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Aug 20

Disney’s Epcot Food & Wine Festival 2010

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.

2009 Wine and Food Festival

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.

2009 Samuel Adams Beer Tasting

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.

2009 Tequila Tasting in Epcot Mexico

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.

2006 Party of the Senses

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.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 8:47 am in Disney, Travel | Permalink | Comments (2)
Jul 30

Washington State Microbreweries: Seattle

After we left Prosser, we drove a couple of hours west to Seattle. On our first night in the city, we met up with some old friends from Cincinnati and headed over to Elysian Brewing Company in Capitol Hill. Elysian also has a brewpub down by the stadiums, fittingly called Elysian Fields.

Elysian Brewing Company – A short bus ride from our hotel up to Capitol Hill from our hotel was our first stop in Seattle. We had a great dinner with friends and were able to try through a brewmaster’s sampler. Michelle found the Dry Wit (a “guest beer” from Pike Brewing) a better fit for her tastes than the current offerings.

I was able to try:

  • Dragonstooth Stout
  • Men’s Room Original Red – This was probably my favorite of the bunch as I ordered another glass once the sampler was finished. The hops were present, but there was a spiciness that helped to alleviate the bitterness. Very well balanced
  • Dry-Hopped IPA - For the hop lovers out there. This has the bitterness up front, the tropical in the middle and a very long finish. Not much other depth, but the went for hops and that is exactly what was there.
  • Loser Pale Ale
  • Bifrost

My notes are definitely incomplete as it was more of a night out with friends, but my overall impression was that Elysian enjoys using hops in varied and creative ways. If hops are your thing, you will not be disappointed by their beers.

The Pike Brewing Company – We stopped for a small lunch here on our last day in Seattle. I had a nice little cheese plate and Michelle had a gigantic bowl of macaroni and cheese that used Washington cheeses.

  • Naughty Nellie (Golden Ale) – Strong wheat characteristics with a very nice hop presence.
  • Pale Ale – A basic entry and would be nice as an alternate to traditional macro-brewery offerings
  • IPA – A bright orange flavor leads into deceptively smooth hops. Multiple flavors add a few extra dimensions that I did not expect on an IPA. Michelle commented that she could drink a glass of this which is a very high complement.
  • Kilt Lifter (Scotch Ale) – Deep, rich flavors. A nice hint of smoke underneath the malt driven flavor. Michelle wanted food to go with this, but still enjoyed it.
  • Tandem (Double Ale) – Very sweet and sugary. Well balanced between the sweet of the candy sugar and the Belgian yeast used.
  • XXXXX (Extra Stout) – Our first split opinion of the tasting. I liked the strong malt flavor and the slight bitterness, Michelle not as much.
  • Monk’s Uncle (Abbey Style) – Light and crisp with honey flavors. Michelle was slightly confused by the combination of flavors.
  • Dry Wit (Summer Wheat Seasonal) – Floral up front with a nice grainy finish spells the perfect beer for Michelle. Hints of lavender, coriander and orange peel all of which were used in during the brewing process.

The six tastes (4-oz pours) rang up at a reasonable $9.00.

Pyramid Breweries – This was our last stop on the way out to the airport to catch a redeye home. One of the oddest experiences that I had on this trip occurred while we were working through a sampling at the bar. The gentleman who sat down next to me also had on an Irish Kevin’s shirt from Key West, FL – and we were both on the opposite end of the country from the original bar. It was weird, but I was able to continue tasting though Michelle’s laughter.

Here’s a quick run down on the beers I tried:

  • Imperial Hefeweisen – Nice creaminess with a slight bitterness on top of the expected banana and clove.
  • Drought Pale Ale – Nitrogen injected version of the pale ale. The bubbles seem a little more present in this version and there is a nice sweetness. One of the special brewery only releases.
  • Snow Cap – Winter Seasonal amber that was brewed with caramel and wintergreen. Very nice and surprising. I was glad they still had this on an unmarked tap as it was my favorite of the tasting.
  • Lipstinger – Farmhouse ale brewed with peppercorns. Banana and pepper flavors instead of clove. Michelle enjoyed this more than she expected as the peppercorn was very well integrated. We left with a pair of bottles.
  • Dark IPA – This tasted like a chocolate covered hop. Very strange and not exactly my type of beer. I would recommend it to any hop heads out there, but be ready for a beer that defies expectations.

