Interview with Panama City Beach Winery Owners Karen and Chuck Wolf
What is the number 2 ranked “Thing To Do in Panama City Beach” according to TripAdvisor? If you said to go to the Panama City Beach Winery then you would be correct. The 30A Prime team recently had the great pleasure of speaking with new owners Karen and Chuck Wolf about their extremely popular and highly unique winery. After the interview, Chuck treated us to a complimentary wine tasting and after that, I understood why Panama City Beach Winery is ranked so high and has so many incredible 5-Start TripAdvisor reviews.
Question and Answers from our conversation with Panama City Beach Winery owners
30A Prime: Karen and Chuck, thanks for taking time to speak with us today. How long has the Panama City Beach Winery been around for?
Karen: This location has been here for 14 years and Chuck and I are the second owners.
30A Prime: What makes Panama City Beach Winery unique?
Chuck: We are the only registered citrus winery in the United States. We specialize in citrus, berry and fruit wines. What makes our wines different than most is that most fruit wines are made with grapes. Typically, fruit wines made from grapes just have added sugar and flavor to the finish and we do not do that here at Panama City Beach Winery. What’s on our bottle is whats in our bottle. Our Blackberry wine has 4 lbs of blackberry in every bottle. Our Blueberry wine has 3 pints of blueberry and our Cranberry wine has 10 lbs of crushed cranberry.
30A Prime: So just to be clear, PCB Winery is not a traditional grape winery correct?
Karen: That is correct… We are not a grape winery. There are many benefits to being a non-traditional winery. For example, many folks may not like grape wines. They don’t like some of the tastes they may get from the tannins that are in the grapes and that’s where Panama City Beach Winery is so different. Our wines are made of fruits, berries, different citrus products so you don’t get the tannins in those that you’d customarily get in a grape wine. So, for many folks, our wines are a very pleasant alternative experience.
Chuck: Also, I just want to add onto that… Our flavor characteristics go out beyond what a grape wine can. For example, we have a Cranberry wine which goes along perfect with your Thanksgiving dinner. So the point is, many of our wines will tie into all types of foods better than a grape wine will.
30A Prime: Please tell us about some of the accolades Panama City Beach Winery has received.
Chuck: If you notice the back wall you’ll see that we have 331 total award medals. We’re the only Florida winery that’s ever been invited to Epcot International Food & Wine Festival which is the largest in the world. We’ve been to the Epcot Festival 16 years in a row. Of the 16 years we’ve been there we’ve had the number one selling wine for 3 of those years. In 2013 Key Lime was the number one seller. In 2008 and 2009 Mango was the number one seller at the Epcot Wine Festival. So between the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and Vintage Indiana Wine Festival, we have 331 metals. However, we don’t really go there for the metals, we go there to hear peoples’ feedback regarding what they like, what they want and what they enjoy most. And so that’s the main reason why we go to the wine festivals.
What’s interesting is that when we first started making the wines Panama City Beach Winery was not allowed at Epcot Food and Wine Festival because they only allowed grape wineries. That’s why Indiana started their Food and Wine Festival… Many of the wineries in the state of Indiana made fruit based citrus wines like us and they were not allowed to go to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival either so they decided to start their own. Fast forward to present day 2018 and Vintage Indiana Food and Wine Festival is now the second largest in the world.
30A Prime: Tell us about some of your current best-selling fruit wines.
Karen: Some of our best-selling fruit wines are… Sangria Hurricane Class 5 is our number one white wine and it is made up of pineapple, passion fruit, key lime, mango, and watermelon. Our Sangria is a very complex white wine but it’s absolutely delicious. Other top-selling white wines we have include Key Lime, Kiwi, Peach, Mango, and Guava. In regards to our red wines, we have drys and semi-sweet with Blackberry, Blueberry, Cranberry and they are all delicious.
Chuck: Larry (previous owner of PCB Winery) had a gentleman from California come into the store some years ago. He walked over and looked at the wines and he turned around and started to walk out the door and Larry asked him where he was going. The gentleman from CA said he was in the wrong place. He said… These are sweet, syrupy dessert wines. Larry responded with… Well, how do you know that if you haven’t tried them? So Larry asked the man to come up to the tasting bar. The man and his wife tasted the wines and when they finished he said… Well, I’m from California. Do you ship to California? Larry said… Well, I didn’t think you like sweet, syrupy dessert wines? The California man said… Well, I don’t. These fruit wines are not sweet, syrupy wines they are delicious.
We still have the receipt in the back of the store to this day. Larry shipped $1278 worth of Panama City Beach Winery wines to the man in California.
