Story by Sarah Murphy Robertson
“It’s all about hospitality.” After generously allotting more than an hour’s worth of his time on a busy summer day, Wine World owner and South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival founder, Chan Cox, succinctly and simply summed up the secret to his success.
Fewer people are as highly respected as Chan Cox in the South Walton area. Navigating the world of wine for nearly three decades is no small task. There are many spokes in the wheel, but this local wine visionary Chan Cox has found a way to do so fruitfully. The key seems to be about the relationships he fosters and his genuine love for the businesses he has cultivated.
“With more and more guests traveling from larger metropolitan areas, 30A is a treasure just beginning to be discovered. The incredible beaches are the initial attraction, but once they get here and see our world class wining and dining opportunities, they are hooked” he muses.
He shared that these visitors with sophisticated tastes and appreciation for fine food and wine come into his stores and are excited to find the labels they do in this market. “It is all about ensuring they have a good experience.”
I wondered how wine enthusiasts have evolved in the past 15 years since opening his Wine World stores. “Seeing people’s tastes shift is interesting, Cox confided, the focus isn’t on the varietal of grapes but the styles of the wine.”
With his 7th Wine World location slated to open in Pensacola soon, Cox has also seen the industry itself change over the past 15 years; consolidations on both the distribution and retail sides of the business making it challenging to stay competitive. He enjoys traveling worldwide, meeting passionate winemakers, and working directly with boutique wineries to get their products in front of his customers.
Always keeping a pulse on the next big thing, craft beer has seen a surge in popularity over the last six to seven years. In 2014 Cox launched The Craft Bar. Offering 30 uniquely rare craft beers on tap, a perfectly paired menu, as well as craft cocktails, The Craft Bar has found a quick following. It is evident he gets a kick out of watching these newest enthusiasts emerge. He is enamored by the following his Craft Bars have attracted and the craft spirits scene is next. Recently he even sent staff members to distilleries to blend and handpick barrels of whiskey and rum.
While running popular and success businesses is one skill, Chan’s heart has never strayed from a sincere dedication to giving back. The South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival he founded benefits the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation (DCWAF), which was recently named 4th among the Top 10 wine auctions in the country among such well-established wine regions as Napa and Sonoma Valley.
This spring, the Destin Charity Wine Auction had a milestone year: eclipsing ten million dollars raised in ten years’ time for local children’s charities. And Chan has tirelessly served as a leader for this philanthropic feat. Through long-standing partnerships he encouraged featured celebrity guests to travel here. “We couldn’t have this level of success without the generosity of these winemakers” he explained. For example, Marc Perrin flew himself and his Michelin chef from France, gave away dinners, tastings and seminars, and donated an auction lot that raised 55 thousand dollars. Partnerships have to work for everyone and Chan Cox understands the team effort it has taken to make the DCWAF thrive.
When I asked what wines he personally likes to drink, Cox described his palate as “Old World” – preferring Italian, French, and Spanish wines that are drier, food-friendly, with higher acidity. What is he fond of sipping this summer? Cox says rosé, with Miraval being one of his favorites. “Marc Perrin has created a winner and the rosés from Provence are unparalleled.” he explains.
“You know, few things excite me more than a great value” Chan divulged. Indeed his Wine World locations extend competitive pricing on all of their retail bottles and his restaurants’ offer of a “half carafe for the price of a glass” Happy Hour special is an exceptional deal and a great opportunity to taste wines affordably.
For a man with so much responsibility and revered local recognition, I found Chan Cox to be humble and full of gratitude: “This industry is full of warm, friendly, generous people. I am very lucky to be a part of it.”
Find a Wine World near you! For more information and hours of their locations in Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Miramar Beach, Grand Boulevard, WaterColor, and Panama City, go to www.chanswineworld.com.
Destin Charity Wine Auction Lot Photo Credit Chandler Williams
Chan Cox Photo Credit Brandan Babineaux