We had the opportunity to interview Master Sommelier George Miliotes, who is the proprietor of the upcoming Wine Bar George. The restaurant is scheduled to open this spring in the Landing area of Disney Springs, which is where we met him to find out more about the upcoming venue as well as Milotes himself. Wine Bar George will focus on the wine experience but also will offer food to pair with over 100 different wines. Miliotes is one of only about 250 Master Sommeliers in the world. I posted our Mousesteps Weekly #260 show at the end of the article, I queued it up to the spoken interview. Here is more about George and his upcoming establishment!
George Miliotes, photo provided by Wine Bar George
MS: How did the idea for the restaurant come about?
GM: I’ve thought about opening up a wine bar for quite a bit of time, and when Disney came to me and asked if it would be fun to open up a wine bar at Disney Springs…I had some ideas in my head, and had been thinking about it for a little bit, but Disney was kind of the impetus that it’d be fun to have a wine bar at the Springs. It got me thinking, and then we made it.
Upper level concept art for Wine Bar George
MS: You’ve worked at Disney before, can you tell us a little about that?
GM: I did work at Disney for about eight years. I was one of the founders of the California Grill. We helped design it, hire the people, run it, do the whole thing for seven years. It was a great run at the top of the Contemporary (Disney’s Contemporary Resort) and I’m very happy to be back at Disney.
MS: What are the challenges of owning a restaurant now (vs. working for other restaurants).
GM: (Laughing), Well, I’ve learned more about building a restaurant in the last two years than I ever thought I would. And so I think the largest challenge is the design aspect of it, making sure that it gets built right. Yes, I’m a sommelier and I like selling wine and talking to people, and food and wine together. Maybe not so much the guy who is going to manage a construction project (laughing again).
Exterior Wine Bar George concept art
MS: You travel a lot to France, to South Africa. What are your favorite wine regions to visit?
GM: My favorite wine regions are like my favorite children, I love all three of my children equally. I will say that I was just in Australia and New Zealand for the first time six months ago and was blown away – particularly in Australia – the quality of wine…the diversity of wine. I think that there is this idea sometimes in people’s minds that Australia is just focused on low-end Shiraz, and that’s not the case. It was an eye opening experience and a great experience. That all being said, I love Napa Valley; Tuscany is one of the more brilliant places in the world; and I think you know of my love for South Africa. And Germany, the Moselle River is one of the magical places in the world. I love all the wine regions, but those are my faves.
MS: Can you tell us about some of the unique wines, or favorite wines that we might find at Wine Bar George?
GM: I sure can. I’ll give you a window in on a couple of things. When I was in Australia, I ran across a winery called Yeringberg, who’s in the Yarra Valley. So a relatively unknown internationally wine growing area – although in Australia it is a known wine growing area…who’d been making wine very successfully in the 1800s, then because of phylloxera stopped and then started again in the 1900s, the mid-1900s. So the Yarra is going through kind of a rebirth internationally and I thought it was as good a Cabernet as I’ve ever tasted. Not knowing anything about the winery, I showed up at the winery…they’re like, “You’re going to taste really good Cabernet”. And I’m like, “Alright, I’ve heard that a ton of times”. But it really was this beautifully elegant, balanced Cabernet that I thought was spectacular. That’s a fun wine that, while not exclusive to us, not very many people are interested in Yarra Valley Cabernet simply because it doesn’t have a big name. From Germany, I have dry riesling from Selbach-Oster called Bömer. The dry reisling is a very exciting area of the wine business right now, and that’s something you’ll be able to come and try at my place. Not fabulously expensive, not inexpensive either but really in the right price range if you love wine and like trying something new and different. That’s another one that’s kind of exciting. I have my old friends like the De Toren Fusion V is going to be available at my place, we’ve helped make their name. But we’ll have lots of other suprises, Beaujolais is an area that I think is up and coming right now, and we’ll have three or four choices of Beaujolais by the glass too.
George Miliotes, photo by Denise Preskitt
MS: While your restaurant is called Wine Bar George, there will also be some small plates. Is there anything you can tell us about that?
GM: There will be a number of options. I think when you enjoy wine and food together…sometimes you have one idea, ‘I’m going to come in and have a cheese plate’ or a big charcuterie board and make it a casual one or two glasses thing. I’ll also have small plates so you can have a little bit more of a complicated meal and kind of pair food and wine together. I’ll have family style entrees if you want to do a full dining experience. It’s all about being able to pair food with a very special wine and I’m going to train my people that way, so that when you come in, and you say ‘I want to have this dish’, they’ll know what to recommend with it.
MS: Can you tell us what it means to be a Master Sommelier?
GM: Anyone can call themselves a sommelier in the world. But a Master Sommelier has to pass four different levels of testing to become a Master Sommelier. Part of it is about being gracious and humble and wanting to sell wine and explain wine to people in a non-fussy manner. But the final level to become a Master Sommelier…you take three tests, one test is a knowledge test on anything alcoholic in the world. You have a service exam, where again you have to be humble and know how to recommend food and wine paired together. And the last part that everyone gets excited about is we do walk into a room, and there are three white wines and three red wines in front of us, and you have 25 minutes to verbally evaluate the wines and tell them exactly what the wines are.
Here is our Mousesteps Weekly Show #260, queued up to the interview! Thank you to George Miliotes for taking the time to talk to us.