Julia Jackson, a second-generation proprietor of Jackson Family Wines and environmental philanthropist, was the co-chair. Among the 350 guests were actors and celebrities such as Catherine Deneuve, Edward Norton, Naomi Campbell, Tobey Maguire, and Mark Ruffalo.

Also attending the event was world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, and Coldplay singer Chris Martin, who gave a live performance of “My Heart Will Go On,” the leitmotif of one of DiCaprio’s early movies, “Titanic,” as well as “Viva la Vida,” and “Something Like This.”

The annual auction, which previously has taken place in glamorous spots like St. Tropez, featured works by Wayne Thiebaud (the starting bid for this piece was $3,000,000), Frank Gehry, Richard Prince, Ai Weiwei and David Hockney, among others. All art work had been selected by DiCaprio’s art advisor, Lisa Schiff, and was auctioned by Sotheby’s.

The Jackson family provided the Sonoma County location for the event and also donated an auction lot to help raise funds for LDF’s global environmental efforts. 

In addition to auction and live performances, the evening included interactive experiences such as garden-based rooms that highlighted individual wine affinities using color and texture. And if that wasn’t enough to make your jaw drop, there was an appearance by a live hawk!

Now to the most important part (at least in wine country): what did the 350 guests eat and drink at this charitable gala event?

The zero-waste, sustainable event used 100 percent renewable energy and locally sourced foods. According to People magazine, DiCaprio had requested a sustainable menu, which was created by Chef Kyle Connaughton of Single Thread Farms in Healdsburg and executed by Jackson Family Wines’ Executive Chef Justin Wangler. Vegetables and herbs for the dinner were sourced from the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens.

The first course was aptly named “Summer in Sonoma” and included vegetables with a creamy tofu sauce and seafood, all from local food suppliers. The second course was heirloom tomatoes with homemade tofu and pickled wasabi leaves, followed by an entrée of roasted turbot with heirloom squash and Sonoma mushrooms. For dessert, guests enjoyed a sesame semifreddo.

The wine selection, put together by Jackson Family Wines, featured Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the winery’s premium portfolio, including Galerie, Brewer-Clifton, Cambria, Stonestreet Estate Vineyards, Hartford Family Wines and Vérité.

Leonardo DiCaprio has been an outspoken environmentalist since he founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) in 1998. In 2016, he used his Academy Awards acceptance speech for best actor to urge his audience to reject the “politics of greed,” and support leaders willing to take action against climate change.

“Climate change is real, it is happening right now, it is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating,” the actor said.

Over the last few years, DiCaprio has donated at least $20m to help advance the United Nations climate negotiations, protect the environment and endangered wildlife, and spread public awareness about the dangers of climate change.

The actor met with Donald Trump, shortly after Trump was elected president, to discuss a strategy to take on climate change while creating jobs in clean energy. That plan, apparently, was never executed. Since then, DiCaprio has publicly criticized President Trump’s decision to remove the United States from the Paris Agreement and called his administration’s stance on the environment “willful ignorance.”

In July of this year, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) announced that they are partnering with Jackson Family Wines.

The partnership was initiated by Julia Jackson as she “continues to build on her family’s commitment to sustainability and pursue her passion to foster awareness of environmental issues and create change through social impact, innovation and philanthropy.”

As part of this collaboration, Jackson Family Wines will also become LDF’s exclusive wine sponsor, and will serve its environmentally conscious wines at LDF events.

“My father, Jess, and my mother, Barbara, built our family wine business over the course of three decades. One of the most impactful lessons they instilled in me was that we should never take nature for granted,” said Julia Jackson.

“We have a responsibility to give back just as much as we take. That is why I am so excited about our collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which provides critical support for projects and organizations that are defending our vital species and eco-systems.”

More details to follow. 

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