30A Prime: What differentiates your fruit wines from other types out there?
Karen: I think one of the big things you’ll notice here with our fruit wines is that they are made with the fruit that’s on the label of the bottle. Where customarily some fruit wines aren’t necessarily desired by people because they’re overly sweet, they might be a grape wine that’s flavored with blueberry or a grape wine that’s flavored with blackberry… Our wines are made with the fruit that’s on the label. We do not put any sugar in the finish so that what you’re tasting is actually the fruit.
Fruit wines typically have a very bad stereotype for those that like the drier wines or semi-sweet. That is because so many of the fruit wines out there are low alcohol and made with lots of flavors and lots of sugar and they are offensively sweet. Our wines are premium table wines and whats on the label is what’s in the bottle. We do not add sugars and our wines are not offensively sweet. We do have a great variety of naturally dry, sweet and semi-sweet so PCB Winery can still appeal to everybody but we’re not going to be a winery that has unnaturally flavored wines with lots of added sugar.
The other important thing is that we are classed as Premium Table Wines. In order to be classed as premium table wines, the alcohol volume must be 10% or greater. So these really are very nice premium table wines at Panama City Beach Winery.
30A Prime: Panama City Beach Winery is ranked as the number 2 Thing to Do in Panama City Beach. That’s super impressive…
Chuck: We pressure no one to buy our wines and give complementary tastings to everyone and hope they enjoy it. Probably 99.9% of the time people leave Panama City Beach Winery with a bottle of wine. If you go out and look at us on TripAdvisor we’re the number 2 “Thing to Do in Panama City Beach“. The actually sandy beach is ranked number 1 but it’s been here for over 2000 years. Panama City Beach Winery has a 5-Star Rating on TripAdvisor and the biggest thing said about us is… “Be careful when you go in as you’ll leave with more than you came for”.
Karen: Yes for sure… we don’t mind being ranked number 2 on TripAdvisor for “Things To Do in Panama City Beach” at all:)
30A Prime: I love to cook and often incorporate traditional grape wines in my dishes. Are the fruit wines here at PCB Winery used for cooking as well?
Karen: Yes, you can cook with many of our wines. We have one special wine called “Hot Sun” and it’s actually made from tomatoes and jalapeno. Hot Sun is great with chili, spicy foods and oyster shooters. It’s just a really fun wine and we also have a Pineapple wine that you can use if you’re going to be cooking a ham… Simply inject the ham with the Pineapple wine and that really makes the ham tender and enhances the glaze flavor.
Chuck: We also have a Coffee wine called “Orange Coffee” and it’s made to complement your dessert, not be your dessert. It starts off orange citrus on the front end and finishes french vanilla coffee on the finish. Our Chocolate wine starts off orange citrus on the front and it finishes dark chocolate on the finish.
Karen: Both the Orange Coffee and Chocolate wines are delicious. A Pound cake or a Cheesecake pair wonderfully with both. All of our white wines are going to pair really well with seafood especially our Kiwi. King Kiwi is a really well-balanced wine and it is very versatile. Most other wineries are going to produce either a sweet wine per bottle or a dry wine per bottle. Our Kiwi wine appeals to both palate types… The sweet and the dry. It starts off sweet but not offensively sweet and it drys up, but not offensively dry. It has a little bit of a Granny Smith Apple finish to it which is delicious.
30A Prime: How can people purchase your fruit wines?
Chuck: You can buy them by the bottle. You can buy them by the case. We have a consumption on property certification meaning you can have glasses of our wines here at the store. In addition, we have 8 flavors of wine slushies and we’ll soon have a Tiki Bar built in front where people can sit and enjoy themselves.
30A Prime: In addition to wine, what else can people purchase here at Panama City Beach Winery?
Karen: We have many gifts that go with our wines. For example our cork holders… Our little weenie dog here is one of our unique cork holders for people that go to any sort of special wine events and collect corks. Some of the other things we sell here at PCB Winery include slushy mixes, wine glasses, artwork, wine totes, wine purses, napkins, cards and lots of other gift ideas. Panama City Beach Winery is a great place to find gifts for any occasion.
30A Prime: Is there a charge for your wine tastings or are they complementary?
Karen: Our wine tastings are complimentary. We do not charge for our wine tastings.
Chuck: We host wine tastings Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 5 pm. Friday and Saturday our wine tastings are from 10 am to 5:30 pm and on Sunday they are from 12 pm to 5 pm. Panama City Beach Winery is open 7 days a week throughout the year. We only close on major holidays.
Karen: Please come and see us at the Panama City Beach Winery. We are located at 8730 Thomas Drive, so come see us next time you’re at the beach.