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Guest Review: New Jiko Wine Tasting

Welcome to Jenn Lazzaro (whom you’ve seen here before by way of her gorgeous photos), who’s treating us to her review of the brand new Jiko Wine Tasting happening on Wednesdays at the Animal Kingdom Lodge! Take it away, Jenn!

When I first heard that Jiko was starting up wine pairing Wednesday afternoons, I immediately grabbed a calendar to see if any of them coincided with trip in May. Sure enough, one did! Jiko is hands down one of my top two favorite restaurants on Disney property (the other is Citricos), so I couldn’t make a reservation quick enough.

Booking and Background

According to the Disney Parks Blog:

With one of the finest collections of South African wines in the U.S., sommeliers at Jiko – The Cooking Place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge love sharing tastes. Each Wednesday from 3-4 p.m., take a journey through the wine regions of South Africa and sample three delicious vintages paired with cheese and fruit. Cost is $25 plus tax and gratuity, and reservations can be made at 407-WDW-DINE.

Before even asking my other friends if they wanted to join me, I immediately called the Jiko reservation line that was given and left a message with my information that was requested. Within a few hours, I had a confirmation email from one of the Cast Members of Jiko confirming my reservation and letting me know that I can add guests with just a simple email back to her.

After all was said and done, there were 4 of us wanting to attend the wine pairing. We arrived at Jiko a little early and they were still setting up, so we wandered for a bit. After seeing other guests waiting by the bar area, we wandered back and hung out with the crowd.

Atmosphere and Tasting

The sommelier came around to each group to check us in. We were then ushered into the main dining room of Jiko where we all took our seats around a single long table, which sat around 16 or 18 people. The wines were already placed at each seat on top of a place mat that listed the name of each wine sample. As guests started to greet and meet each other, the cheeses were quickly laid in center of the table.

Tasting Wines

I’d wanted to take photos of everything before we were told we could start eating but, unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough. One of the Jiko chefs came to our table to explain the cheeses that we would be having during the pairing. It was impossible to keep track of which was which during the explanation but they were kind enough to give me a print out of all of the cheeses that we sampled.

Jiko Artisanal Cheese Selection
Fiore Sardo – Italy (Sheep): Fiore Sardo is a cheese of ancient origins that predates the Roman conquest of Sardinia. The milk used to make Fiore Sardo must come from Sardinian sheep, which are thought to be descendants of the wild mountain sheep called Mouflon. The flavor is rich, full flavored, and nutty with a hint of caramel. The rind is golden yellow to dark brown and sometimes black when smoked. Served with strawberries and dried apricots.

Fiore

Bijou – US (Goat): Bijou is the French word for ‘jewel’, and these petit, glistening cheeses are the perfect embodiment. Styled after the classic Crottin de Chavignol, Bijou is a pasteurized goat’s milk cheese produced by the Vermont Butter and Cheese creamery in Websterville, Vermont. The are semi-firm in texture, and bear the typical, subtle tang of fresh goat’s milk cheese. Served with berries and a cherry gelee.

Bijou

Fromage d’Affinois de Brebis – France (Sheep): Fromage d’Affinois de Brebis is a soft-ripened, pure sheep milk cheese with a creamy texture and a sweet taste. This cheese is a soft, bloomy-rind sheep’s milk cheese from the Rhone-Alps region in France, produced by the well renowned Guilloteau creamery. The paste is mild and rich while the rind provides a flavor and texture that is savory and builds complexity. Served with sun-dried, vine ripened raisins.

Brebis

Cashel Blue – Ireland (Cow): Developed in 1984 by Jane and Louis Grubb, Cashel Blue is Ireland’s first Artisanal Farmstead Cheese. Cashel Blue is entirely hand crafted on the farm in Tipperary Ireland, using un-homogenized Cow’s milk from the Friesian dairy herd. Cashel Blue is generally younger than many other Blues, topping out around three months of age. Served with raspberries and blueberries.

Cashel Blue

Pleasant Ridge Reserve – US (Cow): Raw Milk, Farmstead Cheese from southwest Wisconsin, made in the style of Alpine Cheeses like Beaufort and Gruyere. Pleasant Ridge Reserve is only produced between May an October, and only when the pasture conditions are ideal. Pleasant Ridge Reserve is aged for 8 months in the Creamery’s own ripening cellar.

