Acclaimed wine experts convened, Feb. 15, to taste and judge wine submissions. They determined the medal-winning wines for the 2019 South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival, which will come to Grand Boulevard in Sandestin April 25-28.

The Tasting of Champions included judges ranking more than 450 wines into 63 categories. The wines were evaluated based on attributes including color, bouquet and taste. Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded in each category.

“I’ve judged many wine competitions and this was spot-on the most efficient and friendly competition,” said Gregg Perkins of wine import company Broadbent Selections, who served as one of the judges. “I also appreciated that everything was not mass-produced and no votes were premeditated. There was credibility. For example, they knew my wines and cut me out of judging those categories.

“In the 'best of' judging, there was a lot of discussion. The top two reds were strong contenders and we argued in and out of the merits of each. I’ve known a lot of these people for a long time and respect their opinions. When Gary and I voted for the same top brut champagne, it was validating,” Perkins said, referring to fellow judge Gary Serafin, award-winning restaurateur, chef and wine connoisseur.

The judges’ panel was made up of vintners, educators, collectors, restaurant owners and wine-related media. The blind tasting concluded with gold, silver and bronze medals awarded in each category. Once medals were awarded, a “grand showdown” of the most favored gold medal winners were named “Best of Show” wines in four categories.

“The quality of the judges has increased every year and this year was the best by far,” said Todd Vucovich, Tasting of Champions head judge and tasting coordinator, who was also a previous executive director of Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. “These judges are wine professionals with significant experience and certifications in the industry and it shows in their selections.”

The Best in Show medalists included:

Best in Show White: Talley Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2016 from Arroyo Grande Valley

Best in Show Rose: Chateau Ste Michelle CV Rose 2017 from Columbia Valley

Best in Show Red: Il Poggione Rosso 2016 from Tuscany

Best in Show Sparkling: Louis Roederer Brut Prem NV from Reims

“With 60-plus categories from all over the world, the strength of the festival’s wine submissions is not just the quality but the diversity,” Vucovich said. “At the festival, attendees can taste the medal winners as well as dozens of diverse varietals. In terms of quality for the price, you can’t miss with red wines from Cotes Du Rhone in France — for sparkling wines try the prosecco from Italy, for white wines try Albariños from Spain and for rose wines try roses from Southern France.”

Proceeds from the festival supported Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, benefiting children’s charities in Northwest Florida. Festival founding partners include 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.

Tickets for the South Walton Beaches Wine Food Festival events, including Friday Craft Beer & Spirits Jam and Saturday and Sunday Grand Tastings are on sale now. Visit to learn more.