Harvest Wine & Food Festival: Bites, blends and bounty!

Four days of epicurean delights benefit Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation

By Michelle Farnham
Oct. 22, 2023

WATERCOLOR – A harvest festival is a celebration of the bounty. Put that celebration in stunning WaterColor, fill it with fresh Gulf seafood, local brewers and distillers, a lineup of South Walton restaurants, add in some incredible imports on the wine and food front, and it’s a plentiful bounty, indeed.

The Harvest Wine & Food Festival, held Oct. 19-22, has grown into a four-day extravaganza, including winemaker dinners, cocktail seminars, Friday night’s Harvest After Dark and the flagship event, Saturday’s Grand Tasting, all benefitting the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation‘s mission.

Harvest After Dark

Harvest After Dark is the evolution of the Al Fresco Reserve Tasting, held in Marina Park. A more intimate affair under the tent, ticket-holders were treated to everything from the soon-to-open Wild Olives’ charcuterie board, The Salty Butcher’s fresh-cut prosciutto, and Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood’s A5 Japanese Miyazaki wagyu, on which Chef Fleetwood Covington “spared no expense.”

Dude Food Fire‘s John O’Neal created his one-bite wonder in an on-site pizza oven: a peppadew pepper stuffed with a puree of medjool dates, herbs, ricotta and honey, all rolled in French ham.

“You take this with any white wine, that is the perfect bite. If this is not your one-bite wonder, then your life is very sad,” O’Neal mused.

Down from Atlanta, Chef Nolan Wynn of Banshee assembled a sesame miso cracker with a candied short rib, shiitake and Parmesan mousse with parsley crema and a parsnip chip.

“This is our first time at this event; my wife used to vacation here when she was a kid, so she’s very jealous I’m here!” Wynn laughed. “We’ve had a great time; everything has been very organized and very smooth.”

In addition to 17 tables of wine and spirits, the Ash & Air Mobile Cigar Lounge, and live music, departing guests were treated with a to-go plate of Frito pie from Harvest veterans, Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q.

Harvest Wine Festival

Grand Tasting

WaterColor came alive Saturday afternoon for the Grand Tasting, featuring an impressive 63 tables of delights.

The Fox brothers – Jonathan and Justin of Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q – again anchored the food, rolling out a generously portioned progressive dinner of smoked meats.

“We have our smoked beef brisket, spare ribs and jalapeño cheddar sauce. Once we go through the brisket, we’re bringing out our beef short ribs, and in about an hour, we’re bringing out our smoked brisket cheeseburger on a homemade potato bun,” Jonathan explained. “We like to keep people coming back to us!”

Holi Indian Kitchen
Holi Indian Kitchen

Of course there was plenty to sip on – wines, spirits and beers – including Jackson Family Wines, Slay Rosé, and local favorite 30A wines, to name a few.

Grayton’s Beach Camp Brewing Co. offered its Long Strange Tripel, Bold Brew Coffee Porter, and Cato the Elder IPA but Mat McCown, volunteering on behalf of Westonwood Ranch, said the Something Witty Belgian White had been the most popular.

“It’s very easy-drinking, has a little bit of bitterness at the end,” McCown said. “The porter is actually a blend made with cold brew from Amavida.”

Owners of a sweet tooth were in luck, with multiple tents offering desserts. Jonesing 4 Cookies was back, offering pumpkin, chocolate, sugar, red velvet, matcha and oatmeal flavors. King of Pops handed out samples of their gourmet popsicles, Sweet Henrietta’s presented trays of mini cupcakes, and Blue Mountain Bakery and Swiftly Catered served a mountain of their gluten-free puddle cookies, in addition to savory offerings.

Marrow Private Chefs
Marrow Private Chefs

Chef Richard McCord of Marrow Private Chefs was on hand, plating their take on a cioppino.

“We’ve got a rich tomato broth, shrimp, scallops, all served on collard green rice.” McCord said. “When you’re cooking for 1,200 of your closest friends, you’ve got to bring the heat!”

Over in the VIP tent, some of the area’s finest restaurants were on display. Blue Mabel offered a smoked pork belly and crawfish cavatappi; The Henderson plated pickled shrimp aquachile with a pineapple gel, avocado mousse and pickled Fresno chili on a madero chip; and Seagar’s served prime New York strip with winter truffle bordelaise.

Santa Rosa Beach-based artist Lindsay Tobias of Art By Doman was live-painting canvases in her signature style, melding abstraction and realism.

The DCWAF’s next major event is the 19th annual Destin Charity Wine Auction weekend, presented by the Jumonville Family, scheduled for April 26 to 27 in conjunction with the South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival at Grand Boulevard.

Photos by Michelle Farnham

Harvest Wine Festival