Culinary — 27 January 2017
Sip Spring with this adults-oriented trio of travel options.

By Chris Chamberlain

I don’t know about y’all, but when the weather gets damp and dank like it has been lately, my mind starts to wander South, dreaming of trips to the beach. Growing up in Nashville, Tenn., the Florida Gulf Coast around Panama City and Destin has always been our destination of choice, with its talcum powder white and soft sands and calm warm waters like a comfy drawn bath.

Add wine to the equation and I’m even more interested! During March and April, there are three major wine festivals planned in some of the most idyllic settings along the coast.

First up is the 30A Wine Festival in Alys Beach, March 9-12, 2017. This beautiful community is one of the first stops you make if you’re driving from Panama City to Destin and take the detour down Highway 30A. Each of the villages along the route has its own distinct personality, and Alys Beach just screams class.

Their wine festival is a first class event. This year will be the sixth edition of the event, and there’s a full schedule of tastings, dinners and educational seminars planned, ending with a Rosé and Croquet Party on Sunday. Tickets are for sale on the event website.

The next festival will be held March 24-25 in Aaron Bessant Park across the street from the Gulf in the middle of Panama City Beach. UNwineD used to be an autumnal event, but organizers have moved it to Spring for 2017. They have also expanded the festival to include beer and cocktails along with the weekend of wine tasting.

The weekend begins Friday with the Garden & Gun Kickoff Party where guests can enjoy fine cocktails while mixing and mingling with elite chefs, mixologists, and top tastemakers of the South from 6 to 8 p.m. The celebration continues on Saturday with a Grand Afternoon Tasting and Cocktail Competition from 1 to 4:30 p.m. followed by a Picnic in the Park and Concert featuring Grammy-nominated and acclaimed American folk-rock band, The Avett Brothers.

Tickets for UNwineD will be available for purchase in the coming weeks. For more information about Panama City Beach and the festival, visit http://www.visitpanamacitybeach.com/.

The South Walton Wine & Food Festival finishes up the trio from April 27-30. Focused around the Town Center of Grand Boulevard in Sandestin near the preferred lodging of the Hilton Sandestin, this festival is a four-day celebration of wine, beer and spirits. More than 800 wines will be poured during the weekend at events like Spirits Row, Champagne Lane Tastings, Savor South Walton Culinary Village, Nosh Pavilions, Tasting Seminars and the Craft Beer & Spirits Jam.

Food during the weekend will be provided by chefs from across South Walton, live entertainment options include a Nashville songwriters showcase and noted singer/songwriter Tommy Brunette and his band. Ticket prices are remarkably affordable considering the depth and breadth of the offerings. You can buy tickets for individual events or for all the tastings at the festival’s official website.

So if you feel the need to mix some salt air with a little bit of great grapes, consider one or more of these wine festivals as you plan your springtime travel. Cheers!

– Photos courtesy event hosts

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

Chris ChamberlainChris Chamberlain is a food, drink, wine, spirits, travel and personal interest writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, where he has lived his entire life except for four years in California where he studied liberal arts at Stanford University and learned how to manipulate chopsticks. He is a regular writer for the Nashville Scene and its “Bites” food blog as well as Nashville Lifestyles magazine. He is the Southern correspondent for FoodRepublic.com. He has also contributed to the Nashville City Paper, Her Nashville, Relish, Julep, Local Palate, The Bourbon Review, 2001 Edgehill, the SFA’s Gravy newsletter, Thrillist.com, and as a kitchen gadget reviewer at geardiary.com. He has published three books: The Southern Foodie: 100 Places to Eat before You Die and The Recipes That Made Them Famous, The Southern Foodie’s Guide to the Pig, and Nashville Beer: A Heady History of Music City Brewing.

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