If you haven’t already, mark your calendars for August 31-November 13, as the festival extends to an unprecedented 75 full days for the first time ever! And be sure to bookmark our 2017 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Main Page, because that’s where you can access all the details — including events, schedules, and booking dates!
Maybe you can’t tell, but we tend to get a little excited around here for F&W. And part of the countdown is reviewing some of the events that we had the pleasure to attend the previous year.
New to the festival in 2016, Disney added Mix It! Make It! Celebrate It! Hands-On Workshops at Festival Center — daily opportunities for guests to roll up their sleeves and participate in the learning process. And the event is BACK for 2017!
Last year, workshops were offered covering everything from sushi making to creating clean treats! We really enjoyed a workshop on the latter, as we learned how to make a killer brownie, courtesy of Erin McKenna of Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC in Disney Springs.
Today, we’re sharing another Mix It! Make It! Celebrate It! Workshop that we experienced — Wine, Cheese and Chocolate: Perfectly Paired.
Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Perfectly Paired
We arrived in plenty of time before the crowds descended on Festival Center. All of the festival’s low cost culinary demonstrations and beverage seminars take place here. The Chef’s Showcase in the back of the pavilion is also the setting for the Mix It! Make It! Celebrate It! Workshops.
For the event, guests are seated at a long table along with up to seven other attendees. Your place at the table is set with everything you need to participate in the workshop.
At our previous event, our place setting included ingredients for making brownies. This workshop was a tasting experience, however. So instead of ingredients, I found an assortment of Wine, Cheese, and Chocolate.
Prior to the event beginning, I had a little look around. On the elevated stage area, the counter was laden with the larger quantities of the food and wine I found at my place setting.
Soon, guests took their seats, and the workshop began, as the presenters were announced and made their way to the stage.
One by one, the speakers introduced themselves and shared a little about their background. We began with Jill Ramsier from Quantum Leap Winery.
Quantum Leap is an Orlando winery (seriously!) specializing in the use of sustainable ingredients. They partner with small-yield growers to create their wines. All of the wines for the event were Quantum Leap wines.
We also met Tonda Corrente from La Femme de Fromage.
Tonda’s shop is located in Orlando’s East End Market, a popular hangout and collection of local small businesses.
Our next presenter was Lisa Wilk from Orlando Uncorked.
Orlando Uncorked is a local group started by Lisa that specializes in teaching about wines in an approachable way. She would also share about the wine and food pairings that we’d be sampling.
And finally, Kevin and Jami Wray from Peterbrooke Chocolatier of Winter Park joined the panel as well.
Peterbrooke is a local gourmet chocolate shop that concentrates on chocolate blending. The shop offers a huge variety of milk, dark, and white chocolate. The duo shared tips on how to best pair wine and chocolate.
Before the tastings even began, I was super impressed to see the event highlighting Orlando shops and businesses, with a spotlight on local offerings and knowledge.
But even for out of town guests, the panelists were all so thorough in their explanations that the principles could be applied to any store or shop, anywhere.
Soon, we turned our attention to tasting. Yay!
Our first pairing was a 2014 Russian River Sauvignon Blanc.
This wine is aged in oak and has notes of honeydew, melon, and meyer lemons. I loved its bright acidity.
We began our food tasting with Cypress Grove Purple Haze, a goat’s milk cheese.
The cheese is from a California creamery and is flavored with lots of aromatic herbs, like lavender and fennel. Tonda recommended pairing goat cheese with Sauvignon Blanc. In this case in particular, the wine accentuates the herbal notes in the cheese — and vice versa.
After having another sip of the wine, I completely agreed.
It was time for our first chocolate pairing, and we sampled a White Chocolate Dipped Strawberry. Again, fruit dipped in chocolate is a great pairing option for a Sauvignon Blanc, which tends to be herbal and mineral in character.
Our next wine was another white — the 2014 Grape Pedaler White Blend.
The blend combines four Columbia Valley wines. As I sniffed the wine initially, I noticed a strong apricot scent. After tasting, I also picked up notes of jasmine. This wine was also much more fruit forward than our first sample.
