Golden Hour Wine aims to create “community gathering space” for Baldwin Park with Old World natural wines

Golden Hour Wine sits on a quiet side street a couple of blocks from New Broad Street, Baldwin Park’s main drag. Clocking in at only 650 square feet, it’s tiny a tiny space, but beautifully appointed, and it somehow manages not to feel the least bit cramped, despite having over 600 different wines on display.

Golden Hour has been open since April of this year, and to say its selection is eclectic would be an understatement. Owner Heather LaVine’s laser focus on natural wines from the Old World means you’re more likely to find a pinot noir from Germany or Switzerland than from California. All but the nerdiest wine lovers will encounter grapes they’ve never heard of from places they didn’t know wine was made, and even the nerdiest among us will make plenty of new discoveries.

But here’s the thing — LaVine finds a way to talk to people about her obscure bottles in a way that normalizes them, rather than playing up the geek factor.

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Episode 37: Cherié Rivett

What do you do after a successful career in the corporate world and a decade spent running your own business consulting company? If you’re Cherié Rivett, you launch a wine distribution business! Cherié is the owner and CEO of Orlando-based Harvest Moon Distributors, a company created to meet a very specific need that soon expanded far beyond its founders’ expectations. Cherié talks about how she built her ship while sailing it, learning the wine industry from the ground up and discovering some hard realities along the way. She also talks about how she managed to shepherd the company through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic so that it could emerge with its small team intact, and she shares her hopes and fears for a post-pandemic future. Orlando composer Julian Bond provided original music for UnWineding. 90.7 WMFE provides distribution and promotional assistance. 

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Cherié Rivett, Owner & CEO of Harvest Moon Distributors

Episode 36: Mary Montalvo “Exit Interview”

Four years after opening Luisa’s Cellar, a wine bar and cafe in downtown Sanford, Florida, Yellymary (Mary) Montalvo recently announced she and her husband are closing the bar at the end of July and moving to North Carolina to start a wine academy. The decision, she says, was not about money — the pandemic reopening has been lucrative — but about her need to prioritize her health and her relationships. In this special episode, Mary returns to UnWineding for an exit interview. She shares lessons she’s learned about the hard realities of the wine and hospitality business, the newfound passion for teaching that inspired her next venture, and her enduring love for the Central Florida wine community. Orlando composer Julian Bond provided original music for UnWineding. 90.7 WMFE provides distribution and promotional assistance.

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Yellymary Montalvo with her husband and co-owner Sascha Weyer at Luisa’s Cellar (Courtesy Yellymary Montalvo)

Luisa’s Cellar wine bar closing in downtown Sanford

“I have learned, the older I get, that dreams are one thing and realities are the other,” Yellymary Montalvo told me last November during an interview for the UnWineding podcast. “It was a very nice dream, but it’s a very challenging business — a wine bar.” 

Yesterday, the energetic and outspoken owner of Lusia’s Cellar in downtown Sanford announced on social media that she and her husband and co-owner Sascha Weyer are getting out of that challenging business at the end of July.

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Local Wine Businesses Relax Mask Rules After New CDC Guidance

If you felt a little confused by the recent change in mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you aren’t the only one. Restaurants and bars were thrown for a loop too. 

The CDC said last week that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely stop wearing masks in most outdoor and indoor environments. The announcement came as a surprise to many in the public health community and sent businesses scrambling to respond. 

Swirlery Wine Bar in Orlando’s SoDo District dropped its mandatory mask requirement for customers and staff immediately after the new guidance was announced. Other local wine businesses are loosening restrictions as well, though some are proceeding a bit more slowly.

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Episode 35: One Year Later

Exactly one year ago, UnWineding launched amid the chaos of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions that sent the hospitality industry into a tailspin. Season One of the podcast followed three Florida wine industry professionals through six tumultuous months of the pandemic, as they watched their businesses suffer and their bank accounts dwindle. In this episode, we check in with them again, as vaccinations are on the rise and things are finally looking brighter. Listen as they tell us about their ups and downs, milestones, accolades, and even some big plans on the horizon.

Orlando composer Julian Bond provided original music for UnWineding. 90.7 WMFE provides distribution and promotional assistance. Subscribe to UnWineding on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

Swirlery Wine Bar plans beachside location

After more than five years in Orlando’s SoDo District, Swirlery Wine Bar is looking to expand eastward.

“If you know me, you might know that I’m a water baby,” says co-owner and Advanced Sommelier Melissa McAvoy, who says she’s been thinking about a coastal presence for some time.

She says she’s actively looking for locations in New Smyrna Beach and Daytona Beach that could host a wine shop / wine bar hybrid similar to Swirlery’s SoDo setup.

McAvoy broke the news today in an interview for the one-year anniversary episode of the UnWineding podcast, which debuts later this week.

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Episode 34: Nga Ly-Henschen

Growing up in a Vietnamese-American family, Nga Ly-Henschen was never exposed to wine. She moved to Orlando to study microbiology at the University of Central Florida, with an eye on a future medical career. But a glass of riesling on a blind date at one of the city’s early wine hubs changed everything. Fast forward a decade and a half, and Nga is now the General Manager of Capa Restaurant and Lounge on the top floor of the Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World. She talks about her journey into the wine world, her transition to a corporate life of working with high-end wines, Capa’s COVID-19 shutdown and reopening, and her dreams for the future.
Orlando composer Julian Bond provided original music for UnWineding. 90.7 WMFE provides distribution and promotional assistance. Subscribe to UnWineding on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Episode 33: Mary Elizabeth Howe

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Mary Elizabeth Howe was just 30 years old when she became North Florida area manager for Augustan Wine Imports, which she describes as the “nerdy fine wine team” for a larger distributor, Breakthru Beverage. That management position was just one in a string of challenges throughout her career that have pushed her outside her comfort zone, starting when she was thrust into the world of fine dining service in her home state of Mississippi. Her latest trial was a four month furlough from the job she loved at Augustan at the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns. She likens the experience to the breakup of a family. But Mary Elizabeth is ever the optimist, and she says even those dark days provided opportunities for growth. 

Orlando composer Julian Bond provided original music for UnWineding. 90.7 WMFE provides distribution and promotional assistance.

Episode 32: Tim Varan

By his own admission, Tim Varan was “an apathetic and disinterested college student” when he was studying finance at the University of Central Florida some 30 years ago. But when it comes to wine, his cup overflows with enthusiasm and passion. Tim caught the wine bug while working for some of Orlando’s early wine pioneers in the late 1980s. He soon went into business for himself, and his eponymous shop, Tim’s Wine Market near downtown Orlando, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. 

Tim shares stories about the early days of Orlando’s wine community, the challenge of resisting the siren song of mass market wines to stay true to his mission, takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic, and his surprisingly rosy prediction for the pandemic’s potential impact on Central Florida’s wine industry. 

Tim Varan, owner of Tim’s Wine Market in Orlando, presents a seminar on white Burgundy in July 2019.

Subscribe to UnWineding on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Orlando composer Julian Bond provided original music for UnWineding.
90.7 WMFE provides distribution and promotional assistance.