This year’s 30A Wine Festival was a blend of beautiful contradictions. The weekend was full of guests like a large family gathering but never crowded, with ample serving tables filled with unique and rare beverage labels and a variety of culinary offerings. Craft beers and high-quality bourbons contrasted with fine wines to suit diverse tastes. And while people came from all over the region, the event planners took care to make sure it perfectly suited the homeowners of Alys Beach—making it their festival to share, fully a reflection of the peaceful flow of life and artful aesthetic here.
Alexis Miller, director of events at Alys Beach, says number of attendees is intentionally capped to make sure the festival—which celebrated its seventh anniversary this year—doesn’t outgrow its mystique. “We want it to be a scene geared toward our homeowners, so they can enjoy it as well,” she says.
The ambience throughout was enhanced by the tireless efforts of the event team, with seamless but significant touches of elegance everywhere: outdoor living rooms where guests could gather, perched on velvet chairs and settees; the scents of beautiful flower arrangements in abundance; elegantly set tables with artfully presented dishes—from wood-fire-roasted Gulf shrimp to chicken liver mousse and tuna poke on rice crackers—and strings of white lights everywhere.
Meanwhile, the bar is raised a bit higher each year with the quality of the music, wine, and food offerings. Along with intimate, candlelit wine dinners and seminars earlier in the week, three major, distinct events framed the weekend. Friday evening hit a more casual note with Bourbon, Beer & Butts—bourbon and beer tastings from distilleries and breweries from around the country, barbecue from some of the finest pitmasters around, and live music by Marc Broussard out on the lawn.
Saturday was the Grand Tasting, held along South Charles Street with wines from around the globe, all served in glasses etched with artwork specially designed for the event. David Everett, vice president and general manager of Alys Beach, says the Grand Tasting was a spectacular confluence of fine wines and all the ambience that Alys has to offer. “In a setting like that, when it brings in the unique architecture of Alys Beach, along with the views of the Gulf of Mexico and then the quality of vendors who are very much in line with the rest of the setting…it’s like a sophisticated, elegant variation on Mardi Gras,” he says.
This year’s festival featured 28 tables of wines, with 24 representatives from the wineries on site. “Once we secure a winemaker for the 30A Wine Festival,” says Christine Tarpey, beverage director for Alys Beach, “we see an interest in attending future festivals almost instantly. It almost becomes a mini vacation for them.”
As a final flourish on Sunday, the event concluded with Rosé & Croquet, a relaxing afternoon on the lawn combined with a healthy dose of competition among the teams. “Our homeowners get into the spirit,” Miller says. “They come out and practice ahead of time, everyone wears all white, and we had some homeowners this year who created their own sweaters or t-shirts with their names on them. That’s probably my favorite day, because everybody’s just relaxed and ready to enjoy their rosé and play croquet.”
Meanwhile, the event raises money for the Children’s Volunteer Health Network (CVHN), a 501(c)3 organization which serves to facilitate the delivery of medical, dental, and mental health services to school children in the region whose family can’t afford it. This year, $50,000 was donated to further CVHN’s efforts. “This is another reason the wineries as well as the guests love to be involved with the event—it’s such a great cause,” Tarpey says.
“The world of wine and the town of Alys Beach coincide so beautifully at an event like this,” Tarpey adds. “It’s a true gem in the world of festivals.”