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South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival Welcomes Wine Superstar Cristina Mariani-May Of Banfi Vintners

Wine superstar Cristina Mariani-May will join a dazzling roster of celebrity winemakers, chefs and entertainers, who will wine, dine and entertain as part of the four-day celebration of wine at the 2016 South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival. This year’s star-studded event will be held April 28-May 1, 2016 at Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach located within the beach communities of idyllic South Walton in Northwest Florida.

In 1919 the Mariani family acquired 7,000 virgin acres in Southern Tuscany around Montalcino, Tuscany. That was the inception of Castello Banfi. They experimented with a number of grapes, including some noble French grapes, but they focused on the zone’s native Sangiovese for Brunello. Today, Castello Banfi wine estate has become known around the world for the renaissance of Brunello Montalcino, the company’s “most noble and aristocratic wine.” It is also the only winery in the world to receive triple ISO recognition certification for exceptional environmental, ethical and social responsibility, something this third generation winemaker is especially proud of.

After earning her MBA at Columbia University, Mariani-May returned to the wine world and today, she is the family proprietor of Castello Banfi vineyard estate in Montalcino, Tuscany, and co-CEO of Banfi Vintners, a leading U.S. importer of fine wines with over 30 labels. Castello Banfi wines are currently sold in 85 countries. Of Italy’s 45 nationally approved clones for Sangiovese, six are from Castello Banfi. “One of our strengths is that we represent a range of beautiful wines from several price points,” says Marini-May. “Not only are our wines affordable, but you can find them, because they are readily available.”

When not traveling to wine venues across Europe, Asia and North America to promote the wines of Castello Banfi, she divides her time between the Tuscan estate’s medieval castle and Banfi Vintner’s corporate headquarters in her native Long Island, New York. “I consider myself a gypsy and that’s the way I was raised,” she says.

In April, the effervescent 45-year-old wine maven will travel with her family to the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast and appear at the South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival to talk about her family’s collection of wines and her passion for the world of wine. “I love that wine can take you away,” Mariani-May says. “When you open a bottle, you open a journey to the terroir of the grape. It’s really magical.” And so is Mariani-May’s acumen as a businesswoman. Under her watchful eye over the past 23 years, the family business has grown, evolved and elevated in stature. “You want to be No. 1 in your category,” Mariani-May says. “That takes a lot of resources, energy and focus. And the way you can compete in that is to not spread yourself too thin. Choose one channel and do it the best you can, which is what we’ve decided to do.”

In addition to two days of tastings and seminars, wine lovers will be treated to live entertainment and special features such as Champagne Lane, featuring floating bubbles and dozens of Champagnes and sparkling wines.

One of the weekend’s highlights is the annual Destin Charity Wine Auction to be held on Saturday afternoon, which invites auction attendees to bid on luxury travel packages, collectable wines and other fine living lots. Proceeds from the auction and festival go to support more than a dozen children’s charities in Northwest Florida.

Mariani-May hopes wine lovers turn out for the festival ready for an adventure. “Come expand your world by connecting with some new people and exploring some great wines,” she says. Including Castello Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino 2010 which was named People’s Choice winner at the 2016 Tasting of Champions event produced by the Destin Charity Wine Action Foundation, the recipient of proceeds from South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival.

About South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival
2016 Schedule (All festival events take place in Grand Boulevard’s Town Center unless otherwise noted.)

THURSDAY, APRIL 28
VIP Meet and Greet with Winemakers and Industry Night
4 PM – 8 PM | Beachfront, Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
By invitation only, this insider’s reception and dinner is hosted by wine and festival founder, Chan Cox. A casual occasion, guests are treated to an authentic South Walton menu, complete with freshly shucked oysters, delicious wines and craft beer. Enjoy live entertainment as the sun sets into the mesmerizing Gulf of Mexico.

FRIDAY, APRIL 29
Winemakers and Shakers
4 PM – 6 PM | Wine World in Destin
Join us as we host honored winemakers and shakers from some of the top wineries in the world and taste great wines.

Craft Beer and Spirits Jam
6 PM – 9 PM | Town Center and Grand Park
Taste and enjoy specialty craft beers and spirits from the hottest breweries and distilleries in the country. Meet the people who make these lively libations. Nosh on great food on EATS Street. Live music by local favorite, The Owsley Brothers.

