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.

russ russell and natasia lin
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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Five Great Places to Wine in Miami

Sure, Miami is clogged with traffic and teeming with impossibly thin, tanned, trendily dressed people posing for selfies at an alarming clip. But it also has an expanding array of eclectic neighborhoods, a bunch of great restaurants, and a wine scene that’s getting more nuanced and exciting.

Not that long ago, it was hard to find anything to drink here besides overpriced cocktails and “prestige” wines – plenty of Veuve Clicquot, for example, but grower Champagne? Not so much.

Veuve is still ubiquitous, but if you know where to look, you can also find lots more interesting stuff. On visits over the past two years, I’ve had orange wine and natural wine, wine from Utah and wine from Japan, a nice bottle of Chablis in a gas station, and yes, even grower Champagne.

Where do you go for the good stuff? The best plan is to ask the locals. In my experience, Miami oenophiles are usually excited to find a kindred spirit, and I get new recommendations each time I visit. I’ve now collected enough great wine spots that I’ve put together this list of favorites for my fellow wine treasure hunters.

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Italy, Washington, & a Grand Opening!

Next week is a little quieter than last, but there’s still plenty of wine-ing to do.

Tuesday, importer Mediterraneo Italian Wine hosts a wine dinner at Francesco’s in Maitland with some fun wines from Italy.

Also Tuesday, another Tim’s location – this time Tim’s Avalon – gets cheesy with a wine and cheese pairing class.

Thursday, Tim’s Lake Mary offers a free tasting of wines from Washington state’s Kestrel Vineyards.

And Saturday is the opening night party for Louisa’s Cellars, a new wine bar in downtown Sanford.

As always, details for these events and more happenings in the coming weeks are on the Events Page.

Stay cool, and drink up, Central Florida!


Tim’s Avalon Park: First wine bar in the Tim’s Wine Market empire likely won’t be the last

If you’ve been an Orlando oenophile for any significant period of time, you’ve probably been to a Tim’s Wine Market.

Tim Varan is a cornerstone of Central Florida’s wine community. Since he opened his original bottle shop on Orange Avenue across from Lake Ivanhoe almost thirteen years ago, his empire has grown to six stores sprinkled around Central and North Florida.

Over the past few years, I’ve heard Tim hint at his desire to sell wine by the glass, but nothing came of it … until this spring.

The Wine Bar at Tim’s Wine Market in East Orlando’s Avalon Park celebrates its first-quarter anniversary on Saturday, three months after opening its doors in March.

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7 Tips for Wine Bar George Newbies; Miliotes dishes on his wine list, Orlando’s wine community, & more

George Miliotes hasn’t been spending much time at his home in Orlando’s College Park neighborhood recently.

The Master Sommelier told me he’s been sleeping at the Lake Buena Vista Hilton since last Saturday, the day his eponymous wine bar opened for business across the street at Disney Springs.

Actually, he says he hasn’t done much sleeping, what with the 17 hour days he’s been working to get the long-awaited Wine Bar George up and running.

Tips for First Timers

My husband and I dodged the raindrops last Sunday afternoon to visit the establishment on its first full day of operation (Saturday’s opening started at 5pm). Bottom line, this place is deliciously dangerous for wine geeks. If you are one, here are a few quick tips to make the most out of your experience:

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