Festival offers food from near and wines from far
By Michelle Farnham
The enthusiasm for fine food and wine was evident not just in the size of the crowd at the Sandestin Wine Festival, but also from its leisurewear. Novelty t-shirts were big this year, sporting clever phrases such as “Wino-saur,” “Drinkerbell,” “Rise & Wine,” and the nearly ubiquitous “Rosé All Day.”
Yes, the mood was light at the festival’s 32nd installment, which included 74 wine tents scattered throughout the Village of Baytowne Wharf. Twenty more beverage stations were set up within the “Bubbly and Boozy” tents, where the party really seemed to be happening.
Vintage Distributors out of Destin occupied booth No. 23, which heard a lot of buzz about the 2015 Domaine du Grangeon.
“If you don’t feel it in your teeth and gums, you’re not doing it right,” explained Joshua Ray, as he held up a bottle of the 100 percent Syrah out of Northern Rone. The Grangeon has limited availability, with only 600 cases produced each year.
From Booth 6, Anne Hay of Snarky & Spirited was suggesting the Podere Volpaio Chianti 2012.
“I’ll admit I’m biased, because I imported it, but this really is the best Chianti. I’ve even blind taste-tested it,” said Hay, who came in from Connecticut for the event. Her table also included the 2016 Aziende Valle Pinot Grigio and Tola Nero D’Avola.
Those in attendance came from near and far, too, as the festival is known to draw guests from out of state. First-timer Don Pearson made the trip in from Tifton, Ga., on the recommendation of friends.
“It’s all been good thus far; it’s an enjoyable experience,” Pearson said. “It’s been as good or better than I expected.”
To help taste-testers keep a clear head, local restaurants filled 10 food tents along the trail. Chef Javier Rosa from Sandestin Catering presented a Paella Valenciana with smoked paprika chicken, clams, bay scallops, bay shrimp, roasted peppers, and a saffron seafood broth.
At times, the line was 30-deep for festival-goers to try the food of Vue on 30a Chef Gio Filippone. Clad in his “Hell’s Kitchen” chef’s whites, the two-time reality TV contestant chatted with guests about his time on the show, while checking on his grilled bacon-wrapped venison and fried oysters.
“For the record, I cried the night you got kicked off the show,” shared one loyal fan, to which Filippone shouted, “I got robbed that day!”
Bryce Jarvis manned the tent for his newest Sandestin restaurant, Slick Lips Seafood and Oyster House. Chef Jay Ammons whipped up a portable version of the ahi poke tuna found on the regular menu. He marinates the protein in a ponzu sauce with Granny Smith apples and pickled watermelon, topped it with an avocado lime mousse, and served it all in an edible wasabi-sesame spoon.
Chef Christopher Holbrook of Signature Catering of 30A reportedly rolled 1,000 10-piece sushi rolls to keep the hungry crowd fed, and they gobbled up them all.
Other culinary offerings included the famous shrimp and grits from Baytowne Provisions, key lime pie bites and caprese salad skewers from Poppy’s Crazy Lobster, and Executive Chef Laurie Graupner brought her strip loin with mushroom and madeira jus from Seagar’s Prime Steaks and Seafood.
Photos by Michelle Farnham