Four thousand wine and food lovers converged in Sandestin, Florida, last weekend for the annual South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival, of which Wine Enthusiast was a presenting sponsor. Comprised of four days of lively tastings, seminars, winemaker dinners and musical performances, the fast-growing festival culminated in the Destin Charity Wine Auction, one of the country’s top 10, and featured author and restaurateur Emeril Lagasse as a key speaker and attendee.
Hosted by the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, Saturday’s auction broke previous records with more than $2.1 million raised for children’s charities in Northwest Florida. Top bid was $50,000 for an exclusive trip to the Molori Safari Lodge in South Africa for four, followed by $45,000 for Magnum Force (37 signed magnums of wine).
Lagasse himself got the crowd of 600 under the big tent going with his presentation of “Emeril’s Ten for 10,” offering 10 guests a pass to the Emeril Lagasse Foundation’s Carnivale du Vin in New Orleans (also celebrating its 10th anniversary). The lot also included lodging at the NOLA Ritz-Carlton and five 1.5Ls of Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino signed by vintner Cristina Mariani-May.
Leading up to the auction, the festival hosted numerous well-attended parties and winemaker tasting seminars were a popular draw. With introductions by Wine Enthusiast executive editor Susan Kostrzewa, Banfi co-owner Cristina Mariani-May, Fran Kysela, owner of Kysela Pére et Fils and South African vintner Anthony Hamilton Russell led tastings on Brunello, Pinot Noir, rosé and more. Mariani-May interviewed Chef Lagasse on stage as well about wine and food culture, inviting questions from the guests.
Festival attendees tasted 800 wine, spirits and beer from all corners of the globe on the grounds of the luxury Grand Boulevard shopping center, enjoying perks like “Champagne Lane,” an area devoted to sparkling and chocolate, and a night showcasing craft beer and spirits, with live music from numerous famed Nashville songwriters.
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