Life is grand with wine in hand
DCWAF’s Harvest Wine & Food Festival delights for a second year
By Michelle Farnham
The Harvest Wine & Food Festival was back for its second year at the picturesque Cerulean Park in WaterColor Oct. 27, bringing with it a mix of new and familiar faces. With 60 tents offering more than 250 bottles of wine – with beer and spirits mixed in – variety was the name of the game, all brought together by the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation.
Tanya Forrestall of Birmingham, Ala., won VIP tickets through 30A Food & Wine’s online contest. She had attended the Seeing Red Wine Festival in the past, but was blown away by the 2-year-old Harvest fest.
“The venue is perfect,” she said. “ When I saw food demonstrations on the itinerary, I said, ‘Oh we’re definitely going to that,’ and we’ll be going to the next one. We’re not just sipping wine; there are actual events that we’re interested in seeing and learning about.”
She pointed to the Child’s Play Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley as her favorite of the day, admitting Oregon pinots are her favorite.
NO ORDINARY CULINARY
Restaurateurs from near and far helped to keep the wine-tasters going strong.
Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, the official barbecue of the Atlanta Falcons, plated up their homemade jalapeño cheddar sausage, sliced brisket, and a whole hog po’boy topped with cole slaw.
As part of The Market – a food stop central to the festival – pastry Chef Kaley Laird of Asheville, N.C.-based The Rhu offered fall on a plate. She garnished pumpkin bread with apple butter, pickled apples, and lapsang tea-infused dark chocolate.
“This would go really well with a nice, dark red, like a cab or a blend,” Laird suggested. “I think sweetness would bring out too much of the earthiness, so I would put it with a red just to hit the chocolate and get the smoke.”
Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster House from Baytowne Wharf teamed up with Destin-based Brotula’s Seafood House and Steamer, and Jackacuda’s Seafood + Sushi under The Gulf tent. Offerings included the tuna and avocado ceviche, shrimp rangoon, bacon jam and goat cheese crostini, fish tacos, and an assortment of fresh sushi.
“I had to find Jackacuda’s. This is the highlight of my whole festival,” one patron was overheard saying.
Back Beach Barbecue’s Shane Kirkland was back again, offering Southwest-style smoked chicken chili with corn, cilantro and cheese. He recommended pairing it with The Didjits Blood Orange IPA from Burnt Hickory Brewing in the tent next door. He also plated a smoked Buffalo chicken dip with bleu cheese, cream cheese and sour cream, which he thought would go well with a graham cracker stout.
VIP TENT ELEVATES THE EXPERIENCE
Filling the VIP tent food stations were Cuvée Kitchen + Wine Bar of Destin, the mobile raw bar from Oysters XO, and Restaurant Paradis of Rosemary Beach.
Paradis Chef Mark Eichin was pleased to be back for a second year. He brought a big pot of lamb and white bean chili, accented with Greek yogurt, Wisconsin sharp cheddar and mint. Eichin suggested pairing the dish with a medium Pinot, a cab or a Bordeaux blend. He said he let the forecast determine his menu this year.
“I was looking to do something with lamb, and then on Monday, I saw the weather report and thought this would go great with everything,” Eichin said.
The exclusive vintner lineup in the VIP tent included Domaine Serene, Robert Craig Winery, VGS Chateau Potelle, and Roy Estate.
Representing Roy Estate was Director of Sales Kathryn Reynolds, who poured their Proprietary Red, 2014, a blend of cabernet, merlot and petit verdot; as well as the 2014 Cabernet.
“The Proprietary Red is very easy-drinking, a little Bordeaux-style,” Reynolds said. “The cab is going to be more traditional Napa cab, great for the cooler weather with a big hearty steak.”
Roy Estate has attended other Emerald Coast wine festivals in the past, but felt compelled to accept the DCWAF’s invitation following Hurricane Michael.
“Last year we went through the fires in Napa Valley, so we know how it is to recover and to move forward,” she said.
LIBATIONS AND LEARNING
The demo stage hosted culinary presentations, giving attendees a chance to learn about wine pairings and cheese board-building from Birmingham’s Busy Corner Cheese & Provisions, meat-smoking tips from Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, and sushi-making with Chris Shea of Jackacuda’s.
Scott Atkinson suggested wine pairings to go with the cheeses offered up by Busy Corner owner Brian McMillan.
“Our big cheat in the food and wine business is to let Mother Nature do the work,” Atkinson advised. “If you’re having an Italian wine, have an Italian cheese with it. Those flavors are supposed to go together.”
The Harvest Wine & Food Festival is a fundraiser of the DCWAF, which raises money for children in need in Northwest Florida. In addition to ticket sales, the Harvest fest generates dollars through a Thursday evening celebrity winemaker dinner, the Friday night Al Fresco Reserve Tasting, and a silent auction during Saturday’s Grand Tasting.
For even more photos from the 2018 Harvest Wine and Food Festival, be sure and visit us on Facebook at @30afoodandwine.