Willamette’s Cristom Vineyards Picks Orlando’s Wine Bar George for Exclusive 25th Anniversary Tasting

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.

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Walla Walla Wanderings: Downtown

Note: It is common practice for wineries to waive tasting fees for wine writers. Some of the tasting rooms reviewed in this post extended that courtesy.

Washington’s wine regions sprawl widely across this diverse and beautiful state, but when it comes to wineries and tasting rooms, there are a few main centers of gravity.

Walla Walla is one of the biggest.

I just returned from my first trip to this small-town-turned-major-wine-destination. I was there to attend the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference, but I spent some time checking out a few of the area’s 120 wineries too.

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Orlando’s Quantum Leap Winery: Worth a new look

Weekends are when I usually tell you about the plethora of wine events in the coming week … but next week is looking a little slow, what with the holiday and all.

So what better time to discover a new favorite wine place?

If you haven’t checked out the Wine Venues Guide in awhile, you’ll notice a few new spots on the list, including a couple I hadn’t visited in several years, simply because they’d fallen out of my usual rotation.

One of those is Quantum Leap Winery in the Mills-50 district, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year. On a recent visit, I found a friendly space and passionate people who are taking risks, breaking rules, and making some pretty cool wines.

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Orlando Chef-Winemaker Jamie McFadden Releases Snowbirds Rosé

If you’re like most Central Floridians, you know Chef Jamie McFadden because he catered your wedding, or your company’s holiday party, or your favorite charity’s fundraiser.

Jamie’s Cuisiniers Catering company has been a mainstay in Orlando for almost two decades, and Jamie himself is well known as a top-notch local chef.

But I know him in a different context – as an oenophile.

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Parkview Pushes Boundaries with New Flights

For the past three years, The Parkview has been pushing the bounds of oenophilic (that’s really a word!) creativity.

In 2014, Matt Coltrin took over the classy Park Ave. wine bar that was once the Winter Park outpost of downtown’s Eola Wine Company. He has since created a wine list that gently but persistently nudges patrons outside their comfort zones – and in a very smart way.

The Parkview continued Eola Wine Co’s popular program of flights, but Coltrin began sneaking a few lesser-known varietals into the lineups. A Uruguayan tannat could appear next to a Chilean cabernet and an Argentinian malbec. A picpoul de pinet might show up alongside a sauvignon blanc and a pinot grigio.

The strategy meant customers could gamble on a new wine without having to commit to a full glass.

After three years of training, The Parkview must now believe its patrons’ palates have significantly matured – because it’s just debuted two whole flights of some seriously unusual wines.

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Meticulous to Metaphysical: St. Urbans-Hof’s Nik Weis

“I don’t make riesling,” winemaker Nik Weis said with a sly smile. “I make Mosel.”

Thus began a fascinating two-hour vertical tasting of six vintages of Nik’s St. Urbans-Hof Laurentiuslay riesling spatlese in Miami last month.

The small private event took place in a beautiful condo on Biscayne Bay, but it was organized by one of the newest members of Orlando’s wine community, Jean K. Reilly, Master of Wine. (More about Jean in a later post!)

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Winemaker Nik Weis of St. Urbans-Hof leads a private vertical tasting of his wines in Miami, Jan. 2017

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We’re not Burgundy or Cali, top Oregon winemakers tell Orlando’s wine pros

In Oregon,”you must be the master of your vineyard,” says Eugenia Keegan, General Manager of Gran Moraine Winery.

Speaking to a packed house at the Hilton Orlando on Tuesday, she and four other leading winemakers from Oregon’s Willamette Valley made the case for Oregon as a wine region unlike any other. Her compatriots on the Jackson Family Wines “Oregon: A State of Mind” tour included Lynn Penner-Ash (Penner-Ash), Ryan Zepaltas (Siduri, Zepaltas), Tony Rynders (Zena Crown, Tendril), and Craig McAlister (La Crema).

They have a valid point.

Uniquely Oregon

Oregon has been a major player in the wine game for almost 40 years, but much of the discussion about Oregon wines still takes place in the context of comparison – usually with the state’s giant wine neighbor to the south, or with Burgundy, the standard bearer for cool climate pinot noir.

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