By Gregory D. McCluney

South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival
April 27 – 30, 2017

Wine Seminars, Tastings, Craft Beers, Spirits and Food Highlight the 32nd Annual South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival

What’s not to like about a premier food and wine event in a great venue a stone’s throw from pristine white sand beaches and emerald Gulf water? It’s all just a few hours south of Atlanta in Sandestin, Fla. at the Town Center of Grand Boulevard.

The action began Friday night with a unique event that features some wine but focuses on more than 150 craft beers and unique spirits from around the U.S. and Europe. Area chefs provided tastes from their kitchens, and the crowds enjoyed live entertainment by Nashville songwriters and performers, who kept things lively throughout the weekend.

Opening of the tents at 1:00 pm

On Saturday, the busiest day of the festival, things kicked off early with a VIP tasting tent and the opening of the wine retail tent where many of the 800 wines were available at a discount. The walk-around Grand Tasting began at 1 p.m. when the gates opened to long lines of attendees ready for their first tastes of the day.

In the Culinary Village, some of Northwest Florida’s best chefs offered their menu specialties like spicy lamb meatballs, cavatelli with pork ragu, and a delicious shrimp and grits fritter. Champagne Lane, one of the most popular stops of the Grand Tasting, opened to a waiting crowd at 2 p.m.

Enjoy the beautiful South Walton beaches between events

For those seeking more serious education, several seminars were featured during the festival. Don Hartford (Hartford Family Wines) spoke of California’s many AVAs. Frank Massolino, of Massolino wines spoke of Italy’s terroir, and Tommy Brunett, musician and founder of Iron Smoke Whiskey, gave his take on the craft distillery movement sweeping the U.S. For fans of sparkling, Laurent Gruet presented French Roots; American Dreams in conjunction with Wine Enthusiast magazine.

The fun continued on Sunday with another Grand Tasting beginning at 1:00 p.m.

Peaceful end to a busy wine weekend

Wine, food, live music and sunny beaches have become a popular combination in northwest Florida’s spring calendar.

If you want to attend next year’s festival, visit SoWalWine.com for details and tickets. Atlanta’s Vino Venue will offer special tickets and packages later this year for 2018.

-Greg McCluney, Wine & Travel Editor

The annual bonfire