Sandestin Wine Festival: The perfect blend

33rd annual food and wine event fills Baytowne Wharf

By Michelle Farnham

There’s something fascinating about the final hour of a wine festival. Voices get a
little louder, smiles get a little wider, and the glow of the late afternoon sun is
reflected on the faces of those who have had their pick of hundreds of bottles of
wine. For the 33rd annual Sandestin Wine Festival, Saturday’s Grand Tasting saw
temps reach 80, but the sun found a few clouds and the Gulf breezes blew in,
reminding ticket-holders why South Walton remains a premier wine festival


Sandestin Wine Festival
Jackson Family Wines offered everything from their cab sav to
their pinot noir rosé.

Pouring Florida Muscadine wines from San Sebastian Winery, Mark Shapiro offered
their Rosa, Ruby Port, and Vinter’s red and white, as well as the Cab Sav and Pinot
Grigio they bring in from California.

“Everybody mixes it up,” he said of the crowd’s preferences. “If they like sweet,
they’re going to go for the Muscadines; if they like the drier wines, then the cab or
the pinot.”

Jackson Family Wines rep Byron Fulton offered half a dozen bottles, including the
2017 Kendall Jackson Vintage Reserve Chardonnay ($11.98).

“It continues to be America’s No. 1 selling Chardonnay 25 years in a row, both on-
premise and off-premise,” Fulton said. “People are also really gravitating toward the
La Crema (Pinot Noir Rosé) with its creamy style – hence the name – and rosé is the
new trend.”

Sandestin Wine Festival
Jackson Family Wines offered everything from their cab sav to
their pinot noir rosé.

Fulton said – in addition to wine in cans, which are undoubtedly inspired by beach
and poolside sippers – blended reds are very popular on the market these days.

“It’s not a Cabernet, it’s not a Merlot, it’s not a Pinot Noir; it’s a blend of different red
wines. The winemaker can really play with the flavor however they want because it
doesn’t have to be 75 percent one varietal.”

Sandestin Wine Fest veteran Brian Morey with Morevino – back for his 16th festival
– agreed that the rosé train is still chugging, along with other summertime favorites.

“In Florida, I sell a lot more Pinot Noir because it’s so hot,” Morey explained. “If
you’re going to drink red wine in the summer, that’s the way to do it.”

Light bites

To keep wine-tasters steady on their feet, a series of Savor South Walton food tents
dotted the Village of Baytowne Wharf. There were Parmesan meatballs from Rum
Runners, crunchy sushi rolls from Signature Catering of 30A, chicken and sausage
jambalaya from Poppy’s Crazy Lobster, and Buffalo chicken quesadillas from
Baytowne newcomer Cannery Lane Cantina – just to name a few.

Vue on 30a Chef Giovanni Filippone was among the food purveyors, wearing his
“Hell’s Kitchen” chef’s coat, and fielding questions from the crowd about his two
seasons on the reality show. He offered bacon-wrapped venison stuffed with banana
peppers, marinated in his house Vue sauce.

Sandestin Wine Festival
Wearing his “Hell’s Kitchen” chef’s whites, Giovanni Filippone of Vue on 30a
grilled venison rolls.

“I can’t keep up!” he said as he flipped rolls on the grill. “It’s a great dish at a great
event for great charities. You want to serve something people will enjoy and talk

“That was by far my favorite of the day!” admitted Steve Baldock as he left the Vue
tent. Baldock came across the bridge from his home in Niceville to volunteer at and
attend his fourth festival. As for beverage choices at the fest, “I like all red wines, so
they’re all my favorite!”

Situated in a breezy spot off the lagoon, Executive Chef Dan Vargo of the Hilton
Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa was filling in for Chef Lee Guidry at the
Seagar’s Prime Steaks and Seafood tent. He and his team were serving beef strip loin
off the Seagar’s menu, marinated in brown sugar, soy, ginger, mustard seed, and
paired with a fig and mushroom reduction.

Sandestin Wine Festival
Seagar’s Prime Steaks and Seafood sliced up beef strip loin, marinated in
brown sugar, soy, ginger, mustard seed, and paired with a fig and mushroom

“It’s a big crowd pleaser; it goes over really well,” Vargo said. “Everybody smells the
smoke and the beef coming off the grill, so we always have a pretty good line.”

The 2020 Sandestin Wine Festival will be held April 16 to 19, 2020. Visit for more information.


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