The taste of the town
Rosé, Chardonnay beat the heat at 31st Sandestin Wine Festival
By Michelle Farnham
As the sun sets on yet another beautiful South Walton weekend, another Sandestin Wine Festival is in the books.
Baytowne Wharf Events Manager Julie Stuckey said both Friday and Saturday’s Grand Tastings sold out, with about 1,500 and 2,200 tickets sold, respectively.
“Selling out both days was huge,” Stuckey said. “It’s the first time it’s happened in a couple years, so it was very exciting to hit those numbers again.”
Following market trends, it seemed the unofficial theme of the grand tastings was “Rosé all day,” as many booths were asking tasters to think pink. Temps in the low 80s with strong sunshine probably encouraged the chilled wines to move a little faster, too.
Featured wine sponsor Meiomi Wines poured its Rosé – featuring aromas of watermelon and orange peel – along with their 2015 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The California winemaker set up home – literally – at the start of the walk o’ wines. The company brings a 20-by-20-foot portable bungalow to enhance the wine-tasting experience. A crew member said the home comes in on a truck and is set up in 24 hours, as it makes its rounds to wine festivals.
30A Wines by Mercer Estates also had a bottle of pink to share in the newly debuted Rosé, as well as the Chardonnay and Red Blend.
“They’ve been especially loving the rosé because it’s a warm day, so it’s the perfect thing to sip,” said Lauren Edwards, managing editor of 30A Company. “It’s a drier rosé and it’s a small batch, so once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Second level sommelier Julie Pepi, director of the Heritage Collection for Trinchero Family Estates and an ambassador for Terra d’Oro Winery, was on hand for both the grand tasting and as a wine seminar presenter. Her exhibition “Wines of Terra d’Oro” highlighted the products of Amador County (California) with an Italian flair.
“The Terra d’Oro Chenin Blanc Viognier has taken the crowd by storm, which is awesome because it’s kind of our niche little thing. I thought we’d see how it would work, and people love it!” Pepi said.
Offering Italian wines like the 2015 La Villa Pinot Grigio and the La Gioiosa Prosecco, Vintage Distributors representative Frank Gordon’s supply was completely tapped out by early Saturday afternoon.
“People especially responded to the Prosecco; it’s a style that’s been gaining popularity, especially with the resurgence of dining at home,” Gordon said.
Perhaps no place was the party going stronger than in the Champagne Tent area. With cornhole games set up on the sun-soaked lawn, comfortable seating options under the tent, and delicious cocktails at the ready, the mood was plenty festive. Ketel One Vodka, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Don Julio Tequila and Naked Turtle Rum offered an alternative to the wines down the hill, alongside sweet treats from Holy Cakes.
Also mixing things up were the work of artist Donna Burgess and live music from an assortment of musicians on the events plaza.
Ryan and Chelsea James of Navarre, and Luke and Risa Yuhico of Fort Walton Beach, had a great time in the Epic Photo Co. booth. This is their second year attending, and they walked away with a souvenir snapshot from the 2017 installment.
Bites to keep you going
Those wanting to keep the ABVs under control could swing by one of the food tents to sample the handiwork of local chefs. For example, Chef Christopher Holbrook offered a selection of sushi rolls at The Bellamy of 30A tent. He said the spicy shrimp with coconut crunchies and Thai peanut sauce was particularly popular, as was the Boudreaux Roll, with its crawfish, ginger, Andouille and corn.
Laurie Grapner, the new executive chef at Seagar’s Prime Steaks and Seafood, was carving up a prime New York strip steak with mushrooms, the aroma of which filled the Baytowne Wharf events plaza. A quick stroll down that aisle led to the Publix stand, featuring mini cannoli, signature cheeses and a Cajun krab spread.
“You want to try the best thing here? Try this Krab spread. It’s amazing,” assured one repeat customer.
Set up in front of their new digs, Baytowne Wharf newcomer Baytowne Provisions plated fried macaroni and cheese with a raspberry sauce.
From the food vendors to the winemakers to the volunteers, Stuckey said it really does take a village to pull off an event of this magnitude.
“It’s after these events that you realize how thankful you are for all these community partners that make this festival happen,” she concluded. Plans are already underway for the 2018 festival, with dates to be announced in the future.
Photography: Michelle Farnham