Thursday, June 28, 2018

Wine Bar George: Positive vibes emanating from Disney Springs (Lake Buena Vista, FL)

I had high expectations for the recently opened, George-MiliotesMS-led Wine Bar George (WBG) project at Disney Springs; the final product exceeded all my expectations.

George has been around the Orlando food and wine scene for some time having: (i) been a part of the California Grill (Disney's Contemporary Resort) opening team; (ii) managed that restaurant from 1995 to 2002; and (iii) headed up the Darden Restaurant wine program from an Orlando base from 2002 until he left to pursue the WBG project. Having known, and appreciated, George's body of work over his career, I was keenly interested in what he would bring to the table in this effort.

I was unable to visit WBG when it opened initially. I noticed an upcoming Rosé tasting on the site and decided I would make that my first foray into the enterprise. On the morning of the event I went onto the website to purchase my tickets and was greeted by a message saying that it was sold out. I thought that maybe an in-person plea would yield better results so we hit the road, headed for Disney Springs.

It is a bit of a walk from the parking lot to WBG but, as I approached, I was immediately pleased with what I could see of the upper-level balcony. A fully subscribed balcony, I might add. I was even more pleased when I stepped inside and saw the centrally located bar with off-bar seating on both sides and a stairway in the distance leading to the upper level. The hostess stand was to the right immediately upon entrance. The setting was light, bright, and airy and filled with the hum of wine-infused conversation and the hustle and bustle of bartenders and waiters working in a busy environment.

After having my pleas for entry to the Rosé tasting fall on deaf ears, I sheepishly informed my crew that there would be no Rosé tasting but that we would hang out at this wonderful bar and have a good time anyway. They were cool with that. So we did. And we did.

It was busy but, after a while, we were able to snag four seats. A quick perusal of the menu assured me that there was more than enough food and wine to keep our interest levels high (as a matter of fact, there are 100 separate by-the-glass labels on offer).

We started out with a cheese board and a Tasmanian Sparkling Wine. The board was attractive in its setup and the cheeses were very interesting. I had not previously had the Tasmanian wine. I liked it. We followed this up with an Octopus ceviche and a Txakolina. Our final wine of the night was a 2013 Arpepe.

My takeaway from the day?
  • The wine list was unlike any other in Orlando in terms of diversity and depth
  • The food aligned very well with the wines on offer and the concept
  • The service was stellar
  • Foot traffic at the bar was high.
During the visit I congratulated George on the space and vowed to be back.

By the middle of the following week I had put together a group to have lunch at the bar on Friday. Jairo, Sommelier at WBG, reached out to help set things up.

When we arrived we were taken upstairs into a small room set off the rear dining room (itself called the Barrel Room).

Bev, Ron, Scott, and Brian. 

Over the course of the afternoon we tasted most of the items on the menu. The food is tasty and of extremely high quality. The Executive Chef, Ron Rupert, had worked with George at California Grill and has put together an exciting menu of small plates and larger, family style dishes with no diminution of quality between the two styles. We ordered two each of the tapas dishes and one each of the large plates. This is among the best food in Orlando. A subset of the dishes that we shared are shown below.

Octopus Ceviche
House-Made Meatballs
Skirt Steak
In addition to the dishes shown, I would highly recommend the Hummus and Chicken Skewers (to die for) from the Tapas menu and both the Sea Bass and the Wine-Braised Chicken from the large plates.

Our nightcap wine and George behind the bar

We paid another visit on Wednesday for validation purposes. This place is valid.

And it has the smell of a long-term success around it. The combination of George's wine knowledge, managerial skills, and demonstrated startup skills; the skills of the Executive Chef and the high quality of the meals this early in the cycle; the staff quality and eagerness to please; the wine list; the look and feel of the establishment; the location; and the manner in which locals are warmly welcomed, all point to a very positive long-term result.

We needed something like this in Orlando and George has delivered.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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