Wine Enthusiast Magazine Tasting Expert Judges South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival 2016

Share Article

Wine, charity and fun converge during Northwest Florida Beaches Ultimate Wine Week

South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival takes place April 28 - May 1 in Grand Boulevard at Sandestin.

“I’m excited to have a chance to try some of the producers in a review setting I don’t normally get to try. It will be fun to dabble in a variety of different varieties, regions and producers,” Peartree said.

Just weeks before an A-list of celebrities from the wine and culinary industry world converge on South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival April 28-May 1 in Grand Boulevard at Sandestin in Northwest Florida, wines will be tasted … and judged.

On February 19 at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa Todd Vucovich, director of the wine competition, will convene a judging panel of 24 vintners, educators, collectors, restaurant owners and wine-related media to conduct a blind tasting to determine which wines will be poured and sold at the four-day Festival.

More than 600 wines will be judged and 75 to 80 gold medals will be awarded to winning entries in dozens of categories. Silver, Bronze and Best of Show winners will also be named.

Sitting on the panel of 24 judges is Alexander Peartree, assistant tasting director for Wine Enthusiast magazine, who will be making his first trip to Florida’s Northwest Gulf Coast.

“I’m excited to have a chance to try some of the producers in a review setting I don’t normally get to try. It will be fun to dabble in a variety of different varieties, regions and producers,” Peartree said during a recent telephone interview from his office in New York.

A son of New York, Alexander Peartree was raised in an Italian family, where wine was at the heart of family gatherings and meals. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Italian Studies from the University of Vermont, Peartree began forging a path in the wine industry beginning with a turn at a Tea Bar, where his “passion for terroir-expressive products” began. During his college years he supplemented his formal education with hands-on experience drawn from various wine-related jobs in the Finger Lakes that included managing a wine and cheese cellar and tasting room and working as a wine steward.

As a member of the Wine Enthusiast tasting department, Peartree reviews wines from Virginia, Michigan, Texas and other smaller U.S. regions, as well as domestic and international cider. Peartree assures the judging process is vital to the viability of a wine competition. “It reiterates the brands that perform well,” he said. “It’s important for consumers to know that these wines are readily available and of quality.”

To avoid fatigue at a tasting event, Peartree offers this advice: “Drink a lot of water in between and avoid coffee or strong things that can cloud your palette on the day of a tasting.”

He continues saying “it’s easy to focus on one wine too much, but it’s best to go with your initial impressions and keep moving along, because the more you taste one thing that’s less energy you’ll have to taste the next thing.”

Finally, to keep your wine taste buds guessing, instead of systematically tasting all whites and then all reds, Peartree recommends mixing things up a bit. “Jumping from heavy reds to richer chardonnays, say, might actually help with fatigue a bit.”

Presented with support from Visit South Walton and Wine Enthusiast magazine, the festival offers the ideal backdrop for a beach getaway. South Walton beaches are consistently named among the best beaches in the country. ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals is the Official Lodging Partner of the festival and many of their accommodations are beachfront, beachside or a short stroll to the beach. At this time, they are currently offering festival discounts on lodging. Go to Wyndham Vacation Rentals for details.

South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival is made possible by the generous support of the following Founding Partners: Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, Visit South Walton Tourist Development Council, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, Wine World of Northwest Florida and Grand Boulevard at Sandestin.

The Craft Beer & Spirits Jam kicks off the festival Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; the Grand Tastings are on Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Advance tickets are $35 for Friday; $85 for Saturday and Sunday (ticket price include Spirits Row, Champagne Lane, wine and food tastings, seminars and live entertainment); and $175 for the VIP Tasting with express entry to the Grand Tasting. Two-day Grand Tasting passes are available for $150. The VIP Tasting is Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Grand Tasting starts at 1p.m. The event is rain or shine; sorry pets are not allowed in Culinary Village. To purchase tickets and view the full festival schedule visit

This year’s annual South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival will be held April 28-May 1, 2016 throughout the Town Center of Grand Boulevard at Sandestin. The festival features a stunning showcase of the best wines the world has to offer. Celebrity wine producers and chefs present fine wine and food pairings from the world’s most famous appellations. The Savor South Walton Culinary Village offers a sumptuous array of foods to taste, wines to pair, as well as wine and food tasting seminars and live entertainment. The event is a major fundraiser for Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, which benefits children in need in Northwest Florida. For more information, including a list of attending winemakers and to purchase tickets, visit


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Stacey Brady

Stacey Brady
Follow >
South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival
since: 09/2012
Like >