35th annual celebration runs April 7-9
By Liesel Schmidt
April 3, 2022
SANDESTIN – Running from Thursday, April 7 through Saturday, April 9, the 35th annual Sandestin Wine Festival is a highly anticipated event that draws so many vendors, attractions, and festival goers that it’s been hailed as the “Kentucky Derby of Wine Festivals.” And though one might easily presume it to be largely a local attraction, the scale – not to mention the renown of some of the chefs, vintners, and vineyards – have gained it a reputation as being one of the top wine festivals in the country. The fest brings in countless souls whose predilection for wine seems to ripen like grapes on the vine under the warmth of the Florida sun.
Offering a full-bodied experience that boasts no shortage of opportunities to taste, smell, sip, and savor, The Village of Baytowne Wharf becomes transformed to a veritable village of tents serving up a feast for the senses.
“Our team hopes to really make this year’s event bigger and better than ever. This festival is a picture-perfect series of events, complete with white tents, flowing wine, gourmet food and live music,” said The Village of Baytowne Wharf Events Manager Leighann Elliott. “We are working with major wine distributors this year that carry domestic and international wines. We also plan to continue our Savor South Walton experience with local talented chefs highlighted throughout the festival.”
Featuring one-of-a-kind seminars given by wine experts from across the globe as well as exceptional cooking demonstrations from culinary masters and award-winning local chefs, one can hardly leave without having learned something.
“This event continues to bring a wide range of experiences for all guests, including interacting with some of the finest minds in the worldwide wine industry and having the opportunity to taste unique, hand-selected wines,” said Elliott.
Departing a bit from the grappa but still starting things in high spirits, the festival begins with a kickoff party on Thursday, April 7. Guests will be treated to food tastings as well as wine and liquor samples. The evening also includes wine dinners and seminars from village restaurants.
For those with a desire to try new things, the Grand Wine Tastings Friday and Saturday are a must, as the events feature more than 75 tents offering domestic and international wines as well as a rare opportunity to learn about the finest vintages and varietals from major producing countries. Perfectly pairing with the sips being offered, Savor South Walton tents scattered throughout the grounds offer samplings from acclaimed local restaurants that showcase the culinary talents of some of the area’s best chefs, with different features both Friday and Saturday nights, set to the soundtrack of local bands and regional artists.
“This event gives us a way to truly show off what Florida and South Walton has to offer, from our ability to pull off a great event to showcasing local tastes with Savor South Walton,” said Elliott. “I love watching our guests enjoy beautiful weather and amazing wine and food, and being so hands-on with this event is so rewarding. It takes a village to run a village and an event like this, and my team works so hard to make the festival vibrant and keep it running smoothly. We truly enjoy creating memories for our festival attendees.”
Saturday morning, the day’s festivities begin with a salute to the sun with a beach yoga session presented by Hotel Effie and Spa Liliana. Following yoga, participants will be served mimosas.
Festival partners include ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, and proceeds support Fisher House of the Emerald Coast and the Sandestin Foundation for Kids.
“We connect wine enthusiasts to the community in need,” Elliott said. “It’s great wine for a great cause.”
From first sip to last, the Sandestin Wine Festival is a yearly event worth savoring – and each year, they keep pouring it on.
File photos by Michelle Farnham