De Toren all over town! Plus taste and learn with two Masters

What a week we have coming up in Central Florida!

First off, winemaker Albie Koch from South Africa’s celebrated De Toren winery will be in town, offering three opportunities to taste his boutique wines:

Wednesday at Swirlery

Thursday at Vintage Vino

Friday at Wine Bar George for a twelve vintage retrospective of the flagship Bordeaux blend, De Toren Fusion V.

But that’s not all!

Tuesday offers opportunities to learn from two of Central Florida’s resident wine masters:

Master Sommelier John Blazon will lead a tasting of Spire Collection wines at Bella Tuscany in Windermere.

Master of Wine Jean K. Reilly kicks off her latest WSET Level 2 certification course at Tim’s Orlando.

On top of all that, there are two Southern Italian tastings next week, as well as a tasting of New York wines led by three prominent women in that state’s growing wine industry, via Facebook Live.

Check out the Events Page for details of these events and other options for next week and beyond.

Get out and taste the wine, Orlando!

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Big Tastings, Blind Tastings, & More

Orlando’s wine purveyors want you to expand your palate over the coming week, with two opportunities to try and compare a vast array of wines.

Tomorrow (Saturday, September 8), Swirlery is celebrating its third anniversary with a grand tasting of more than 30 wines. Light bites are included.

Next Saturday, September 15, Luisa’s Cellar in Sanford is celebrating harvest with a patio tasting, also featuring more than 30 wines.

Also coming up …

A blind tasting tomorrow with Master Sommelier George Miliotes at his eponymous Disney Springs wine bar;

A dinner with the winemaker from Silkwood Wines in California’s Central Valley on Wednesday at The Vineyard;

And a tasting of Spanish coastal wines at Luisa’s Cellar on Thursday.

Details are on the Events Page, where you’ll also find barrels of new entries for the rest of the month and into October.

Cheers to Almost Fall, Orlando!

The Inquisitor Wine Company: How two Orlando friends turned a “pipe dream” into a local importer of private label South African wines

On June 18, 2016, a small group of sommeliers from some of Orlando’s swankiest dining spots sat down for an invitation-only blind tasting. Hosts Laura Fletcher, then 29, and Christie Briscoe, then 23, were good friends and colleagues at Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton, where they worked in sales and marketing. But this event was about something completely different.

They poured tastes from a few well known, high end bottles alongside samples from a largely unknown South African winemaker, Christian Kuun. His wines got good reviews, sometimes beating out the big names.

“In that moment, I was like, ok it can happen,” said Christie, whose last name is now McLeod.

“We looked at each other,” Fletcher recalls, and thought, “let’s do this.”

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Fall into Wine

Looking at the calendar – not to mention the thermometer – you’ll know it’s not really fall in Central Florida yet. But Labor Day does mark the unofficial end of summer, and what better way to celebrate than with wine? Our local wine purveyors are happy to oblige, with a selection of tastings and events next week. A few highlights:

Tuesday, Tim’s Avalon Park hosts a class and tasting focusing on Rhone wines.

Wednesday, hit the books at Tim’s Orlando with the popular “Educated Consumer” class, which helped launch my journey into wine geekery a few years ago.

Thursday, compare Old and New World wines at an educational tasting at Luisa’s Cellar.

Friday, taste an array of wines from Italy’s Marche region at Tim’s Orlando with the export manager from Garofoli Wines.

Saturday, celebrate Swirlery’s third anniversary with a grand tasting.

Find details of all these events and more at the Events Page. Cheers to a great Labor Day weekend, Orlando!

Five Great Places to Wine in Miami

Sure, Miami is clogged with traffic and teeming with impossibly thin, tanned, trendily dressed people posing for selfies at an alarming clip. But it also has an expanding array of eclectic neighborhoods, a bunch of great restaurants, and a wine scene that’s getting more nuanced and exciting.

Not that long ago, it was hard to find anything to drink here besides overpriced cocktails and “prestige” wines – plenty of Veuve Clicquot, for example, but grower Champagne? Not so much.

Veuve is still ubiquitous, but if you know where to look, you can also find lots more interesting stuff. On visits over the past two years, I’ve had orange wine and natural wine, wine from Utah and wine from Japan, a nice bottle of Chablis in a gas station, and yes, even grower Champagne.

Where do you go for the good stuff? The best plan is to ask the locals. In my experience, Miami oenophiles are usually excited to find a kindred spirit, and I get new recommendations each time I visit. I’ve now collected enough great wine spots that I’ve put together this list of favorites for my fellow wine treasure hunters.

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Wine, Wine Everywhere!

Central Florida continues its slow sip through summer, with a diverse array of wine events in the coming week. A few highlights:

  • Vintage Vino continues its “Road to Ultimate Wine Knowledge” series tomorrow (Saturday) with a class focusing on French wines.
  • Tim’s Windermere repeats its popular Wagner Family tasting on Sunday, with barbecue to soak up the high ABV.
  • DoveCote hosts a four-course dinner paired with Halter Ranch wines on Wednesday – it’s a seriously good value.
  • Also on Wednesday, sample some of Austria’s great producers at Swirlery (maybe clone yourself and go to both?!)
  • Give your wallet a break and sip on budget bubbles at a free tasting Thursday at Tim’s Lake Mary … because all that bubbles doesn’t have to be Champagne!

Get all the details on the Events Page … and while you’re there, start populating your September wine calendar. Plenty of events are already in the works for the first month of “Autumn” in Central Florida. Cheers!

Franciacorta Consortium chooses Orlando for first Florida masterclass

Franciacorta is a baby, as Italian wine regions go. It wasn’t officially recognized until the 1960s, and its DOCG status was granted just over two decades ago.

But sparkling wine from this region near Milan is starting to turn heads, and its producers are getting more savvy in their efforts to raise its profile around the world.

Franciacorta Rashmi
Rashmi Primlani, Franciacorta’s new brand ambassador

Earlier this year, the Franciacorta Consortium hired Orlando sommelier Rashmi Primlani as a brand ambassador. Last week, she hosted a small group of local journalists and wine professionals at Orlando Chef Kevin Fonzo‘s “La Tavola” in College Park for the Consortium’s first Florida masterclass.

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