We were also served a plate of star anise wafers and fig almond croutons. Before tasting the wine, the cheese plates were passed around the table and everyone took a sample from each onto their own plates for the wine pairings.

Fig Bread

And now on to the part we’ve all been waiting for, the wine!!

The sommelier, Raul, gave us a brief rundown of the history of South African wines. He explained how the wine industry there is still relatively a young industry and still starting out. He then went into detail about each wine, one at a time. Giving the history of the vineyard, he then explained the grapes used, and asked that we all try the wine. After taking guesses of other ingredients used in the making, he jumped in and told us how correct (or incorrect) our guesses were.

The three wines we sampled:
Cederberg Bukettraube, Cederberg: Described as a “wine with attitude”, this was probably the favorite of the table. It had hints of grapefruit and honey and paired well with the blue cheese. Unfortunately I’m not a fan of blue cheese but I thought it still went well with some of the other cheeses.

Spice Route, Chenin Blanc, Swartland: This was a very well balanced wine, mild and sweet. Hints of apricot.

Warwick, Old Bush Vines, Pinotage, Stellenbosch: Possibly my personal favorite, but I enjoy reds more than whites. The Pinotage was explained to be a mix of Pinot Noir and Hermitage and is a grape to hold up to the weather. This wine was smooth yet slightly dry and had black currant and clove undertones.

After a sip (or two, or three), he requested that we then try the wine with a bit of cheese or fruit and discuss how the taste of the wine changes. All three wines we sampled were delicious on their own. With the correct cheese & fruit? The flavors were definitely enhanced!

This went on for all three wines and then we were able to sit and enjoy the remainder of the event. Raul would walk around and talk with the guests and answer any questions they had. All wine glasses were also refilled on request until the bottles ran dry.

Overall

I can honestly say that this one of the most memorable and enjoyable events I’ve attended at Walt Disney World. For the price ($25 plus gratuity), this can’t be beat. It’s a fabulous way to spend an afternoon away from the parks and a chance to try some delicious wine & cheese. Would I attend a Jiko wine pairing again? I’m already planning my next trip and definitely including this in my itinerary!

The Jiko dress code was not mentioned when making the reservations, but almost everyone in attendance was dressed up in slightly nicer attire. We were the 4 that came directly from the parks, so next time I might want to freshen up before heading over.

Thanks to Jenn for this great review and the phenomenal photos! You can find Jenn at EatSleepRunDisney.com and at @DisRunner on twitter.

Would this event be on your to-do list? Let us know in the comments section below!

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19 Comments

  1. James (Disneynorth) says:

    Great review Jenn! I wish they did more wine pairings like this in other Disney restaurants. Off the top of my head, I can see this working in places like The Wave, California Grill, Chefs de France, Tutto Italia and even Tokyo Dining (sake).

    Were the wines that you tasted on the existing wine list?

  2. Awesome stuff…is this a permanent program or just a few sporadic dates?

  3. Jenn says:

    James… Thanks! I believe they were all on the existing wine list. I remember the sommelier mentioning that one of the wines was only sold at Jiko in the United States. Honestly don’t remember which one though so didn’t want to mention it in the review. I would LOVE to have more wine tastings like this around property! Hopefully if this is successful, we’ll see it other places as well.

    Deej… as of right now it’s every Wednesday. They did not mention if there is a minimum number of guests that need to attend.

  4. Michele says:

    Great review Jenn!

    My fav was the Cederberg. The fig bread and fiore were other favs.

    As Jenn said for $25, this experience was absolutely amazing! Raul could not have been more helpful and willing to answer any question you had; even handing out his business card, in case you think of a question later.

    I don’t know how long it was, but we were not rushed out and must have stayed ther for well over and hour…maybe 2?

    Though, a word to the wise, please eat something before you go! lol

  5. Oh this looks like so much fun! We’re coming in on a Wednesday in October, but our flight isn’t scheduled to land until 1:50pm. I wonder if I could get to AKL in time to do the wine tasting (we’re staying at Kidani). I think my husband would really enjoy doing this.

  6. Bill says:

    Jenn, great review! This will be an experience that we look forward to on our visit in October. I too hope that this concept will be considered for some of the other fine dining locations throughout Walt Disney World.