The sampler was a deal at $5.00 for the 5 2-ox pours.

We ended up buying two bottles of the Lipstinger, as the saison style blended well with the pepper. A very distinctive beer that was a hit for both Michelle and myself.

Did I miss anything that I should have tried? There were a bunch of great looking breweries, but only so much time.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Kevin at 8:17 am in Beer, Beer-Guy.net, Travel | Permalink | Comments ()
Jul 29

Washington State Microbreweries: Prosser, WA

After wrapping up the Wine Bloggers Conference, Michelle and I transitioned from wine to Washington’s other known commodity: beer. We had a quick stop in Prosser, then a few brewery visits in Seattle proper before we headed home. We also stopped an snapped a quick photo of some hops growing as we drove across the state. Washington accounts for 75% of the hops grown in the United States, which might account for the number of breweries that we found.

We started off our beer tasting in Prosser, WA, which was roughly halfway between Walla Walla and Seattle.

Horse Heaven Hills Brewery – As the official Kentucky visitors to the Brewery, this one made for a nice transition from wine to beer. This little brewery only sells by the growler and shares the parking lot with the Prosser AutoZone.

We walked on in and sat down at the bar where we tried the following:

  • Honey Girl – A nice light ale brewed with a honey. The honey provides a nice sweetness that works very nicely as my first transition away from wine. This may have been Michelle’s favorite along with the Hefeweizen and the Cherry Stout.
  • Heaven’s Hefeweizen – Very nicely balanced banana up front and clove flavors on the finish combine for a really nice hefe.
  • Mustang Red – Their most popular beer which is not pictured below. Very solid offering that was a very nice amber ale. Good malt characteristics and light and crisp hops.
  • Stallion Stout – Server on a nitrogen tap which is supposed to add creaminess and a richer flavor. Nice roasted coffee flavors but stays lighter and has a surprising crispness and spice on the finish.
  • Cherry Stout – Another beer brewed with a non-traditional additive, this time Washington cherries. The flavor lead with the nice acid and sweetness of the cherry which was followed by the chocolate. It was almost an inverted chocolate covered cherry. My favorite of the tasting due to the bitterness of the cherries and the semi sweetness of the stout.

We picked up an empty growler for ourselves as Michelle was taken by the image of the horse as well as the story of wild horses roaming the local hills. It was Michelle’s favorite brewery of the trip as she liked most of the beers we tried for different reasons. $5.00 for 4 samples.

Whitstran Brewing – This was our second stop in Prosser and luckily they served food. My burger was excellent and Michelle had no tr0uble finishing her sandwich as well.

Another nice selection of samples (9 for $9.50) was split between the two of us.

  • Horse Heaven Hefe (Bavarian-style hefeweizen) – Sweet with heavy banana flavors.
  • Highlander (Scottish-style ale) – Light with caramel that finishes with a toffee flavor. Kevin’s favorite of the list.
  • 11th Hour (Pale ale) – Creamy and light initially that ends with a bitterness. We described this as “Surprise! It’s hoppy.”
  • Over-the-edge (Dry-hopped pale ale) – More hops throughout the entire flavor. Not especially hoppy for a dry hopped ale.
  • Palouse (Porter) – Chocolate and roasted espresso beans. A very nice porter that Michelle did not try and I really enjoyed.
  • D2O Heavy Water (Stout) – Chocolate and malt. Two great tastes that are always nice in a stout.
  • Friar Lawrence (Belgium-style ale) – Sweeter than expected. A very interesting and distinctive beer that was weel worth trying.
  • Friar’s Blessing (Raspberry lambic) – Acid up front was not as integrated as I was hoping. Michelle mixed this with the Friar’s Decadence to create a version that allowed the chocolate to help balance.
  • Friar’s Decadence (Chocolate chocolate imperial stout) – Bitter chocolate with hop flavor hinting through. Nice on it’s own, but really helped to soften the lambic.

Lunch was a very nice at Whitstran and it was worth a stop in Prosser to start making the switch from wineries to breweries. We had a great afternoon and if we had been able to keep the beer refrigerated, I think we would have had a few full growlers as we continued into Seattle. For anyone on the wine trail, I strongly recommend stopping and trying something a little different. From Seattle, I think it would be well worth the  drive to the desert to see a little sun.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Kevin at 8:13 am in Beer, Beer-Guy.net, Travel | Permalink | Comments (1)
Jul 16

Wine Bloggers Conference in Photos

Kevin and I really enjoyed our time in Washington state at the end of June. I’m completely in love with the place, from the gorgeous mountains, waterfalls, and lush green-ness around Seattle to the desert, sun, and heat in the southeast corner where so many vineyards exist.

