Let’s be clear, I like to drive but I don’t go out of my way to do it. I am a lousy rider, not a back seat driver but would rather have the wheel and the pedals at my beck and call. In all of our trips to all the compass points in America and many in Europe, my wife has never driven. Not a mile that I can remember.

Once when I was ill, in order to impress on her the gravity of my condition, I told her she could drive me to the Emergency Room – scared the bejesus out of her.

So when we are in a car together, there is no question whom will hold the reins. I must tell you that after a wonderful trip to Dublin, Ireland, on our way flying back to London for a wine and spirits show, she thanked me for being such a gentleman and opening her car door at every stop. Truth of the matter, she was aware of the correct side of the car to enter in a UK-influenced country and I was a sad creature of American habit. I really thought I was getting in on the driver’s side and only came to the realization of my error when I opened the “driver’s” door and caught no glimpse of a steering wheel nor pedals on the floor.

I thought I was pretty cool about it, but it was a situation I never got straight. I had no problems on the road with stick shift at the left-hand and right-hand driving. I just could not enter the vehicle through the correct door after a couple of pints at local taverns.

Be that as it may, I like driving I-10 to Destin. Yes, it is a fine destination, and that helps, but particularly at this time of year, I love going to Destin. The beach? Yes, but I am not a big beach person. The sunsets? They are beautiful, particularly with a planter’s punch in hand. The food? Good. Not as good as ours, however, but no one’s is.

What I love about Destin at this time of year – April – is that there are two wine festivals and they are only a week apart. Two terrific festivals. Count your blessings. Only 4 hours away down the wide concrete ribbon that is I-10 and you have great pleasures at the beach. Yes, we always have had great pleasures at the beach but then we were in college, bit different.

Wine Festivals are very cool events. You are surrounded by adult beverages, and then, for the most part, you are surrounded by adults. At each of the Destin events, there are, quite literally, hundreds of wines. No exaggeration, there are hundreds. And there are professionals pouring the wines who are only too happy to tell you stories about the wine and to answer your questions about wines or spirits in general. The casual festival-pace lends itself to give-and-take conversations.

 

The Sandestin Wine Festival

April 16-19

www.sandestinwinefestival.com

Celebrating its 29th year, this event is staged throughout the Village of Baytown Wharf on the Bay side of the expansive Sandestin development. You are going to feel very much at home here as the entire project, which winds around a lagoon, is patterned after New Orleans. Rum Runners, a happening bar, has dueling pianos, and just across the walking path is an Acme Oyster House location.

Wine festival events include several Grand Tastings, Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, plus wine dinners in area restaurants and a Champagne and Seafood Cruise aboard a luxurious yacht on Choctawhatchee Bay. Choctawhatchee (Chok-taw Hatchey) is the Destin equivalent of Tchoupitoulas.

Also there is a "Yoga at the Beach" exercise time for those who wish to purge their minds of the pressures that come from the challenge of consuming all that wine in a limited period of time. Along those lines, I must confess that with all the wine and spirit events I do in the course of a year (all done in the interest of research so I can report to you. And if you buy that….), the Friday evening Grand Tasting at the Sandestin Wine Festival is one of my favorites.

As the sun is setting the lights of the Village are starting to have traction moving into evening, with all the wine tents lined up, and the cool Gulf breezes, everything is absolutely amazing and working in tandem.

 

South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival

April 23-26

www.sowalwine.com

Two major wine festivals on two successive weekends at the most beautiful beaches anywhere and it’s all close to home. Pinch me.

The South Walton Festival is staged at the tony Grand Boulevard area adjacent to Sandestin. Shops and restaurants are located in a small-town setting with the streets just begging you to stroll and window shop, or stop in and purchase that perfect item for resort living. After all, you are at a wine festival at the beach. You are truly blessed.

The Festival includes a contingent of up and coming, as well as well established, song writers and stylists from Nashville, each providing new insights and new tunes into life and their craft. At least that’s what I take away from the experience. Or maybe it’s just the wine talking. Either way, I’m good with the entertainment.

Several Grand Tastings are staged, Saturday and Sunday, as well as seminars, craft beer tastings, a stroll down Champagne Lane, a VIP event and a truly kick-ass auction of wine and high-end dining and travel experiences. If you have an interest, and you should, move quickly. These things sell out and then you are on the outside looking in.

The absolutely, amazing, inescapable fact is that little Destin, Florida, still known as the Luckiest Fishing Village in the World, is hosting two wine festivals on two successive weekends. And they are both happening starting next weekend. Further good news is that they are close to us.

It does not get much better. Oh, I guess it could but then we’re pushing it.

 

-30-