  7. vanessa says:

    Great review!

    To be perfectly honest, my boyfriend and I know nothing of wines and think this would be an amazing intro to them. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had them before and I def prefer sweeter, whites, ports and flavorful wines. And for reds, they have to be sort of dry – sweet for me. I can’t stand the dry taste in my mouth.

    I’ve also done wine tasting back in 2006 at the Food and Wine festival when they had those free seminars of all the vineyards that would stop by. Those were always fun but it wasn’t enough to understand the whole wine thing. We’re more of the beer and liquor drinkers but we’ve been wanting to get more into wine and such.

    “All wine glasses were also refilled on request until the bottles ran dry.” Favorite part of the review? Haha =)

  8. Amanda says:

    Wow looks great and for 25$, thats amazing! I am for sure adding this to my to do list. Maybe some other signature restaurants will start offering some similiar priced options.

  9. Brooke says:

    Fantastic review. You provide great information, and make this sound as exciting as I thought it would be. Happy to put it on my list of WDW things to do. Thanks!

  10. Sally says:

    Thanks for the tantalizing review. I’m not a huge fan of South African wines but I’d be willing to ‘suffer’ the wines just to experience the cheeses! :)

  11. Mark D. says:

    Great review Jenn. I just went in May and was so mad that I could not get this into my plans for the week. It is a must do for the future.

  12. Lenny says:

    Do it, Raul! He used to be at Flying Fish before Jiko. Great guy!!!! They used to have a wine tasting there on Mondays, free. But this is excellent for $25!!! I will be absolutely doing it in less than a month! It is absolutely great as an intro to newer wine enthusiasts, and just as good for those who really know little about wines other than California and Europe!!

  13. Chris says:

    Great review and especially wonderful pics!

    I was also at that week’s tasting and thought it was fantastic – at $25 it was a real bargain since we got what amounted to the Jiko cheese plate plus 3 glasses of wine.

    As mentioned in the review, one minor quibble (maybe fixed now) was that the cheese intro was really confusing – I guess I’m not much of an aural learner. I think each setting should have had one of those info sheets or maybe they could have put little cards on each platter. Otherwise, I’ll know to ask for a sheet beforehand next time.

  14. Bill M. says:

    Jenn:

    Great review! We have been looking for something like this for a while. I agree with the other posts that Disney should consider including this wine tasting option at other restaurants on the property on other days as well. Can’t wait to go try this while there at Thanksgiving this year. Only problem is the couple we wanted to join us are leaving on a cruise on Wednesday morning so they won’t get to enjoy it. Other options for wine pairing dinners include Victoria and Alberts and the Flying Fish, but the price is significantly higher.

  15. NotChris says:

    The info about reservations might not be accurate anymore. I think they have transitioned or are transitioning this to a pre-paid dining event processed through WDW-DINE now and hopefully the website at some point. Downside is you pre-pay in full (current price $31.25) but upside is there’s a real ADR number that you can print out or view on the website.

  16. AJ says:

    Chris — True! Thanks for the reminder. I’ve updated the post with new booking info.

  17. Bill M says:

    Went to this event at Thanksgiving and really enjoyed it. Came back for anniversary on February 1, 2012 and went again. You must pre-pay and register with the dining reservation number. The first time I called I was told it had been discontinued. Called again and got reservations. This was one of the most enjoyable events I have ever attended. Ended up with two other couples who were on their anniversary trip from Canada and New Jersey and another single guy. It is amazing how wine will break down barriers. By the end of the wine tasting, we didn’t want to leave so we didn’t. They have a culinary tour that starts at 4 so we did that together. Then we all decided to dine together at Sanaa restaurant. It was a wonderful evening of wine, laughter and food. Can’t recommend this enough. Marty was our host and he did a wonderful job. Found out that they have an organic local beer tasting at the Wave restaurant at Contemporary Resort on Saturdays from 3:30 – 4:30. Pass it on.

  18. AJ says:

    Bill — I felt the same way after my Jiko wine tasting! We all stayed until Jiko opened for business :-) Thanks for the tip about the Contemporary!

  19. Cathy says:

    Can you use Tables in Wonderland for this?

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