Before the more than 800 wines are poured for tasting by wine-lovers at the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival, April 24-27, wines must first be submitted for judging at the International Wine Competition, a precursor to the festival.

On Jan. 24, a group of 27 judges, including vintners, educators, collectors, restaurateurs and wine-related media, gathered to taste hundreds of wines in 83 categories. The day-long blind tasting was conducted at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa to determine which wines merit special recognition at the festival. 

This International Wine Competition was held under the leadership of the director of wine competition for the festival, John Morris, director of wine education at Wine World.

The Best in Show white wine selected by the judges was a 2011 Morgan Double L Chardonnay from California’s Morgan Winery. The Best of Show red was a 2011 Sineann Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Sineann Winery. Vintner Gianni Abate of the winning Morgan Winery is one of the numerous wine celebrities who will be on hand at the SoWal Wine Fest in April.   

“This annual judging event is recognized as one of the nation’s most important international wine competitions and provides festival attendees a vast array of award winning wines to sample, at one time and place — a rare opportunity — a wine lover’s dream,” Morris said.       

South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival takes place on April 24-27 in Grand Boulevard at Sandestin. The Savor South Walton Culinary Village will include on-going exhibition cooking with plenty of delicious food to pair with wine. Tasting seminars will take place in the Culinary Village throughout the weekend. Nashville songwriters will perform their hits on the main stage in the Town Center. During the festival a retail sales tent will be conveniently located for the consumers.

Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation is the recipient of the proceeds from this charity event.

The festival is being presented by Visit South Walton Tourist Development Council and Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Wyndham Vacation Rentals is the Official Lodging Partner for the festival. Tickets are now on sale through the festival website at