We paired it with Petit Agour, a French sheep’s milk cheese.
The cheese has a firm, buttery texture and a mildly nutty flavor. By the way, the rind is totally edible, so go for it if you’d like.
The chocolate pairing for the white wine blend was a Pretzel Rod dipped first in Caramel, and then in White Chocolate.
I thought it was interesting that the chocolate pairings for the white wines were all white chocolate. The Peterbrooke presenters explained that the high cocoa butter content and, in this case, the extra sweetness from the caramel, paired exceptionally well with the fruitier white blend.
They loved the sweet-salty combo, especially paired with the nutty flavor of the cheese, were a fantastic match for the wine.
Our next pairing brought us to the Willamette Valley for a non-vintage Pinor Noir.
The light-bodied red wine offered up wonderful smells of fresh, ripe cherries, which carried through into the flavor profile as well. I also picked up on notes of raspberry, and I had the sense that the wine had been aged in wooden barrels.
We paired the Pinot Noir with Cypress Grove Midnight Moon Goat Gouda.
An aged goat’s milk cheese, this is very different than what you’d expect from a typical, fresh and creamy goat’s milk offering. The texture is a bit crystalline from the aging process. You’ll notice strong flavors of brown sugar and caramel in this complex cheese.
After another sip of the wine, we sampled a Bark made from swirls of Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate, studded with Dried Cherries.
Can’t find this special bark? No problem. Just fix up a little assortment of your favorite dark and milk chocolate, and throw in a few dried cherries. That will effectively balance the sweetness so it’s not overpowering.
During this part of the workshop, we also learned a little about the difference between Swiss chocolate and Belgian chocolate. We were tasting Swiss chocolate, which has a higher percentage of cocoa butter. Belgian chocolate, according to our experts, has a higher percentage of cocoa mass. They believe that Swiss chocolate is superior. (But I’m sure there are a few Belgians out there who would disagree. )
But back to our tasting! Our final tastings were paired with a 2013 Columbia Valley Syrah.
The Washington State and is a blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Vouvray (which is itself a white blend. That’s a whole lot of blending.)
On the nose, the wine smelled of oak and berries. As I tasted it, I picked up on flavors of blueberries and strawberries.
For our first pairing, we sampled Cahill Porter Cheddar. This Irish cheese and is soaked in porter, making it both visually striking as well as delicious. As you might expect, the cheese is rather rich, with notes of espresso courtesy of the porter.
In an effort to stand up to the rich cheese, our experts chose a decadent chocolate truffle for our final pairing.
The intensity of the dark chocolate ganache complemented the full bodied wine beautifully.
At the conclusion of the workshop, the featured speakers welcomed guests to come up and share questions or comments. We found all of the experts to be welcoming, warm, knowledgeable, and approachable.
As a parting gift, we also received a bamboo cutting board branded with the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.
As it so happens, it’s perfect for serving cheese or chocolate — for our very next home wine pairing event!
This was our second time attending a Mix It! Make It! Celebrate It! Hands-On Workshop, and we had a pretty fantastic time. Each of the speakers demonstrated not only a deep level of knowledge about their chosen fields, but they were clearly passionate about their crafts as well.
As a local, I really appreciated that Disney partnered with Orlando companies and talent for the event, highlighting some of the awesome things that are happening in the local food scene. But even guests visiting from out of town agreed that what they learned could be applied anywhere.
If I had one complaint, it would be with the amount of each wine pour. Nope, I’m not a lush. But it would be nice to have a pour of at least one and a half or two ounces, so that you could taste them multiple times with each pairing.
Still, overall, this is a great event, and as a newbie to wine pairings and tastings, I felt like I really learned a few things, and came away with some solid knowledge. I’m looking forward to applying my new knowledge in the near future — and hopefully you can do the same!
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Are you planning to attend a Mix It! Make It! Celebrate It! Hands-On Workshop at this year’s Epcot Food and Wine Festival? Leave a comment and let us know!