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.
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