Hartford Family Wines Founder/CEO Don Hartford Brings “Personality Plus” to the Star-studded Line Up for South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival

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Wine, charity and fun converge during The Northwest Florida Beaches Ultimate Wine Week, April 27-30

Don Hartford, Founder and CEO, Hartford Family Wines

Hartford’s advice is to “definitely go in with a plan, take a look at the website, study the auction lots, seminars, tastings, and find out who’s pouring what, because you don’t want to miss out on anything.”

To know wine is to love wine. Don Hartford, founder/owner of Hartford Family Wines, in Sonoma County, California, agrees and likens tasting Hartford wines to reuniting with an old friend.

Hartford will be bringing many of his “friends” with “extreme personality” when he travels to Northwest Florida to join the A-list line up of celebrity appearances at this year’s highly anticipated South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival held April 27-30, 2017 in Grand Boulevard at Sandestin. He will meet and greet with event goers, while personally pouring his wines, present a Pinot Noir focused seminar examining the terroir of California AVA’s and also provide a luxury wine auction lot that includes a visit to his winery to help raise funds for Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation.

Hartford Family Winery, located in the heart of the famed Russian River Valley just 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, is yet another rich layer of their family’s impressive wine legacy story. Don’s wife, Jennifer (Jenny) Jackson Hartford, is the oldest daughter of the late Jess S. Jackson and a co-proprietor of her family’s global wine company, Jackson Family Wines, an impressive collection of vineyards and more than 40 premium wineries throughout California, Oregon, Italy, France, Chile, Australia and South Africa. Don Hartford also is CEO of Jackson Family Wines.

Year after year, Hartford wines rank among the most sought-after collectables from California. Since the 1994 vintage, the Hartford’s have built the winery’s reputation on limited-production, handmade, single-vineyard Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Old Vine Zinfandel from some of Northern California’s greatest vineyards. In addition to their own estate, Hartford harvests fruit from a handful of prized vineyards throughout the Russian River Valley, Green Valley, Carneros, Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley. These are all high-reputation, low-yielding, sustainably-farmed sites situated in cool-climate sub-regions.

Hartford describes his namesake wines as “intense, thought provoking and expressive of both variety and terroir.” They have been served at the White House on many occasions and are staples on “reserve” wine lists around the country.

For more than 20 years, Hartford has been immersed in winemaking and winery management and in the process returned to his first loves — the land and farming. Though Hartford Family Wines now produces 30 different wines from 15 different vineyards, Don and Jenny Hartford stay close to the terroir by leading the farming of the winery’s vineyards, including a small old vine Zinfandel vineyard behind their home.

“One thing Jess Jackson and I always shared is a love of land, vineyards and places,” says Don Hartford. “And it’s still something I’m excited about to this day. I’d certainly rather be dropping fruit in a vineyard than anywhere else.”

Like the founder of Jackson Family Wines, Hartford, too, is a self-made man. He grew up on a small strawberry farm in western Massachusetts, and later attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. To cover the cost of tuition and expenses, he worked as a "straw boss" on a cigar wrapper tobacco farm, a degreaser in a bicycle factory, and a lifeguard at Congamond Lakes in Massachusetts.

The Hartford’s, who make their home in Sonoma County, met in 1979 at Santa Clara University in Northern California, where both attended law school; shortly thereafter, Jenny’s father started a modest 16,000 case winery called Kendall-Jackson. In 1982, Don graduated with his law degree and went on to build a successful legal career.

Having had careers in both law and wine, Hartford easily prefers the carefree world wine represents. “As an attorney, at any time I would have 40 to 50 people laying their problems at my feet and then I would have to worry about them. With wine, you pour a glass and it’s just pure joy. It transcends business of any kind to be something very social, and I like that,” Hartford shares.

As for getting the most out of the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival, Hartford’s advice is to “definitely go in with a plan, take a look at the website, study the auction lots, seminars, tastings, and find out who’s pouring what, because you don’t want to miss out on anything.”

Hartford joins a long list of celebrity winemakers, distillers, chefs, brew masters and entertainers who will converge in South Walton, Florida to wine, dine, educate and entertain guests as part of the four-day celebration of wine. Throughout the Town Center of Grand Boulevard, attendees enjoy such attractions as Spirits Row, Champagne Lane Tastings, Savor South Walton Culinary Village, Nosh Pavilions, Tasting Seminars, Craft Beer & Spirits Jam, live entertainment and more than 800 wines poured by knowledgeable wine industry insiders.

The Destin Charity Wine Auction (DCWA) also takes place on Saturday during the festival. Monies raised at the auction as well as proceeds from the festival will benefit more than a dozen children’s charities in Northwest Florida.

Presented by Visit South Walton and Wine Enthusiast Media, the festival offers the ideal backdrop for a beach getaway. South Walton beaches are consistently named among the best beaches in the country.

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. ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals is the Official Lodging Partner.

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; $99 for Saturday and Sunday (tickets include Spirits Row, Champagne Lane, Grand Tasting wine and food tastings, tasting seminars and live entertainment); and $175 for the VIP Tasting includes all amenities of the Grand Tasting plus exclusive celebrity pouring and food tastings, XL Riedel wine glass and express entry to the Grand Tasting. Two-day Grand Tasting passes are available for $175. The VIP Tasting is Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Grand Tasting starts at 1 p.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 http://www.SoWalWine.com.

About South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival
This year’s annual South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival will be held April 27-30, 2017, throughout the Town Center of Grand Boulevard at Sandestin. The festival features a stunning showcase of more than 800 of the best wines the world has to offer. Meet the celebrity wine producers and master distillers presenting their fine wine and spirits from around the world. The Savor South Walton Culinary Village offers a sumptuous array of foods to taste, wines to pair, as well as popular wine and food tasting seminars. Visit Spirits Row, Champagne Lane and Nosh Pavilions. Enjoy live entertainment throughout the weekend. This event is a major fundraiser for Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, which benefits children in need in Northwest Florida. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.SoWalWine.com.

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Stacey Brady

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