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