Largest Single-Site Purveyor of Wine in the World:
Disney’s Wide World of Wine
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — As baby boomers — the first generation to grow up with Disney theme parks — return to Walt Disney World Resort, they’re demanding a new level of sophistication, especially in the realm of dining.
In the past 10 years, world-class restaurants have been introduced — California Grill, Flying Fish Cafe, Cítricos, Artist Point, Jiko-The Cooking Place, and with each new dining room, wine choices have increased dramatically.
“We’re always listening to our guests,” said John Blazon, manager of Wine Sales and Standards, “what’s selling, what’s not, what should we add?” And as the largest single-site purveyor of wine in the world, it’s pretty easy to spot trends, from up-and-coming vintners to the rise in single-serving bottles. “We’re always learning,” Blazon continued.
Blazon and his team start with a solid list of 250 wines that’s updated annually, 65 percent New World (from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) and 35 percent Old World (from Spain, France,
Germany and Italy). At a resort with more than 300 places to dine — more than most cities — that scrutinized list insures quality and consistency in pricing no matter where guests are dining, said Blazon.
Then, select “fine dining” restaurants in both theme parks and resorts have the latitude to expand and refine the core list. For instance, Artist Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge has a wine list that’s exclusively from the Pacific Northwest, while Jiko-The Cooking Place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offers only wines from South Africa — the largest South African wine program for any one site in the United States. Narcoossee’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa can add favorites to accompany seafood, while the sommelier at Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort looks for first-rate pairings for beef. AAA Five-Diamond winner Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa has 700 selections on the menu and 4,200 bottles in its cellar.
And with wine such an integral part of the Disney dining experience, Walt Disney World Resort has more sommeliers than any other company in the world, according to the Court of Master Sommeliers, the governing board for certification.
“The certification has sparked an entire culture in our company,” said Blazon. “Our sommeliers are friendly, passionate and listen to our guests so they can recommend creative choices for matching wine with food.”
More than 625 sommeliers have been awarded the Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory Certificate at Walt Disney World Resort, with more than 300 sommeliers currently in restaurants. Walt Disney World Resort has one master sommelier, John Blazon, and one advanced sommelier, Bridget Sherren.
Beyond wine, Walt Disney World Resort also offers a two-day seminar to cast members — the first of its kind for a major company — focusing on distilled spirits and cordials and covering history, production, food pairings and more. A written exam and “Disney Spirits Diploma” completes the class.