Back in 2005, I went to a Learning-themed conference (as I’m a training & development professional) held at a convention center on the Walt Disney World property. I was excited to begin with, as I’m quite the Disney aficionado. Kevin flew down with me and we spent an extended weekend after the conference exploring the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. We loved it! At the time, the F&W offered a bunch of free seminars with park admission, which is how we discovered super-cool Master Sommelier /Master of Wine Doug Frost and were introduced to Greek wine.
Since then, we’ve been back in 2006 and 2009, and we just made our reservations for 2010. We really do enjoy it and for those of you who are kid-free like us, well, let’s just say that Epcot is filled with more adults than kids during F&W Fest weekends. The F&W Fest has changed a bit since 2005, but a lot of the great things have stayed the same.
Every country in the World Pavilion has its own special booth setup where you can get tapas size bites from that region, as well as a beer or wine. For instance, France usually has some sort of eclair, a quiche, and champagne. (This is aside from the specific Champagne booth that is set up.) In addition to the regular countries, booths are added for new countries so that you can have food from Australia, Spain, Belgium, India, and more. It tends to grow and change every year. Australia also has a special wine walk in which you can participate for a small fee. America usually offers an included Samuel Adams beer tasting that is a lot of fun.
There’s also a Festival headquarters, where you can partake in those seminars I mentioned. These now cost ~$8 per person. Last year we took a class from a rum maker from Bacardi and listened to a winemaker from a small winery speak. I haven’t yet looked at this year’s list of seminars, but it is available for download. You can also sign up for special dinners, parties and tastings. These, of course, have a much higher fee and generally require registration several months in advance. In fact, on July 20, they announced all of the special events and opened the registration lines. Last year we enjoyed a Tequila tasting in the new Tequila bar in Mexico. This year we’re participating in a Grand Marnier Tasting and Cocktail event in France. Cost? $45 per person.
In 2006 we participated in two expensive but amazing events. We took a day-long class with Doug Frost that introduced us to Spanish wine. It was amazing, and I learned a lot – in fact, since that class I’ve had a real passion for Spanish wines. (Thank you Doug!) We also went to the Party of the Senses. At the time, I think it cost $110/pp (and is now up to $135/pp). It was worth it. I had mixed emotions about it at the time. Due to a combination of my nut allergy and my pickiness, there wasn’t all that much I would eat. There was an amazing amount of excellent wine though. The Party of the Senses is a giant room, decorated so beautifully it’s almost over-stimulating, filled with various chefs, sous chefs, and their food. All of the food is paired with wine as well, so you get to try things you wouldn’t find either out in the park or here at home. Adding to all of this is Cirque du Soleil, who perform periodically in the great room, but also offer face painting and juggling off to the side. I haven’t made up my mind on the Party of the Senses this year. It’s a big expense for two people, but it’s also incredibly memorable.
Last year we discovered the best way to control your spending during the F&W festival. You can buy the equivalent of Gift Cards, branded with the F&W Festival, at the F&W Fest headquarters. Just grab one of those and fill it up with cash at the beginning of each day. It’s easier than dealing with cash as you hit each food booth and does give you a bit of a budget. Just be careful. They give you a wristband to which you can attach the card. Last year, my card fell off the band. I’m going to probably use a lanyard of some sort this year.
Last year, Friday was a great day at Epcot, without a lot of people until evening. Saturday was packed and we flew out Sunday. As far as we can tell, locals actually come to Epcot during the F&W Festival, as there is some sort of special F&W Fest pass you can get if you live in the area. And why not? What a great chance to try a lot of different food, wine, and beer? For us, staying on park property is the best bet. We can drink and eat as much as we want and rely 100% on Disney’s excellent transportation system to get us from the park to our hotel – no driving necessary.
The Epcot wine and food festival runs daily from Oct 1 – Nov 14. You can view information from our last few years of Disney adventures in the Disney category or just visit the F&W Fest official site. I also highly recommend the disney food blog, which is one of the few blogs I actually read on a daily basis.
Hello all, this is Kevin once again with a delayed review of our trip to Big River Brewery in Walt Disney World during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.
We went to Big River after spending an exhausting but fun day sampling wines and our palates needed a little bit of hops and malt to help reset themselves, so we headed out the back door of Epcot and took a boat over to Disney’s Boardwalk for a mircobrew experience. We hope to try Big River again, hopefully with our friends the Hoperatives, who are big fans of the place. I suspect that we were too tired to fully appreciate the experience.
We tried the following:
Southern Flyer Light Lager (3.61% Alcohol by Volume – AbV) – The light cross over beer for people who are comfortable with Bud’s American ale, the flavor had a slight soapy quality similar to what I find in Bud American ale. I believe that quality is from the Liberty hops used.
