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Last weekend, more than four thousand wine & food enthusiasts gathered in Sandestin, Florida for the annual South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival, and 30AEATS.com was excited to be among the crowd. This incredible event was held over four days and included tastings, seminars, winemaker dinners and musical performances. Hosted by Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, one of the top 10 wine festivals in the country, restaurateur Emeril Lagasse was the key speaker and attendee.

Prior to the auction, the festival hosted numerous sold out parties and winemaker tasting seminars that were a a quite popular with the locals and visitors alike. 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 before the live auction, discussing his move to South Walton, his favorite wine and food pairings, New Orleans food culture and invited the crowd of guests to take part in a lively discussion allowing questions from the audience for Lagasse to answer.

Later in the day at the auction under the “big tent”, Lagassee had the crowd of 600 in their feet clapping in joy 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 in the fall. It was an amazing donation that included lodging at the NOLA Ritz-Carlton and five 1.5’s of Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino signed by vintner Cristina Mariani-May. (Seen in the above photo with Emeril, taken by Wine Spectator)

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Saturday’s auction broke previous records with more than $2.1 million raised for children’s charities in Northwest Florida, with the top bid being $50,000 for an exclusive trip to the Molori Safari Lodge in South Africa for four!

Festival attendees had the opportunity to taste 800 wines, spirits and craft beer selections from around the world, all on the grounds of the Grand Boulevard shopping center in Santa Rosa Beach. I really enjoyed the layout this year and the stunning “Champagne Lane” where patins could stroll, sip their sparkling cold beverage and nibble on precious chocolates, all while listening to the sounds of the live music showcased on stage from numerous famed Nashville songwriters.

A Grand event, at Grand Boulevard for a Grander cause!

Click here for more information and to donate, or to see how you can participate in 2015! 

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