I’ll admit I’ve always felt a twinge of sticker shock at the prices for the events and tastings at Wine Bar George. I know, I know, it’s at Disney Springs, and it’s helmed by a Master Sommelier. But still, it’s tough to part with $70-100+ for a tasting (plus a hefty Lyft fare), when standard tastings at most local wine establishments cost half that amount.
Earlier this month, however, Master Somm George Miliotes and his team invited me to attend an event as their guest, and I can tell you, this was no standard tasting.
Cristom Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills region of Oregon’s Willamette Valley is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The festivities include a road show featuring an exclusive tasting with owner and winegrower Tom Gerrie comparing multiple vintages of the winery’s single vineyard pinot noirs.
When I say “multiple,” I mean we sampled nine pinot noirs from four single vineyards and six vintages.
When I say “exclusive,” I mean Cristom is presenting this tasting in only six cities around the country, including New York and San Francisco. Orlando was the only city in Florida to make the list.
Cristom’s Vice President for International Sales Randy Ford says that’s largely thanks to the presence of George Miliotes.
“The understanding that George has for our wines and the Eola-Amity Hills, as well as his respect as one of the great Master Sommeliers in the US” gave Orlando the edge, he said.
Details make the difference
A main goal of the tasting, said Cristom’s owner Gerrie, was to show how “the tiniest little details make the difference” in his wine. In other words, to showcase terroir.
The tasting highlighted the vast diversity that’s possible when the place and the vintage are allowed to shine. That’s true even among wines made from the same grape, grown in the same tiny area, using practically identical winemaking methods.
There was the 2009 Marjorie Vineyard pinot noir with its notes of bacon and black olive; the 2010 Louise Vineyard with bacon and cinnamon on the nose and roses and violets on the palate; the smokey 2011 Jessie Vineyard with floral and cranberry flavors; and the dark, grippy 2012 Eileen Vineyard with notes of dark berries, roses, and cinnamon.
The second flight featured the same four vineyards, all from the cool and rainy 2007 vintage. That year, Eileen and Marjorie Vineyards offered up tomato notes. Jessie kept its floral character, and Louise was the deeper, darker wine of the bunch.
The tasting ended with the spectacular 1999 Louise Vineyard pinot noir. That year is considered one of the best vintages in the region, and the wine was lovely. Its most surprising element was a distinctive note of Earl Grey tea!
Where to find Cristom
These wines are elegant, beautiful, and an excellent representation of the best Willamette Valley has to offer. Given the time of year, I’d be remiss not to mention that they’d be lovely additions to a holiday meal too.
On Wine Bar George’s current list, Cristom’s 2015 Jessie Vineyard goes for $152 a bottle or $38 a glass. As with all the wines here, it’s also available by the ounce.
To experience older vintages, consider a field trip to Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa. Wine Director Eric Renaud sat next to me at the tasting; Cristom’s Randy Ford tells me he subsequently decided to bring on 34 Cristom pinot noirs spanning eleven vintages.
Getting back to the value-for-money question, there’s no doubt this tasting experience – including the unique wines and the insights from Gerrie and Miliotes – was worth the $75 ticket price. Especially when you factor in that inevitable Disney markup.