By Liesel Schmidt
One might not take a drive to the beaches of the Destin area with the expectation of stumbling over grape vines…but that’s the very unexpected sort of treasure that Emerald Coast Wine Cellars unearths, showcasing a wide selection of locally made wines from their the grape-laden vineyard just a hop, skip, and a jump away in DeFuniak Springs.
Since opening in 2001, Emerald Coast Wine Cellars has been stocking its storeroom in Miramar Beach with 16 different types of wine produced at ChautauquaVineyards and Winery, where two varieties of Muscadine grapes grow in abundance and await the gentle hands of vineyard workers to collect them at harvest time.
Possessing more than 50 acres of fertile ground where Carlos and Noble grapes have been improved and propagated from Muscadines that grow wild throughout the southeast, Chautauqua Vineyard’s first productions rolled out in 1989 to prove that the Pacific Northwest doesn’t hold a monopoly on making robust wines. Ask any knowledgeable oenophile, and they’ll readily admit that these vintages have legs to stand on—not to mention a finish that’s truly divine.
The 16 wines on feature at Chautauqua Vineyards and Winery are joined by one seasonal sip, and Emerald Coast Wine Cellars is the proud sister store where visitors to the Destin area can get sample fruity bliss in red or white by the glass or by the bottle. The boutique-like shop offers free daily tastings, and they’ve become known all across the country for the quality and flavors of their beautifully made wines. Among the most popular are the Noble, a full-bodied, semi-sweet red Muscadine wine and the Beach Berry, a slightly peachy, citrusy white made with Carlos Muscadine grapes and infusions of orange and peach.
Owners Paul and Kate Owens have been passionate about their vines since planting their very first cuttings on 1979, cultivating their own love of wine to successfully grow their business and create a label recognized for its superiority. Growing their brand and expanding out to the beach, they’ve built a place where their mighty Muscadine is showcased in full glory, from bottles in their wine room to their gourmet food selection, custom made gift baskets, boutique clothing, and wine accessories.
“Our harvest begins in late August and lasts into September; and because of the heat, the grapes are picked in the cool morning hours before they’re delivered to the winery for crushing, usually within a couple hours after picking to maximize freshness,” explains Paul. “Cool-picking and rapid processing is essential to capturing the quality and flavor of our exceptional grapes, and the quality of a wine hinges on the way that a vineyard is able to execute the steps of that journey from vine to bottle.”
From chardonnay to port and everywhere in between, those bottles are yours for the asking at Emerald Coast Wine Cellars, where they’ve got a real crush on vino that spills out in everything they do.
Emerald Coast Wine Cellars is located at 1708 Scenic Gulf Drive, Suite C, Miramar Beach, Florida 32550. Open daily from 10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. For more information or to learn more about tours at Chautauqua Vineyards and Winery, call (850) 837-9500 or visit www.emeraldcoastwinecellars.com.
Emerald Coast Winery Sangria
1 bottle Sangria
1/2 cup brandy
1 orange, lemon and lime (thinly sliced)
12 cherries (remove seed and chop)
Mix all together and let rest overnight.
Serve chilled with fruit garnish.