South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival: A springtime sip worth the trip

Corks will be popping April 25 to 28

By Michelle Farnham
April 8, 2024

MIRAMAR BEACH – It’s nearly time to raise a class and celebrate food, wine, and life here on the Emerald Coast with the return of the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival.

This wonderful weekend of wine begins off-site Thursday, April 25 at Wine World Destin (4010 Commons Drive W., Destin) for the Winemakers and Shakers evening. Hear from some of the top wineries in the world while celebrating all things wine and food.

South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival

Friday: Craft Beer & Spirits Jam

Friday night, the party moves to the streets of Grand Boulevard, located at 585 Grand Boulevard, Miramar Beach, for the Craft Beer & Spirits Jam, held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Breweries and distilleries alike will be on hand to pour their best libations, with DJ Pinke setting the scene.

Stacey Brady, the festival’s executive director, said the Jam is set to be another fan favorite.

“We are on par to have more interactive activations this year than ever,” Brady said. “Besides amazing craft cocktails and beers, the food is off the charts with amazing variety showcasing restaurants throughout South Walton. And it’s all included in the ticket price.”

Those lucky enough to have scored a VIP ticket will enjoy “A Taste of Grand Boulevard,” with more than 15 eateries preparing their best bites to pair with the high-end collectible wines being offered.

South Walton Beaches Wine & Food FestivalSaturday/Sunday: Grand Tastings

The weekend’s main events of course are Saturday and Sunday’s Grand Tastings. Veteran festival-goers should note the time for Saturday’s event has changed to 3 to 6 p.m., while Sunday remains the typical 1 to 4 p.m. time frame.

Brady said one of this year’s most exciting additions is the partnership with the Willamette Valley Wineries Association.

“They are bringing 15 of their prestigious wineries to the festival this year,” Brady said. “Vineyard owners and winemakers will pour their award-winning wines and be able to converse directly to attendees in a relaxed manner. WVWA is celebrating their 40-year anniversary with South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival and it’s going to be a very special celebration for all!”

The featured Grand Tasting tent will showcase Oregon winemakers, including David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyards, Eugenia Keegan of Willakenzie Estate, Ben Casteel of Bethel Heights Vineyard, Max Bruening from Ponzi Vineyards, Jim Bernau of Willamette Valley Vineyards and Bethany Ford of Illahe Vineyards.

“The charismatic global brand ambassador, Jgor Marini, with our long-time friends at Banfi Wines, will be on hand to pour and charm his audience,” Brady added.

South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival

Grand Tasting guests will enjoy Nosh Pavilions located along the boulevard, as well as the Wine World Culinary Village near the entrance gates.

“The tasting menu is beyond mouth-watering this year,” assured Brady. “Executive Chef Max Morrison will have seven food offerings including blue crab arancini with grilled lemon garlic aioli; tuna tabouli: mini-rye toast tea sandwiches with dill cream cheese, cucumber and preserved lemon; prosciutto and fig crostini with whipped goat cheese and hot honey; chocolate espresso panna cotta and more!”

On the main stage, Nashville Songwriters return for the first set, followed by local favorite, the Casey Kearney Band.

“She and her band are perfect for the second half of the festival and they will really bring it home!” Brady said.

South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival

Under the seminar tent, a quartet of beverage experts will speak about the products they know and love. Admission is included with your ticket, but seminars are limited to the first 75 attendees through the door, and reservations cannot be made in advance.

“Saturday seminars feature Banfi wines by Jgor Marini and a panel discussion with a selection of the WVWA wineries. Sunday’s seminars include a sparkling kick-off with Celene Lannoye of Celene Bordeaux – we love our bubbles on Sunday!” Brady explained. “We expect a big demand for the second Sunday seminar when Myra Barginear, co-founder and CEO of Paul Sutton Bourbon, takes the stage. Her award-winning bourbon has received major industry recognition, she has been named a leading “Woman of Whiskey” by Forbes Magazine. and she also has ties to South Walton!”

A packed weekend

A limited number of tickets are available for each of the four days’ events as well as a special 3-day VIP package, and individual event ticket prices will go up beginning April 1.

The Grand Boulevard complex remains open to the public throughout the special weekend, but wristbands are required to enter vendor tents, the culinary village and seminars.

All this sipping isn’t just for fun, however. Proceeds from the festival benefit the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, a non-profit that provides millions of dollars in funding each year to more than a dozen Northwest Florida children’s charities. In fact, the DCWAF’s annual live auction is held concurrently with the festival, as a separately ticketed event. Festival organizers are proud to have handed over $243,000 lifetime to DCWAF, including a check for $40,000 following last year’s event.

The South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival runs Thursday, April 25 to Sunday, April 28, 2024. For more information, including tickets, visit sowalwine.com.