SOWAL Beaches Food & Wine Festival Benefits Northwest Florida Children

With good food, wine, and incredible music, there was nothing to wine about
Photo courtesy of South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival

Thousands gathered at Grand Boulevard in Sandestin to sip, savor and celebrate the best in fine wine and spirits at the 14th annual South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival.

Ranked No. 3 in Wine Spectator Magazine’s list of the “Top 10 Charity Wine Auctions in the U.S.,” the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation (DCWAF) will once again benefit from from the three-day fete.

The April 25 festivities launched with an exclusive VIP Wine Tasting, in which celebrity vintners and local chefs poured patrons elite, prized wines and served them a sampling of South Walton cuisine. Afterward, VIPs were free to join the masses on the “EAT streets” of the Craft Beer and Spirits Jam, a tasty touring of distilleries, craft brews and more chow.

It was a delectable prelude to Saturday and Sunday’s Grand Tastings, which lasted from 1-4 p.m. each day. Upon arrival, VIPs received a sizeable, Riedel goblet and swag bag, while regular ticket holders were bestowed a signature Stolzle-brand glass to haul to over 100 different wine tents and nosh tents.

The Grand Tasting lived up to its name, wining and dining guests with over 800 award-winning wines, 100 spirits and an eclectic sampling of entrees.

Photo courtesy of South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival

The massive, white-top tented Culinary Village, curated by chef and SOWAL Beaches Wine & Food Festival culinary director Scott Plumley, sheltered guests from the bright spring sun and offered everything from small plate fare to main course meals — including braised beef short ribs and cider-seared salmon over mushroom risotto.

Many lined up for seconds and thirds of herbed-crusted goat cheese fritters, gruyere and bay shrimp beignets and sinfully sweet, dark chocolate, pistachio and passion fruit truffles.

Plumley designed the spread to accompany the Culinary Village’s showcase of Oregon wines, in which Oregonian vintners Eugenia Keegan and Michael Landis of Jackson Family Wines hosted a brief tasting seminar on the origins and burgeoning success of their home state’s vineyards.

Photo courtesy of South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival

But outside the village amid the labyrinth of libations, attendees feasted on sushi from Harbor Docks Chef Yoshi Eddings and various confections from Publix and Kilwins Chocolate, Fudge & Ice Cream.

Appetites whet and throats dry, guests moseyed to the Rosé All Day Garden, where dapper-dressed gentleman and ladies in sundresses and straw hats nursed glasses of fizzy moscatos, blushing zinfandels and all things pink and bubbly.

With grandiose lounges, floral chandeliers and elegantly staged backdrops, the watering hole proved to be a popular photo-op. But phones also flew up to capture memories with the large, rosé-hued whale mascot of Vineyard Vines, who slowly made his way through the sea of imbibers.

And while it was easy to get lost in the seemingly unending stream of cabernets, malbecs and pinots grigio and noir, the commencement of the annual Destin Charity Wine Auction reminded guests of the true motive behind the merrymaking.

Photo courtesy of South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival

Within the South Walton Beaches Food + Wine Festival, Destin Charity Wine Auction held their Silent Auction and Live Auction with a goal of raising $3 million for 16 northwest Florida children’s charities consisting of the following:

AMIKids Emerald Coast, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast, Children in Crisis, Children’s Volunteer Health Network, Emerald Coast Autism Center, Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, Food for Thought Outreach, Habitat for Humanity of Walton County, The Arc of the Emerald Coast, Mental Health Association of Okaloosa and Walton Counties, Opportunity Place, Pathways for Change, Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast, Shelter House of Northwest Florida, Westonwood Ranch and Youth Village (read more about each at

Upon entering the check-in tent, guests mingled at the wine bar over live music and reserve tastings and snapped a memory or two with the Epic Photo Co. photo booth.

At 1 p.m., patrons entered the reserve tasting and silent auction tent, welcomed by the mouth-watering aroma of aged wine and fine fare from Caliza, the Henderson, Fish Out of Water (FOOW), Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster House and others.

Between bites, guests spectated a live painting created by Justin Gaffrey, perused 339 different lots and mingled among 25 celebrity vintners and craft spirit proprietors.

Photo courtesy of South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival

Upon entering the live auction tent, guests were greeted with upbeat tunes and the Destin Charity Wine Auction team flashing light-up props and blasting bubble machines. Each table was furnished by charcuterie boards, thank-you notes from the benefitting children and, of course, more vino.

The live auction was a booming success, selling anything from gargantuan Magnum Force wine bottles to destination vacations to Sicily, the Caribbean, Prague and Costa Rica.

The DCWAF is pleased to announce that this year’s auction was the most successful yet, raising a whopping $3.6 million.


See more photos from the event below: 

Categories: Events