Seeing red … and white and rosé
Four-day charity wine festival offers a generous pour
By Michelle Farnham
SEASIDE – Vintners typically squeeze 600 to 800 grapes in every bottle of wine. Perhaps even more impressive, the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation managed to squeeze five events into four days of the 26th annual Seeing Red Wine Festival.
The Vintner’s Dinner kicked things off Nov. 3 at Bud & Alley’s Restaurant. The party moved to Seaside’s Lyceum Law for the Reserve Tasting Friday night, then the 26th annual Grand Tasting on Saturday. Things wrapped up Sunday with A Celebration of Bubbles at Great Southern Cafe and the Fall Walkabout and Charity Wine Auction.
During the sold-out featured event Saturday, Hess Collection Winery and Mercer Estates were the featured winemakers in the VIP tent.
Hess Collection founding winemaker Randle Johnson poured such favorites as the Chardonnay Shirttail Creek, the Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon and the Lion Tamer Red.
“I think we’ve hit every taste profile and every palate here,” Johnson said. “Some people like them big, some moderate, some lighter, but everybody likes to drink chardonnay by the pool!”
Mercer Estates General Manager Will Mercer poured the 2013 Cavalie Vineyard Block 93 Eagle & Plow. After losing a friend aboard United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, owner Rob Mercer and vineyard manager John Derrick created a charity wine using a symbolic 911 vines of Cabernet Sauvignon.
“That’s the best cab under this tent,” one guest told Mercer. “Seriously, if I had a blue ribbon, it would go to you.”
As the makers of 30A Wine, the vineyard has special ties to the area.
“This is a relatively new market to us that we’re trying to develop and get our brand out there and let everyone enjoy a little taste of Washington state. It’s been fantastic: great weather, a great place to be and friendly people,” Mercer said.
At the main event, blue umbrellas dotted the Seaside Amphitheater lawn, surrounded by 42 vendors’ booths. Local favorites like Seaside Wines, 30A Wines, McNeese Distributing and 30A Coastal Dunes were joined by vintners from far and wide. Bourbons, gins, whiskeys and even Amavida coffee were also available to mix things up.
Festival veteran Melvyn Kerly represented McNeese – makers of the Seaside Wine Project – whose selections included the 2015 Grenache Rosé, North Coast, and the 2014 Cuvée, Sonoma County.
“The crowds are excited,” he said of their offering. “This is the best festival around, and I was at the first one 26 years ago!”
To help balance out the ABVs, guests could sample fare from an assortment of 15 local restaurants. For those looking for something spicy to pair with their wine, the Song Airstream offered Thai red curry with beef brisket, and Bud & Alley’s Taco Bar did empanadas with smooth guacamole and red sauce. The Bay’s faux YaYa and The Shrimp Shack’s shrimp salad roll intrigued with seafood while Wild Olives Bistro displayed an impressive cheese and charcuterie table.
John Russell, president of the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, had high praise for the volunteers, distributors, restaurants and the Seaside community.
“It might be the best one ever,” he said of the weekend. “We certainly have the best weather, the best wine and the best food we’ve ever had. The turnout is just amazing.”
The merriment continued Sunday as the Fall Walkabout and Charity Auction made its triumphant return to Seaside. Featuring a silent auction, wines, live music and food stations on the Lyceum Lawn, a portion of the day’s proceeds are earmarked for the Seaside Neighborhood School.
Next on the DCWAF events schedule is the Destin Charity Wine Auction and the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival, held April 28 to 30, 2017.