You Can Be On a First-Name Basis with the Winemaker at Loveblock

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Erica Crawford

Erica Crawford’s name isn’t quite as instantly recognizable to wine lovers as that of her husband — that would be Kim Crawford — but she’s a charming representative of the winery the two operate in New Zealand.

That would not be Kim Crawford.

The Crawfords — perhaps we’d better just refer to them as Erica and Kim — now own and operate a winery in the Marlborough region of New Zealand called Loveblock. They sold the winery that bears Kim’s full name in 2003, and with the sale they agreed to not use their last name in relation to any winemaking they undertake.
If you go to the Loveblock website, you’ll see the bios for Erica and Kim note that they both go only by their first name “to respectfully avoid confusion with the brand that carries her/his name but with which she/he is no longer involved.” Also, to avoid a lawsuit.

Erica was in Orlando recently to talk up some of Loveblock’s wines. I was invited to join her for a luncheon and tasting at the Boathouse in Disney Springs.

Bevfly Wine and Spirits Store Offers Great Deals and Expert Advice

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Bevfly

Today I’m pleased to welcome Bevfly to the pages of the flog.

Do you know Bevfly? It’s a wine and sprits outlet on International Drive. Now stop that right now. This is close to the corner of Kirkman Road, so it’s easy access right off of I-4, and it’s before where I-Drive curves around and sucks you into the vehicular black hole surrounding the outlet mall.

Bevfly is worth finding. It has a terrific, thorough selection of fine wines. And it has some people with good wine cred behind it, including Kimberly Kolovos, former sommelier at Vines Grille & Wine Bar on Restaurant Row; her husband, Billy, who ran the Vines spirits store; and Gary Tupper, former sommelier at Luma on Park and Norman’s.

Tupper told me that their goal is to always have someone on hand who can talk authoritatively about the wines. “We want to make sure no one is just talking to a shelf stocker,” he said. Not that there’s anything wrong with shelf stockers, but anyone who has tried to get advice in one of those big-box wine stores has probably left with wine in a box.

"Somm" People: Local Masters Reflect on Documentary About Achieving Wine's Highest Honor

Written by Scott Joseph on .

 

 

Saturday was movie night, so I popped some corn, opened one of my finest boxes of wine and settled onto the couch to watch Somm, a documentary about the Court of Master Sommeliers’ master sommelier exam. The title is shorthand for sommelier, the term for a wine expert. Just as anyone can call himself or herself a chef, anyone may also claim the title of sommelier. But to be certified, to have the proper credentials. The film follows four candidates as they prepare to take the exam, which has one of the lowest pass rates of any exam in just about any field. According to materials from the producers, in the organization’s 40 years fewer than 200 candidates have passed. Before they can approach the master’s exam, the sommeliers must have achieved two other levels.

The master’s exam actually has three sections that are taken separately: theory, service and tasting. Service, it seems, is the easiest of the three. The other two are killers.

Theory is an all-encompassing subject that requires the somms to know, among other things, every detail about every grape in every wine-producing country in the world. You have to know the climate and the soil and how they affect those grapes and the wines they produce. And it has to be committed to memory. You should probably know that there are over thousands of types of wine grapes in the world and tens of thousands of wine varieties.

As daunting as that sounds, most candidates are tripped up -- and most intimidated -- by the tasting section, during which the somm is presented six wines and tasked with identifying their grape varieties, country of origin, district and appellation of origin, and vintages of the wines tasted. Within 25 minutes.

The movie depicts great tension among the candidates it focuses on, and shows the obsessiveness that grips then as they grasp for the ultimate prize.

But just how accurate is the film?

Florida has eight master sommeliers, three of them here in Central Florida. So I asked John Blazon, vice president sales, The Spire Collection; George Miliotes, director of beverage and hospitality for Darden; Brian Koziol, Florida sales manager for Stacole Fine Wines; as well as Andrew McNamara, director of fine wine for Premier Beverage Company and Augustan Wine Imports in South Florida for their thoughts on the movie. Blazon passed the final exam in 2004 becoming the 59th master sommelier in the world. He has gone on to achieve MS Examiner level and so is often the person who is the one to tell the candidates whether they passed or failed, as is depicted at the end of the documentary. It was Blazon who, in 2007, gave the good news to Miliotes and Koziol at a test in San Francisco.

SJ: Did the movie accurately convey the tension associated with taking the test?

Quantum Leap Winery

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Quantum barrelsWine barrels surround a gathering table for serious tastings.I have to admit when I heard the news that a winery would be opening near downtown Orlando I rolled my eyes. That’s nothing new, of course, I roll my eyes a lot. In fact, if I could count on eye rolling as my sole weight loss activity, I’d reach my goal in no time.

My skepticism in this case had to do with the overall quality of Florida wines, which is, in a word, abysmal. It’s not really Florida’s fault; blame Pierce. Pierce’s Disease, a condition that attacks most of the common grape vines in the Southeast, prevents growers from producing much more than treacly sweet grape varietals. So the result is a wine whose only appropriate food pairing would be pancakes -- poured on top of.

But then I learned that Quantum Leap Winery, the new Orlando business, is not interested in producing Florida wines. Instead, it will have wine juice shipped to its facility where it will be finished, blended and packaged. Cue another eye roll.

But then I visited the winery.

Eola Wine Company

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Have you been to Eola Wine Company’s new place yet? It’s easy to find. Just go to the wine bar’s original address on Central Boulevard across from Lake Eola, face the front door, then look to your right, just across the street. It was a short move, but a big leap in terms of space and functionality.

When Eola Wine Company first opened, in 2001, the owners had intended for it to be primarily a retail wine shop. But they soon discovered that downtowners were hungry -- or thirsty, as the case may be -- for a place to go, sit, sip, and mingle with friends. Going hand in hand with sipping, of course, is noshing. But with the original focus on retail, the owners had minimal space for food preparation. The menu when I first reviewed EWC was basically cheese platters, an appetizer or two, and desserts. The second location for Eola Wine Company, on Winter Park’s Park Avenue, which opened in 2006, had more space for people and food prep from the beginning. But that original location, while still popular with the downtown crowds, was still problematic.

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival's Party for the Senses

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Click the image above to see a video of the party!

The Party for the Senses has always been a favorite part of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The Saturday night events offer a festive cocktail-party sort of atmosphere with food and wine stations manned by visiting chefs and wineries as well as various chefs from restaurants throughout Disney property.

This year there were a couple of changes. The major change was the addition of themed nights. The festival started with a Spanish theme and then moved on to “comfort foods with a twist.” I visited last weekend for the South American party, and what a great party it was.

The food seemed better than in the past, and there wasn't as much crowding. Some might attribute that to the way the room was set up. (Did I say room? The World Showplace is so large it has its own ecosystem.) In previous years, the entertainment stage dominated the middle of the room; this year it was off to the side.