This is not your average wine bar. But then knowing George Miliotes, no one would have expected it to be.
Miliotes is the George of Wine Bar George, the latest venue to spring up at Disney Springs. It's big, situated in a newly constructed two-level building with a balcony overlooking the walkway below and part of the lagoon just beyond.
Inside, there is a bustling bar on the first floor, filled with people who perhaps don't know there's a second level. Upstairs is another bar with couch seating as well as conventional tables, and another room for dining and sipping.
Wine, of course, is the main draw here, and the list, personally curated by Miliotes, is extensive and varied. He wisely included popular names, go-to wines that people order out of habit or because they're intimidated by some of the more obscure names.
But if Miliotes gets to those people before they place their order, chances are they're going to be trying something they've never heard of. And in all likelihood, they'll have a new favorite wine.
That's what Miliotes does. One of fewer than 300 certified master sommeliers in the world, he is also a confirmed wine geek. He takes unmitigated joy in wine pairing, that is, matching a person with the perfect wine.
Click the video to hear Miliotes talk about Wine Bar George
There is food at Wine Bar George to be paired with wine, too, though the menu is a bit unconventional. There is a section called Small Plates with 10 or so entries, from hummus and olives to meatballs and pork cheeks. There are also the obligatory wine bar mainstays of artisanal cheeses and charcuterie boards.
But then it jumps to a section called Family Style Plates with only a few options but each meant to feed more than one person. (Why else would a skirt steak be priced at $59 and a chicken -- wine braised, of course -- $49?) If you want a full entree for yourself you're out of luck.
I suppose it's a way to indicate that this is, like the name says, a wine bar and not a full restaurant. But it would seem to underutilize the kitchen that was included in the construction as well as the services of the very capable executive chef, Ron Rupert.
I liked everything I tasted, including the Charcuterie Board and Crispy Mac & Cheese Bites from a preview visit and House-made Meatballs and Porchetta Spiced Pork Cheeks that I sampled after the opening. The latter two were both served with the same triple cheese polenta. It was good, but some variation would have been nice.
The meatballs were firm and evenly seasoned and served with a pulpy tomato sauce.
The pork cheeks were surrounded by a rich gravy and topped with tangy gremolata.
It wasn't clear that the Grilled Octopus was to be a salad. So instead of whole grilled tentacles, the octopus was chopped up and mixed with an olive salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette. It was good as chopped octopus salads go.
But wine is the forte here, and it's great that every selection on the considerable wine list is available by the glass or by the bottle. Some are even available by the ounce, thanks to the Coravin wine system that allows extracting a pour from an expensive bottle without removing the cork or introducing oxygen to the wine.
That might be your choice if you choose to order the '88 Chateau Margaux, which costs $84 for an ounce. That's a lot, but it allows you to experience the wine without laying out $500 for the whole bottle.
Most locals are familiar with Miliotes and know him from his father's restaurants, including the legendary Chris' House of Beef, or from his days as the general manager at California Grill or as one of the opening team at Seasons 52. But I saw nothing at the wine bar that would tell tourists about his background and his achievement as a sommelier. You'd think that would be a selling point, but its absence is typical for the modest Miliotes.
I guess visitors will just know him as a guy named George who runs the place, and runs all over the place, and who is always willing to stop at a table and talk about wine.
Wine Bar George is at Disney Springs, 1610 E. Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista. It is open for dinner daily. The phone number is 407-490-1800.