Gadzooks Pilsner (3.61% AbV) – Standard Pilsner for those who like pilsners. Nother super remarkable, but exactly what is promised.
Steamboat Pale Ale (4.4% AbV) – Traditional Pale Ale. Once again a nice solid entry that hits the expected notes and won’t dissapoint ale drinkers.
Rocket Red Ale (5.3% AbV) – Nice upfront malt, fades to rounded finish. This one is pretty tasty and is memorable. This one is reccomended if you like a malty flavor in a light bodied beer.
Sweet Magnolia American Brown Ale (5.18% AbV) – Has similar taste to a Chocolate Malt. Very little coffee. Kevin’s favorite, Michelle not as much. The sweetness and chocolate would make this a recommendation for Guinness lovers, but it’s not a stout so the overall flavor has a strong hop presence, so try a sample and see if it’s a fit.
Wowser’s Wheat (4.29% AbV) – Traditional German style Wheat beer served with a wedge of lemon. The banana and clove components are balanced and in line with what is expected.
Overall, Big River was a nice diversion from the Food and Wine festival and the standard theme park food that you can usually find. If you are in the mood for a beer and chicken nachos, head over to Big River at Disney’s Boardwalk.
Tomorrow night, the Dilly Cafe (Dilly Deli) in Mariemont is hosting a wine dinner with sparkling wine vintners Domain Chandon. At last check, there were still about 8 seats left and at $65, the price is pretty reasonable.
Now, I’d be perfectly happy to only drink sparkling wine (including champagne, prosecco, cava, and others) for the rest of my life. It is my favorite type of wine, closely followed by pinot noir. But to get you in the mood for a sparkling wine dinner, I thought I’d talk a little about a seminar we took in Disney, with Moët & Chandon, Domaine Chandon’s parent company. Moët & Chandon, based in France, makes champagne. Domaine Chandon, in Napa, makes sparkling wine using the traditional champagne method. Only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can actually be called “champagne.” For our purposes, I’m just going to go with “bubbly.”
Our instructor was Seth Box, Director of Education for Moët & Chandon USA. One of the first things he did was to preemptively correct the class’s pronunciation. Despite the fact that folks everywhere pronounce it Mo-AY and Chandon, it’s actually Mo-ETT. That, folks, is what those two little dots mean over the e.
Champagne, and sparkling wine in the champagne method, can be made from three grapes: Pinot Noir gives the wine backbone and structure, Chardonnay lends elegance, and the Pinot Meunier picks up the slack as a workhorse grape. I find this interesting, as I really enjoy Pinot Meunier on its own. In fact, I think Domain Chandon might make one of the few Pinot Meunier-only wines available on our retail shelves.
Seth pretty much told us to just enjoy our samples while he talked
about Moët & Chandon and bubbly in general. I thought I’d touch on
some of the more interesting points he shared before I dive into our
review of the wines.
On to the wines. We tried three, all Moët & Chandon Non-Vintage. I enjoyed all three, but definitely preferred the second glass.
Rosé (Brut): According to Seth, this pink wine was the best of our three for food pairing, because the contact with the red grape skins (thus the pink) lends a little bit of tannins to the wine. This wine had some strawberries, light cherries, and a good texture.
Imperial (Extra Dry): You might know this wine as White Star. Until recently, it was known world-over as Imperial, except in the US. They changed the name domestically so that you could order your favorite sparkler by the same name, no matter where you land. I’ve always been a fan of White Star, er, Imperial. It has more of the dry, bread-y flavors I prefer in a good bubbly, and it’s not very sweet.
Michelle & Kevin:
Nectar Imperial (Demi-Sec): This was by far the sweetest. I’m not a huge fan of sweet bubbly, so this one was my least favorite. I made a very unscientific observations at the Dessert & Champagne booth, however. I noticed this wine was being poured more frequently than the other bubblies and that it was almost always chosen by women. Seth noted that this wine pairs well with strong cheeses, such as cheddar, gouda, and chevre.
Michelle & Kevin:
The Dilly Cafe dinner (full menu) on Tuesday begins with a reception at 6:30 pm and dinner at 7 pm. Again, it’s a Domain Chandon wine dinner, which is located in Napa and owned by Moët & Chandon. In fact, Domaine Chandon has a special place in my heart as the first winery I ever visited in Napa, back in 2004. There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to begin that trip with some sparkling wine. I recommend you give Domaine Chandon a try as well. You can RSVP by calling 513.561.5233.
“Zweigelt is a red grape.” That’s me at my best folks.
We’re unexpectedly still in the Orlando airport this morning, so you get another video! My hotel didn’t have AMC so I missed last night’s Mad Men. No Mad Men Monday today! But you do get to see me enjoying some sparkling champagne and creme brulee in “France.”
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