Magic Hosts First Orlando Wine Festival; Lots of Events Coming Up This Week

This weekend was a big one for Orlando’s wine scene, with the inaugural Orlando Wine Festival on Saturday at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes. The Orlando Magic organized the event and invited me to attend the al fresco grand tasting.

It featured mostly Napa wines, and while those big reds were a little challenging to drink outside on a warm day, it was worth it to taste some of the classic wines on hand – Dunn and Heitz were among the biggest names. I also enjoyed making a few new discoveries, including one of Argentina’s first GSM Rhone-style blends from Corazon del Sol, a project of Napa’s Revana Family Vineyard. All the winery representatives were lovely and informative too.

My only regret is that the festival’s high price tag (the cheapest package was $2500 per couple) kept many members of Orlando’s robust and active community of wine lovers away. Of course, the Magic sees the event primarily as a fundraiser for its Youth Foundation, but it would be nice if the team could find a way to make it more accessible to Orlando oenophiles who regularly support local wine establishments.

There are plenty of wine events coming up this week with significantly lower barriers to entry, though. Read on for the highlights.

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New Events & Two New Places to Wine – The Imperial Winter Park & Eola General

It’s a great time to be a wine lover in the City Beautiful!

The number of wine-focused and wine-aware establishments just keeps growing (details on two brand new ones are below), as does the number of wine events popping up on the calendar. Because of this embarrassment of riches, you may notice a slight change in the level of detail on these regular posts. From now on, I’ll highlight a maximum of two events per day – but I’ll always let you know when there are more, and you can always find the full listing on the Wine Events page.

Without further ado, let’s get right to the highlights of …

ORLANDO’S WEEK IN WINE

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Orlando Magic’s Inaugural Wine Festival Targets Big Spenders, Napa Lovers

Orlando is leaping into the high-end wine festival game next month.

After almost three decades, the Orlando Magic is trading its annual Black Tie & Tennies fundraiser for a wine and food extravaganza modeled on similar events in Naples, Destin, and Napa. Ticket sales end in less than a week.

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Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins and Chairman Dan DeVos. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Orlando Wine Festival and Auction weekend kicks off on Friday, March 15 with twelve themed vintner dinners at private homes around the area, where attendees will rub elbows with winemakers over meals cooked by celebrity chefs from near and far. The main event takes place the next day at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, featuring a three-hour al fresco tasting, followed by a live auction and a dinner. Some packages also include tickets to the Magic’s game against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

The festival’s participating wineries are almost exclusively from Napa, including high end heavy hitters like Dunn, Heitz, Cliff Lede, and Rudd.

The price of admission is also on the high end, with packages starting at $2,500 per couple – for admission to Saturday’s events – and going up to $18,500 for four people. There are no a la carte ticket options.

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BREAKING NEWS: The Wine Barn in Winter Park Gets New Owners

UPDATED Feb. 20 with information on the new owners.

The Wine Barn on Fairbanks Ave. in Winter Park has been sold, but contrary to rumors, the bottle shop and pizza parlor is not closing its doors.

Former owner Andres Montoya says the new owners, Ramón & Veronica Llado, plan to keep the name and continue with the same concept, including the wood-fired pizzas and the rest of the food menu.

He says they’ve retained him as wine buyer and asked him to revamp the inventory.

“Expect in the next few weeks to find a re-energized wine selection, solid values and low prices,” he said in an email last night.

The Llados are a husband and wife team. Ramón hails from Catalunya, Spain and Veronica is from Ecuador, according to Montoya. He says this is their first restaurant venture in this country.

“While new to running a wine and food operation in the US, they have many years of experience in the building and construction industry,” Montoya said.

“As for me,” he went on, “I will forever remain committed to the wine industry, and look forward to … exploring, learning, buying and selling the beverage that we, as wine lovers, could never leave behind.”

More details will follow as they become available.

 

Orlando Wine Blog’s first “Edible Orlando” column spotlights Central Florida’s natural wine scene

Starting this month, I’ll be writing a regular wine column for Edible Orlando, Central Florida’s quarterly magazine covering local food and drink.

When Managing Editor Pam Brandon told me about this issue’s theme, “Happy Healthy 2019,” she said she’d understand if I couldn’t fit wine under that umbrella. But I immediately thought it could be a great fit for a piece on natural wine (read it here!).

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Changes at Windermere’s Bella Tuscany may lead to a new wine destination in Winter Garden

Russ Russell has left his position as sommelier at Bella Tuscany in Windermere.

Known for hosting creative and sometimes extravagant weekly wine tastings paired with small plates, his last official day was December 8. He continued to host the tastings through December.

Taking over Russell’s position is Natasia Lin, a Certified Sommelier who was part of the team that opened Wine Bar George last May. Today was her first official day at the restaurant.

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Bella Tuscany’s incoming sommelier Natasia Lin with her predecessor, Russ Russell

She says she plans to continue Russell’s schedule of tastings, including this Tuesday’s event featuring wines from Argentina’s Catena family. As of this writing, it’s the only item of note on next week’s wine calendar, as most of Orlando’s wine purveyors continue their post-holiday lull.

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Luisa’s Cellar Celebrates Six Months of Wine (and much more!) in Sanford

Luisa’s Cellar calls itself “a wine bar with a craft beer problem.” Turns out, this two-story establishment on lively Sanford Avenue has a coffee problem too. And a bit of a cocktail dilemma. Plus a books and records conundrum.

Owners Yellymary “Mary” Montalvo and Sascha Weyer will mark half a year in business just after Christmas. The husband and wife team has gone all-out for the past six months with a diverse array of beverage and food offerings and an ambitious events schedule.

There’s a little something for everyone here, so this attractive spot just might be the perfect place to satisfy the eclectic tastes of all the friends and family visiting you this holiday season.

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