I took way too many photos, which is not unusual for me, and I have them in two separate slide shows. You can also view the photos individually on Flickr.

The first pack, which covers the conference itself, includes a lot of vineyards. We visited Reynvaan Family Vineyards, the Walla Walla Community College, and Spring Valley. The photos include Walla Walla itself, which is definitely one of the cutest towns in the US and the streets are lined with tasting rooms. Finally, we took an all-day excursion to the Red Mountain AVA, which turned out to be absolutely beautiful. The vineyards and the scenery were positively breathtaking.

The second pack starts out with a visit to my beloved Airfield Estates Winery in Prosser, Wa. If you’re in it for the wine, stop there. We very quickly make the switch over to beer, with visits to the remarkable Horse Heaven Hill Brewery and Witstran Brewery. We even stopped and took photos of hops growing along the highway.

The photo pack diverges into our vacation shots, which include shots of food and beer, shots of Seattle in general, waterfalls and mountains, the space needle, Pike Place Market, and even some road-side oddities.

Enjoy! We fell in love with Washington and I hope to go back soon, and wrap in a trip to Oregon as well.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 8:35 am in Tastings, Travel, Wine Events, Wineries | Permalink | Comments (4)
Jun 25

Guest Post: Mezcal in Mexico

For this post we again welcome Jay Erisman, our favorite instructor from The Party Source EQ Center and quite the wine and spirits expert. This is actually part 2 of a 2-part Mexican adventure he took in 2007 (part 1).

Tequila country did not prepare me for the Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal producers in Oaxaca. Del Maguey mastermind Ron Cooper took me on a four day tour of Oaxaca. From village markets where we feasted on things like pit roasted goat (and—bonus!—the blood of the goat, cooked in the stomach with mint, swear I’m not making this up), to cutting edge restaurants in Oaxaca City, I was immersed in the most vibrant, colorful culture I’ve ever experienced.

I was acquainted with the traditional production methods used by such Mezcal masters as Paciano Cruz Nolasco of San Luis del Rio.

To actually see these distilleries operate with technology that was virtually pre-industrial was totally amazing. The techniques are positively pre-industrial, such as roasting the maguey in an earthen pit of smoldering wood and hot rocks for up to three weeks, and crushing the cooked plants with a mule-powered stone. Señor Nolasco harvests maguey plants (a relative of the blue agave used for Tequila) from very high hills, in his very high village, at the end of a very bad road. (Paciano is a Mezcal maker, a palenquero, but this generous, forward-thinking man is training his daughter to become a palenquera, possibly the first female Mezcal distiller.) The term “rustic” does not do justice to his distillery, hugging the dusty banks of the rio amidst a cluster of banana trees, vines and lizards. His Mezcal might offer the single most complex aroma of any spirit I sell, a kaleidoscope of smoky earth, pineapple fruits and mountain herbs, citrus leaves and rinds, black and white pepper and more. Nosing a glass of San Luis is like approaching the event horizon of a black hole; inevitably, it pulls you in, and you’re done for.

In the village of Minero, Florencio Sarmiento uses two stills made of clay and bamboo from a unique design of ancient Chinese origin.

Florencio’s distillery is also the only one I saw that used electricity, with a small pump circulating cold water to the internal condenser bowls in his far-out stills. The resulting Mezcal cuts across the palate like a lightsaber, with a breathtaking citrus intensity.

Like El Tesoro, all Del Maguey Mezcals are 100% natural with no added flavors or chemicals used in production/ On top of that, these Mezcals possess full organic certification. Having been there, I can better appreciate where the potent, smoky flavor of these Mezcals comes from. If they are drop for drop the most intensely flavored spirits in The Party Source, surely that reflects the rugged land—and the hand of the maker—from which they spring.

– Jay Erisman
Photos © Jay Erisman 2007-2010

View part 1 of the Mexican adventure – Tequila.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 8:01 am in Guest Writers, Knowledge, Spirits, Travel | Permalink | Comments (2)

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