The transformation of the Downtown Disney area into shopping, dining and entertainment hub Disney Springs has done much to reinvent the dining experience at Walt Disney World, and the May 19 opening of Wine Bar George just upped the ante that much more. According to the proprietors, it is the only wine bar in the state that is led by a member of the Court of Master Sommeliers.
That master sommelier is George Miliotes, who is no stranger to Disney: He was part of the opening team of the California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort and managed that restaurant from 1995 to 2002. While at California Grill, Miliotes curated one of the first 100-wines-by-the-glass list, garnering acclaim for bringing previously out-of-reach, expensive vintages to Disney guests.
"Disney Springs is the perfect place to open a wine bar and share my passion with the world," Miliotes said in a statement. "Having the opportunity to train and hire my own team while sharing my 40-plus years of knowledge is truly incredible."
I recently visited the restaurant on a Saturday night to check out the crowd, get a feel for the space and survey the menu and wine list. Reservations are highly recommended at any of the Disney Springs restaurants, especially on weekends, but I thought I'd take my chances with a walk-in, as many guests would. I put in a request for a party of two and was told the wait would be just shy of two hours. I queried a few more of the neighboring restaurants to see if the walk-in waits there were comparable. They were.
It didn't actually take two hours to be seated, just 30 minutes. Disney Springs restaurants allow patrons to leave a cellphone number to be texted when a table is available. This means guests can wander into shops or watch the live entertainment while they wait. After texting our confirmation, we made our way back to Wine Bar George and were led to the second-floor terrace.
The view from the wrought-iron, New Orleans-style terrace is breathtaking; guests can look out over Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar, Paradiso 37 and the Cirque du Soleil big top and watch the Aerophile hot-air balloon drift up and over the lagoon.
We lingered over the wine list and marveled at the more than 130 by-the-glass options as well as a shorter list of 23 wines listed "Outstanding by the Ounce." These wines, many of which are no doubt cost prohibitive to most diners, give guests an opportunity to taste in one-, three- or six-ounce pours at varying prices. The most expensive and exciting option: the 1988 Chateau Margaux, which sells for $84 for a one-ounce taste.
A beverage menu, separate from the wine list, is divided into four sections: George's Finds (which lists a themed selection of vintages; for this month, rare Spanish wines), wines on tap, a list of nine classic cocktails and 10 beers and ciders, some coming from local breweries like Crooked Can in Winter Garden, Orlando Brewing and Keel & Curley in Plant City.
Grilled skirt steak, spiced olives and a charcuterie board from Wine Bar George at Disney Springs.
The menu is divided into small plates and sharing portions, which serve two to three guests. Our server was happy to offer pairing suggestions for the kohlrabi and jicama salad with mint vinaigrette as well as the fork-tender porchetta pork cheeks over triple-cheese polenta that we fawned over. For our shared entree of Argentine-style grilled skirt steak with chimichurri, roasted potatoes and asparagus, we took him up on a 2015 malbec. The highly drinkable, low-tannin wine matched perfectly with the well-marbled cut cooked medium-rare.
We dined leisurely, though perfectly plated dishes came flying out of the kitchen at unbelievable speeds for a 200-seat, 6,000-square-foot restaurant, still fully booked at 10:30 p.m. Cashing in on the late-night crowd, Wine Bar George is open daily from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m., with dinner served through 11 p.m. each evening.
Several tables came and went as we savored dinner and took in the view, including one couple who took a look at the menu, conferred over the pricing and then excused themselves. While the menu isn't necessarily meant for the deep-pocketed -- small plates range from $7 to $16 -- offering only three family-style entree selections at between $50 and $65 might give some pause. But easily shared between three or four at a table offers some value.
The area's renovations are turning into the homestretch now, with two more major restaurant projects are well underway: a new Wolfgang Puck restaurant to replace Wolfgang Puck Express, which closed last summer, and an outpost of Jaleo by Jose Andres. The Spanish restaurant is still slated to open later this year.