Seeing Red Wine Festival has grown from an event into a beloved tradition by Micah Davis and Lori Leath Smith
This fall, reds, whites, and rosés will be uncorked during Seeing Red Wine Festival, four days of wine and culinary events being held in Seaside Nov. 9 – 12, 2017. Now in its 27th year and recognized as one of the “Top 10 Can’t Miss Fall Wine Festivals” by Fodor’s Travel, the festival draws attendees from around the world who make the trip a yearly tradition.
In the early days of Seaside when there was not much more on Scenic Highway 30A than a handful of houses, the town’s merchants got together to come up with a new kind of event, one that would bring potential homeowners and customers to their tiny, mostly undiscovered holiday town. Bud & Alley’s owner, Dave Rauschkolb describes their early efforts as very “grass-roots.” Carmel Modica of Modica Market, said that while she felt confident the event would be a hit, everyone was surprised by how successful it was.
Since then, the festival has grown into a signature Seaside event, attracting wine connoisseurs and novices alike. “The Seeing Red Wine Festival has had a proven track record for providing the utmost quality wines within the beautiful landscape of Seaside’s intimacy and charm,” says Kevin Boyle, Seaside events director.
Now there are many wine festivals on 30A and in the surrounding area. But Carmel Modica says the Seeing Red Wine Festival stands apart because it has grown from an event into a beloved tradition. Many people make the pilgrimage year after year to attend, and feel the kind of connection where they truly feel a part of the festival and the town.
Now in its 27th year, Seaside continues its pursuit of providing a unique, one-of-a-kind experience for wine lovers or those who simply want to sip, socialize and stroll while enjoying the comforting throwback to simpler times. “We’re continually looking for ways to elevate the festival experience each year while maintaining the Seaside traditions guests have come to know and love,” says Boyle. “We’ve re-envisioned aspects of this year’s events while maintaining the best of what festival attendees expect. This year’s festival will be reminiscent of its earlier years.”
Guests will enjoy sipping on delicious wines, and tasting unique and delectable food pairings as the festival combines the best of general admission and VIP tickets into one exclusive and unforgettable experience. Wine aficionados and foodies alike will be able to savor carefully selected farm-to-table dishes from Seaside’s famous restaurants while sipping beautifully-paired, quality-curated wines from around the globe, including wines from Kokomo Winery and the SEASIDE Wine Project. “We’ll still have Cabana Man owner, Larry Neville, with his beach umbrellas, live music in the amphitheater, food pairings and, of course, wine tastings,” Boyle says. “But, our own Seaside merchants will hand pick quality, sought-after wines and ticket sales are limited to offer an exclusive Seaside experience.” A portion of this year’s proceeds will benefit the Seaside Neighborhood School and the Seaside Institute.
Rauschkolb believes the importance of tradition cannot be overstated. “Traditions are the glue that holds together communities and that bonding is what gets passed on from generation to generation,” he says.
This year’s festivities include Bud & Alley’s Wine Dinner on Thursday evening, the Gulf Coast-to-Table Dinner on Friday, the Festival Grand Tasting on Saturday, and a Celebration Of Bubbles Brunch on Sunday, all in coveted Seaside style. Each year has been a sell-out event, and this year will be no exception. Tickets are limited, so those wanting to attend should purchase their tickets early.
As part of the shakeup for the festival, renowned Chef Ryan Smith of Atlanta’s Staplehouse Restaurant will be guest chef for Friday evening’s Gulf-Coast-to-Table Dinner under the stars. Smith will join nationally recognized Seaside restaurateur Chef Jim Shirley, Erik Miller, owner and winemaker of Kokomo Wines and The Seaside Wine Project, additional guest vintners and award-winning chocolatier and confectioner Scott Witherow of Olive & Sinclair Chocolates for this exciting, new-to-Seaside event. This dynamic team will feature an elegant evening of locally sourced offerings, personally prepared and selected to complement highlighted wines and chocolates for an exclusive experience.
Ryan Smith is chef/partner at the award-winning Staplehouse restaurant in Atlanta. Originally from State College, Penn., he has called Atlanta home for 15 years. Smith took an interest in cooking while he was in college, working in the kitchens at Penn State University. He went on to attend The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and received his degree in 2000. From there, Smith moved to Atlanta to explore the history and traditions of the Southeast and gain experience working for some of the city’s best chefs.
Chef Smith has worked in some of Atlanta’s most prominent restaurants including Bacchanalia, Canoe, Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch, and Empire State South. Since opening in Sept. 2015, Staplehouse has been named a James Beard finalist for Best New Restaurant, Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant in America, GQ’s Best New Restaurant, and Atlanta Magazine’s No. 1 Restaurant in Atlanta. In addition, Ryan Smith was a 2017 James Beard finalist for Best Chef Southeast. Staplehouse is the for-profit subsidiary of The Giving Kitchen; a 501(c)3 that provides grant assistance to metro-Atlanta restaurant workers experiencing unanticipated hardship.
Kokomo Winery owner and winemaker Erik Miller, named “Sonoma Winemaker to Watch” from Sonoma Magazine, has partnered with Seaside to offer the best-tasting and highest-quality wines as the private label collection for Seaside. The Seeing Red Wine Festival is excited to feature these wines alongside each course of the Gulf Coast-to-Table Dinner. They are also available for purchase at many Seaside merchants including 45 Central Wine Bar, Amavida Coffee & Tea, Bud & Alley’s Restaurant, Pizza Bar and Taco Bar, Great Southern Café, Modica Market, Raw & Juicy, and The Shrimp Shack. Exclusive to Seaside, wine enthusiasts may choose from among their favorite varieties including a sauvignon blanc, a crisp chardonnay, pinot noir, cuvée, a rosé, and a light, red zinfandel.
Miller focuses the production of his single-vineyard wines on the special characteristics and qualities from the natural terrain and the climate of Sonoma County and its distinct appellations to offer flavorful, balanced, handcrafted wines. Named after Erik’s hometown, Kokomo, Ind., the winery is perched on 120 acres of prime Dry Creek Valley known as Timber Crest Farms. This unique and scenic property possesses a rich history in Sonoma County dating back to the mid-1800s. Kokomo believes that small production techniques and relationships with growers allow the winery to create and offer wines that are as individual and unique as the vineyards from which they were born.
Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co. and Seersucker Candy Co.’s confections have been featured for several years at the festival and have quickly become a favorite of Seaside guests. Guests can expect a delicious presentation from Witherow and this team for the Friday night dinner as well as Saturday’s Grand Tasting.
“Though the wine varieties, the people and the offerings vary with each passing year, the Seeing Red Wine Fest’s spirit and its drive to stand apart persists,” says Boyle.