South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival: Ready to pour once more!
10th annual festival runs April 21-24
By Michelle Farnham
April 15, 2022
SANDESTIN – Canceled the past two years due to public health concerns, the South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival is back in 2022, and ready to pour once more!
The decision to shelve the 2020 and 2021 installments of this annual celebration was a difficult one, according to festival executive director, Stacey Brady.
“We were about five weeks out and we just had to dig in and do the work to cancel it, and refund a lot of money,” Brady explained. “Some folks opted to hang onto their tickets and they will still be good for the 2022 festival, even though ticket prices have increased. Their optimism paid off!”
Now set to mark its 10-year anniversary this spring – complete with individual hand sanitizers for guests – the three-day VIP package sold out months in advance. As of press time, individual tickets were still available to all four days’ events.
The party gets started with the Winemakers and Shakers bash Thursday, April 21 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Wine World Destin. Taste bottles from some top wineries, poured by the winemakers themselves at this opening soiree.
Friday things get underway at Grand Boulevard’s Grand Park with the Craft Beer & Spirits Jam from 6 to 9 p.m. Here guests balance craft beers and spirits with food from Eats Street – an eclectic mix from 10 different South Walton restaurants – all to the beats of a live DJ.
A little competition helps to stir inspiration, and new this year, organizers are hosting the first annual Golden Shaker Award for Best Craft Cocktail Bartender in the Florida Panhandle.
“There are 12 mixologist finalists who will make amazing original craft cocktails, competing for the $1,000 first prize, the Golden Shaker Award and name inclusion in a nationally distributed press release,” Brady said. “The People’s Choice winner walks away with $500. It’s going to be quite a show!”
Saturday and Sunday are the premier events with the Grand Tastings, held from 1 to 4 p.m. Visit the rows of tents offering more than 600 wines, Spirits Row, and enjoy a lineup of tasting seminars and chef demonstrations. The Nashville Songwriters Showcase takes the main stage for your enjoyment all day long.
“For our festival, the quality of the wine is very important, especially to knowledgeable wine drinkers,” Brady acknowledged. “We want to pour wines that you can’t necessarily buy in the grocery store. Our attendees look forward to tasting wines they’ve never tasted before or that are too expensive to buy before tasting.”
Brady was particularly excited to welcome a lineup of featured winemakers, especially Jill Russell of Cambria Estate Winery, and Greg Brewer of Ex Post Facto.
“In 2020, Greg was named Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Wine Star Awards. It doesn’t get much better than that!” Brady added.
The Savor South Walton Culinary Village features a pairing menu from festival Executive Chef Scott Plumley, while annual favorite Yoshi Eddings of Harbor Docks will be back with her team, rolling sushi on-site, just to name a few food options!
Impress friends with the knowledge you pick up from any of the four tasting seminars, included in your ticket price.
Saturday’s presentation by eighth generation Beam Distiller Freddie Noe will be representing Knob Creek and Basil Hayden.
“Suffice it to say that Kentucky bourbon will be tasted!” Brady assured.
Kick off Sunday with champagne from Heidsieck-Piper, then enjoy the chat with Lisa Wicker of Willow Jane on their small batch bourbon.
A toast to charity
Running concurrently with Saturday’s grand tasting is the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation’s annual auction, held in a separate tent on the grounds. Brady said these two non-profit powerhouses come together each year to create the ultimate wine week – for a good cause.
“The auction is the major fundraiser for DCWAF, yet the net proceeds from the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival are also given to DCWAF to benefit the children’s charities,” Brady said. “DCWAF has donated more than $25 million to Northwest Florida charities … and impacted the lives of over 90,000 youth, including those afflicted by health issues and abuse.”
Brady and her team couldn’t be more pleased to see the return of the festival weekend.
“We are back! At our 10-year anniversary, our team is committed to producing the best ever South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival – and that is saying something,” Brady exclaimed. “Cheers to 10!”
The South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival takes place April 21 to 24, 2022, in the Grand Boulevard complex at Sandestin. For more information, visit www.sowalwine.com. Read coverage of the 2019 event from 30A Food & Wine.
File photos by Michelle Farnham