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.

Episode 31: Mary Montalvo

Mary Montalvo and her husband Sascha Weyer own and operate Luisa’s Cellar in Sanford, Florida. They got into the wine business almost by accident when Mary fell in love with a property in Clermont in 2012 and decided to open a wine bar. She left a stable career in the legal profession and threw herself into the business, but she says it’s been tough to keep her passion for wine alive amid the many challenges she has faced along the way.

In this episode, Mary talks about her journey from Puerto Rico to Florida (via Germany), speaks candidly about the realities of being a woman of color in an industry dominated by white men, and shares how she and her business are getting by as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

Mary Montalvo, Co-owner of Luisa’s Cellar in Sanford, FL

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Thanks to Orlando composer Julian Bond for providing original music for UnWineding and WMFE for distribution and promotional assistance.

Episode 30: Matt Coltrin

Season Two of UnWineding kicks off with a conversation with Matt Coltrin, owner of The Parkview wine bar and restaurant in Winter Park, just north of Orlando.

Matt talks about the generous French wine merchant who got him hooked on good wine, his experience running a wine program at a historic bar and restaurant in Manhattan, and how the September 11th terrorist attacks prompted him to move to Central Florida, where he found himself on the ground floor of the region’s wine renaissance. He also talks about surviving and learning from this pandemic year, which he calls the hardest thing he’s had to deal with in his 25 years in the wine and restaurant business.

Matt Coltrin, owner of The Parkview in Winter Park, FL

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Thanks to Orlando composer Julian Bond for providing original music for UnWineding and WMFE for distribution and promotional assistance.

Season 2: A New Beginning

UnWineding is back starting next week!

Listen to this quick preview to find out what Season Two has to offer. Plus, learn how the Orange County Regional History Center is helping to preserve Season One of UnWineding for future generations.

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Thanks to Orlando composer Julian Bond for providing original music for UnWineding, Amy Tardif for editorial assistance, and WMFE for distribution and promotional assistance.

Episode 26: Melissa on Wine

Two important things happened in Florida’s wine world this week. The state announced it’s lifting the ban on alcohol service at bars, almost six months after the original restrictions were imposed … and UnWineding guest Melissa McAvoy celebrated five years since the grand opening of her Orlando wine bar, Swirlery.

We’ll explore the first development in next week’s episode; this week, I share my conversation with Melissa about her journey into the world of wine. She once saw the hospitality business as the means to very different end, she says, but it was wine that changed her mind.

Melissa McAvoy, co-owner of Swirlery Wine Bar

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Thanks to Orlando composer Julian Bond for providing original music for UnWineding, Amy Tardif for editorial guidance, and WMFE for distribution and promotional assistance.

Episode 24: Christina Peebles on Wine

Orlando sommelier, bartender, and server Christina Peebles has been in the service industry for fifteen years. Over the past five months, we’ve heard about the jobs she lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, her struggles with unemployment, and even a COVID health scare in her own family.

But this week, she talks about her journey in the wine industry – from having her first glass of wine while working for one of Orlando’s most colorful characters … to entering the world of fine dining and scrambling to build her wine knowledge … to dealing with customers who’d rather show off their knowledge than take advice from a young female somm.

Christina Peebles, Orlando sommelier, bartender, and server

Subscribe to UnWineding on iTunesSpotifyGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

Thanks to Orlando composer Julian Bond for providing original music for UnWineding, Amy Tardif for editorial guidance, and WMFE for distribution and promotional assistance.

Episode 22: Rob Talks Wine

 

UnWineding’s editorial advisor Amy Tardif likes to joke that the podcast’s dirty little secret is that it’s not really about wine. Indeed, many of UnWineding’s stories transcend the wine industry, reflecting the struggles of so many people trying to get through the COVID-19 pandemic and everything else that’s been going on these past four and a half months.

This week, we take a step back and talk about wine. I asked the UnWineding trio about their journeys in the wine industry, and this episode is the first of those occasional conversations, with Rob Chase of Digress Wine in Orlando’s College Park Neighborhood.

Rob Digress 040320
Rob Chase, owner of Digress Wine in Orlando’s College Park neighborhood

 

Subscribe to UnWineding on iTunesSpotifyGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

Thanks to Orlando composer Julian Bond for providing original music for UnWineding, Amy Tardif for editorial guidance, and WMFE for distribution and promotional assistance.

Ashes & Diamonds: Napa Wines That Bring Back the Joy

Like many people who get bitten by the wine bug, my journey into the world of wine has taken me in many different directions. The more serious I’ve become about my wine education, the more I’ve learned to appreciate the nuances wine has to offer … and yet, sometimes I fear that path may take me away from the joy that inspired me to start the journey.

That’s why I appreciate all the more those times that bring back the joy – the times when I’m reminded that wine is about more than acid and tannin, more than determining whether the nose has aromas of roses or violets, more than whether a wine is aged in French or American oak or whether it’s filtered or fined.

Wine is about community. It’s about good food, good music, good friends old and new. It’s about a day that starts out gray and ends up sunny – literally, figuratively, or both.

Today, Florida-based Progress Wine Group hosted a trade lunch to introduce Orlando’s wine professionals to Kashy Khaledi and his wines from Napa’s Ashes & Diamonds Winery.

For me, everything came together at this event to bring back all the joy.

Continue reading “Ashes & Diamonds: Napa Wines That Bring Back the Joy”

Top Five Experiences on an Italian Journey: The Exciting Conclusion!

In two previous posts, I started counting down the top five wine experiences from my recent trip to Italy. The trip was not focused on wine – I only visited one winery – but it did include a number of unexpected and delightful wine-related encounters that might not have happened on a highly-researched wine-centric itinerary.

The top two experiences on my list sit firmly in that category.

Continue reading “Top Five Experiences on an Italian Journey: The Exciting Conclusion!”