By ANDY MEINEN
DESTIN — The Emerald Coast’s biggest charity is only two years old but has already raised more than $1 million for children’s organizations.
The Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation started in 2006 and has quickly grown into Northwest Florida’s premier charitable wine event, said foundation Executive Director Todd Vucovich.
“When given the opportunity to raise money for kids, it’s amazing what people will do,” he said.
The foundation is throwing a winetasting tonight at Sandestin to get the word out about this year’s auction in the spring.
Tickets are $60 per person. The tasting will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Magnolia Ballroom at Sandestin, Vucovich said. He said that space is limited to about 150 people.
Gourmet food will be served while guests preview the 600 wines for this year’s Sandestin Wine Festival, which is a separate event sponsored by Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, Vucovich said.
The charity is an outgrowth of the Sandestin Wine Festival, which has been going on for about 20 years, Vucovich said. Sandestin and Chan Cox, owner of Chan’s Wine World, decided that the Emerald Coast could use a charity wine auction to go along with the popular festival, he noted.
The foundation’s events mirror Sandestin’s festival in April.
On April 11, couples can pay $2,500 for the Patron Package, which includes dinner prepared by a nationallyrecognized chef and wine served by a well-known vintner in one of the Emerald Coast’s finest homes, Vucovich said.
The 15 dinners are usually attended by 12 to 40 people, he said. The auction takes center stage April 12 with a silent auction, followed by a live auction, Vucovich said.
The charity has grown rapidly. The foundation’s first auction in 2006 brought in about $250,000. It grew to more than $800,000 last year, and the foundation is aiming for a cool $1 million this year, Vucovich said.
Charities that will benefit this year are Children in Crisis Inc., Ronald McDonald House of Northwest Florida, Lighthouse Family Retreat and the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, Vucovich said.
He credits his foundation’s trustees and board of directors with spreading the word and using their connections to pull together the elite charity. This year’s event will bring winemakers and chefs from around world to Sandestin.
“It’s the who’s who of the wine world,” Vucovich said. In addition to some top wine makers in the United States, two vintners are coming from France and one is flying in from Australia, he said.
Daily News Staff Writer Andy Meinen can be reached at 654-6905.