SATURDAY, APRIL 30
VIP Wine Tasting
11 AM – 1 PM | Grand Park
For the ultimate wine experience, the VIP Wine Tasting has top wine celebrities presenting and pouring rare and collectable wines. Food tastings from fabulous Grand Boulevard and South Walton restaurants. Receive your own commemorative Riedel glass round out this exclusive tasting. Express entry to Saturday’s Grand Tasting is included in ticket price.

Destin Charity Wine Auction Reserve Tasting
1 PM – 3 PM | Auction Central
This kick-off to the annual wine auction allows guests to enjoy fantastic reserve wines while perusing the silent auction items, including fabulous vacation trips and collectable wines. Part of the Destin Charity Wine Auction.

Grand Tasting
1 PM – 5 PM
Town Center and Culinary Village
It’s all about the wine! It truly is all about the quality, diversity and scope of wines being offered and the skills and relevance of the people bringing them to you. Over 800 wines will be available at the Grand Tasting, Savor South Walton Culinary Village, tasting seminars, Champagne Lane, Spirits Row, chef demos and live entertainment.

Champagne Lane
1 PM – 5 PM | Town Center
Special guests and wine celebrities will walk you through Champagne Lane, featuring the finest Champagnes and sparkling wines. This festive addition greets festival attendees as you walk into the event. Taste delicious Champagnes and sparkling wines, sign up for giveaways and, of course, delight in the bubbles, literally!

Tasting Seminars
1 PM – 5 PM | Savor South Walton Culinary Village in North Park
Tasting Seminars take place throughout the Grand Tastings in Savor South Walton Culinary Village. Learn the back stories while you taste new and exciting wines and libations during one of the entertaining tasting seminars taking place on Saturday. Learn how to select and pair wines with food. Sample fine and rare wines and spirits.

Destin Charity Wine Auction
3 PM | Auction Central
This unparalleled charity event raises money for children in need in Northwest Florida and was named a “Top 10 Charity Wine Auction” by Wine Spectator magazine. For more information about Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation’s amazing mission and this event, please visit website: www.DCWAF.org. Separate ticketed event.

Nashville Songwriters Showcase
Throughout the Day | Town Center
During the Grand Wine Tasting, the top songwriters from Nashville will perform their hit songs as part of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s (FRLA) Endless Summer Songwriters Series. This event is sponsored by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, in conjunction with BMI.

SUNDAY, MAY 1
Grand Tasting
1 PM – 5 PM | Town Center and Culinary Village
Sometimes something is so much fun you want to do it all over again. Welcome back to day two of the Grand Tasting. For those of you just joining us, relax and enjoy ambling around Grand Boulevard’s large Town Center as you taste as many of the 800 bottles of wine as you like. Mosey on over to the Savor South Walton Culinary Village and taste delicious food, selected to go with all varietals of wines. Check out the lifestyle stations and listen to the songwriters who came in from Nashville to play just for you.

Champagne Lane
1 PM – 5 PM | Town Center
Special guests and wine celebrities will walk you through Champagne Lane, featuring the finest Champagnes and sparkling wines. This festive addition greets festival attendees as you walk into the event. Taste delicious Champagnes and sparkling wines, sign up for giveaways and, of course, delight in the bubbles, literally!

Tasting Seminars
1 PM – 5 PM | Savor South Walton Culinary Village in North Park
Tasting Seminars take place throughout the Grand Tastings in Savor South Walton Culinary Village. Learn the back stories while you taste new and exciting wines and libations during one of the entertaining tasting seminars taking place on Saturday. Learn how to select and pair wines with food. Sample fine and rare wines and spirits.

Nashville Songwriters Showcase
Throughout the Day | Town Center
During the Grand Wine Tasting, the top songwriters from Nashville will perform their hit songs as part of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s (FRLA) Endless Summer Songwriters Series. This event is sponsored by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, in conjunction with BMI.

Please note that Savor South Walton Culinary Village events, Wine & Food Seminars and Nashville Songwriters performances are all part of the Grand Wine Tasting ticket price.

THIS EVENT TAKES PLACE RAIN OR SHINE.

Service animals ONLY allowed in Culinary Village..

 

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