Sunday ended four days of wine at
At the end of the experience, the pleasure had translated into more than $2 million being raised for charity through Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation.
This accomplishment could be viewed as phenomenal for a 2-year-old event, except that this is the 28th year that Wine World owner Chan Cox has put on a wine festival as he founded the Sandestin Wine Festival 28 years ago, and the wine auction in 2006.
South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival is made up of four days of wine and food tastings, tasting seminars, and entertainment, and the Destin Charity Wine Auction, a Top 10 charity wine auction, takes place during the weekend.
This year, the special guest appearance of award-winning chef, author, and restaurateur Emeril Lagasse was a festival highlight. Lagasse donated his time, name, expertise, and money to the event, including giving a cooking seminar and kicking off the bidding at the wine auction by buying an auction lot for $45,000.
Lagasse's cooking seminar was filmed for his Cooking Channel show "Emeril's
Lagasse presented his donation of "Emeril's 10 for 10," for 10 guests to attend the 10th anniversary of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation's Carnivale du Vin in New Orleans Nov. 7-8, with stays at the Ritz Carlton, and 5 1.5Ls Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino signed by Vintner Cristina Mariani-May.
Other celebrities in attendance followed suit and raised their paddles to bid.
The highest bid of the night was $50,000 for an exclusive trip to the Molori Safari Lodge in
Approximately 600 people attended the auction.
Nearly 4,000 lovers of wine, food, and music attended the Grand Tastings part of the festival on Saturday and Sunday, where more than 800 wines were poured.
Different this year was the spirits row at the Grand Tastings, which Cox said was a phenomenal hit.
This year's amount raised for 12 children’s charities in
"I am beyond happy and amazed," said Cox. "It's unbelievable that this small community could raise this amount of money. It's a testament to the community's generosity. For me, it's very rewarding and thrilling to see. We're going to change a lot of kids' lives."
Cox founded the DCWAF six years ago in his wine bar.
The SWBW&FF is a 501c3 organization and all proceeds go to charity.
"I don't know of another wine festival that does this," said Cox. "My stores are doing well enough, thanks to the support of the community, so, for one day a year we can give back. Those people who attended gave $2 million. The least I could do is put together a venue where they can do that, and at the same time, give people a world-class experience."
The 2015 SWBW&FF takes place the last weekend in April, April 23-26.