Director cites national recommendations, ‘abundance of caution’
March 13, 2020 Courtesy of Stacey Brady, executive director South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival
It is with a heavy heart that we announce the cancellation of the 2020 South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival. This is not a decision we made lightly, yet in light of the national and state recommendations to not hold large-scale events, we are following their directives.
At this time, we do not have a specific issue with the COVID-19 virus in our area, however; we believe the prudent choice is to not hold our festival – which attracts more than 5,000 – out of an abundance of caution.
Our sister event and the recipient of our festival proceeds, Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, has postponed their immensely popular auction until Aug. 22. This is great news since their auction fundraising is critical to support 16 charities in Northwest Florida. Their event takes place in a huge air-conditioned tent that is very comfortable. Unfortunately, the significant heat and humidity we get here at the beach in August is not conducive to an outdoor wine event.
We are currently working with our ticket agency on refund messaging. We are planning a great incentive to induce ticket holders to keep their tickets which will be good for next year’s festival.
We are disappointed, too! We are also very grateful to our long-time attendees, distributors, suppliers, vendors and especially our sponsors and founding partners. We will be contacting sponsors and ticket holders shortly with options.
A very special thank you to our very sad festival staff who are actually the best staff in the world!
Thank you for your understanding and we look forward to presenting a fabulous charity wine festival for 2021.
If you’ve never experienced this event, it really is a sight to behold. Quite possibly the largest air-conditioned tent you’ve ever seen is filled with elegant decorations and about 600 people from all over, ready to party. When the drinks start flowing, the bids start growing!
Going once, going twice…
Between the 50 live auction lots, and the silent and “super-silent” auctions, there are nearly 300 lots up for grabs this year, according to Kate Mikos, communications manager for the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. Topping the list is a hunter green 2008 Tesla Roadster Sport, dozens of luxurious stays at far-flung locales, original art from Justin Gaffrey, even a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15-Year Bourbon. The latter is currently going for about $1,400 a bottle.
The live auction – which will be held Saturday, April 28 at 1 p.m. on the North Lawn of Grand Boulevard – is always kicked off with the famous Lot No. 1, dubbed Magnum Force. Participating winemakers of the past and present have each donated a magnum bottle of wine – 50 in total – and it’s a winner-take-all showdown on the auction block. For those keeping score at home, that’s 75 liters of some of the world’s finest wines, and last year it brought in a winning bid of $55,000.
Mikos also pointed out several brand new vacation destinations for the foundation. There are trips to Australia, Iceland, and Amsterdam, and two trips to South Africa (including one safari to the Molori Lodge).
For the adrenaline junky in the audience, there’s the Lightning Round. Auctioneer Ursula Hermacinski – back for her fifth year – will start the bidding high on these “flash lots” and go down. The lot goes to the first paddle in the air – unless two bidders tie, in which case, the bidding goes up!
Historic bottles – and bottlers
Some truly incredible wine will be available for the taking. Participating vintners include the likes of Hamilton Russell, Relic, Arkenstone, Hertelendy Vineyards, Antica Napa Valley, Mollydooker Winery, and Champagne Delamotte – just to name a few.
As part of the Reserve Tasting that precedes the live auction, VGS Chateau Potelle winemaker Jean-Noel Fourmeaux will be on hand. Fourmeaux was one of the original judges from The Judgment of Paris, the famous international wine competition held in 1976.
“Clos du Val will also be here and they were the winery in The Judgment of Paris that put California on the map,” Mikos said. “They’re donating one of only five remaining bottles in their cellar from 1972 from that competition.”
Look for that bottle in the Clos du Val live lot, which includes a trip for four to Meadowood Resort in Napa Valley, a private tour of the winery, and a three-year vertical of 3L Cabernet Sauvignon spanning from 1983-85.
The Destin Charity Wine Auction isn’t just considered big for a local event. Wine Spectator Magazine has ranked it the No. 3 charity wine auction in the country two years in a row. The foundation has donated more than $15 million over the past 12 years, with $2.7 million earmarked for 15 Northwest Florida charities in 2017 alone.
“We always have a dollar amount goal, but we’re always thankful for whatever everyone is willing to give,” Mikos explained. “We’ve beat our previous number every year, and so our goal is to continue to do that.”
So just where are the proceeds going? This year’s charities include AMIkids, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast, Children in Crisis, Inc.; Children’s Volunteer Health Network, Emerald Coast Autism Center, Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, Food For Thought, Habitat for Humanity of Walton County, Mental Health Association Okaloosa & Walton Counties, Opportunity Place, Pathways For Change, Sacred Heart Hospital of the Emerald Coast, Shelter House of Northwest Florida, The Arc of the Emerald Coast, and Youth Village.
Mikos hinted that the DCWAF team has some surprises in store for year 13.
“Our patrons will see a little bit more presence from our charities this year. We’re really trying to bring the focus back to our mission a little bit more,” she said. “There are a lot of incredible elements that go into the auction, but at the end of the day, we’re there to raise money to help children in our community.”
The only way into the tent is to purchase a Patron Package, which includes your choice of 12 patron dinners Friday evening, Saturday’s auction, and admission to the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival Sunday. A limited number of packages are still available at https://501auctions.com/dcwa.