Cheap yet decent wine from barrels. Fancy-pants wines you may never get to try anywhere else. Non-snobby service, winemaker sessions, music you kinda-sorta know but not quite. Here are 15 things you need to know about Wine Bar George.
UPDATE: Wine Bar George will open for business at 5pm on Saturday, May 19. The food menu is posted at the bottom of this page. Get a kick out of the Frosé All Day.
The bi-level establishment will open any day now, and locals are as eager to see Wine Bar George as Disneyphiles are. That's a first. We usually shrug.
That's because the guy behind his eponymous restaurant, George Miliotes, grew up in Orlando. Over time, he created the wine programs at both Disney World's signature restaurant, California Grill, and Darden's at-the-time-revolutionary chain, Seasons 52. He also earned the hard-won status of Master Sommelier.
You can read the basics anywhere, and here's a summary: Wine Bar George will be – well, it'll be a wine bar owned by a guy named George. It will serve about 140 wines, "enough to be interesting," that guy says, plus light shareable meals. The setting will be a rustic yet stylish two-story replica of a winemaker's home with a gravity-flow system (the kind they used in Jesus' time), communal tables, bar seats and outdoor tables. Snooooze.
Here's what you need to know: Wine Bar George will be "approachable." That's a word Miliotes repeats repeatedly. I've known him for years, and I know that's his shtick. (It's also good business, as I see it. An an approachable place with excellent wines will bring in more customers than an intimidating one, especially given the locale at Disney Springs, a massive shopping mall with dining and entertainment on the Disney World theme park complex's property.)
But the fun stuff? There's plenty, and following an interview and attendance at a media luncheon, I am eager to share it. Here are 15 things you need to know about Wine Bar George.
Wine Bar George won't be stuffy. If you're a serious wine connoisseur, you'll love the place – but so will the rest of us. "I want Wine Bar George to be about fun, not about worshipping," Miliotes says. "There is wine for everyone and I want to find that wine for everyone."
You can try as little as one ounce of just about any wine. Not only can you have any size taste you want. It gets better: A living breathing person will pour the wine for you. "I don’t have a machine" to dispense wine, Miliotes says. "I have a server who talks to you and pours the wines. If you want us to pour you one ounce of one wine, or four ounces of five different wines, we'll do it." He added, "I'm all for technology, but I want to emphasize that I aspire to train my people so that at every point in time somebody can come to the table and tell you about any wine on the list," he says. "You will have an interaction with a person."
The wines won't be only for snobs. Oenophiles will have their fun, but Wine Bar George aims to appeal to wine beginners also. It will offer "starter wines," the "low point screaming eagles of the world," plus better (and much better, and much much better) wines of all levels. Included will be eight wines on tap, three at $9 a glass, including a Provençal rosé and a vinho verde from a keg. Also for newbies and cheapos: a "really delicious, straight-forward tempranillo not aged in oak at $8 a glass."
Prices will be reasonable, given the setting. "The hardest thing is to find a really, really good wine at a fair price," Miliotes says, but he is bent on trying, and says he "searched the world for truly great wines." He also wants guests to give wines beyond their comfort zones a shot. "There are so many spectacular white wines nobody has tried because they're not chardonnay or sauvignon blanc," for example. Here's your chance, especially since you can get a sip, a bottle or a glassfull. Of course, the Disney Springs setting will inflate the prices somewhat, but that's the case at every restaurant there. This will help: Parking is free.
You can taste your dream wine – up to and including Château Margaux. "Maybe you're on vacation and you've always aspired to one time having a couple of ounces of Chateau Margeaux," Miliotes poses. All it takes is a credit card.
Servers will be trained not to be pushy. Don't worry about an avaricious bartender trying to talk you past your $15 glass of wine to a $45 one, not if Miliotes can help it. "The term upselling just makes me crazy," he says. "I want to sell each guest what fits him or her. For some people, a $9 glass of wine fits them, and I want them to have the best $9 glass of wine they've ever had. Others, yea, want a $50 glass. And I've got everything between the two, with delicious wines at all those price points."
You can avoid wine altogether. Beer, and wine-based and traditional cocktails, will also be on the menu.
The foods will be the kinds of things you'd eat in Wine Country. "We wanted food that complements the wine and vice versa," Miliotes says. That means cheese platters, charcuterie platters, olives, meatballs, salads ... . "Serving these shareable foods will set a feeling of community," he says. "Wine is best when there's food to eat, and everyone is sitting around the table and everyone starts chattering."
Kids will be welcome. If you're craving a chilled chardonnay or a Leviathan blend but are toting youngsters, there will still a place for you at the Wine Bar George table. In fact, children were considered during menu development. The family meals will have something for everyone, and some kid-specific options will be on the menu. Specifics are still under wraps, but promotional photos show a sliced steak with asparagus spears and fried potato wedges.
You can self-teach. You can expect the servers to be mighty knowledgeable, but you can also grab a Wine Bar George tablet to read more about each wine and even watch videos.
The music will be interesting. The playlists will be comprised of tunes from "excellent artists," but "not necessarily their greatest hits." So, you might not sing along, but you'll like the comfort of Mick Jagger's voice, say, or Adele's.
Time it right, and you can chat with a winemaker. If a winemaker is in town, Wine Bar George might host an intimate gathering with interested customers. The winemaker will likely talk in an unscripted manner, then take questions. The atmosphere will be informal, almost chummy. "I want the personality of the winemaker to meld in with what I do in a casual and approachable way," Miliotes says. There's that approachable word again. I told you he repeats it repeatedly.
Or maybe party with that winemaker. By "party," we don't mean party. This is a classy place, at Disney World yet. Winemakers might meet and greet guests upstairs from 9pm, pouring wine shots or full glasses, maybe even to the tunes of their own playlists over the speakers. "I'm not against wine worship," Miliotes says. "But let's crack the bottle open. Let's drink it. Let's enjoy it."
You'll be able to buy nifty wine gadgets. The retail area will be small but practical. It will feature gizmos and such that Miliotes uses regularly.
You can sip and savor pretty much any time you want. Wine Bar George will open at 11am and close at 2am seven days a week. Just as neighboring Raglan Road gets an after-hours crowd for its beers and camaraderie, Wine Bar George hopes to gather night owls for its wines and camaraderie.
See you there, whenever Wine Bar George opens. I'm ready to expand my wine game. You?