8.37pm, Westshore, Tampa – spring training home of the New York Yankees , Florida, USA
Another steamy morning in the gator state, and we worked our way across Florida from New Smyrna Beach to Orlando, where we did our trade lunch, then on to Tampa, where we have the night off. We’ve just come in from dinner at Kojak’s House Of Ribs, and now I’m going to catch up on last night’s wine class, and today’s events.
The wine class was at Norwood’s Restaurant & Wine Shop back in New Smyrna Beach, and we worked with proprietor/chef Don Simmon’s and eight of our wines. Check out the Norwood’s billboard – finnally got my name up in letters – maybe it’ll be lights one day! Seriously though, this place is off the beaten path but an absolute gem with a great story, and this is how it goes. In 1929 it started out as a petrol station, then went through a string of shopfronts – mosquito control station, piggy bank factory & general store – before being bought in 1946 by Earl Norwood and turned into a seafood restaurant, renowned for buying the daily catch from the local fishermen and making that their menu. He ran it until 1953 and sold it to Mr & Mrs Bulchunis. It stayed a restaurant for the next 19 years, and they sold it to Marvin Age, who kept it going through the 1980s.
During this time, young Don Simmons worked in the kitchen before going off to college. Don came back in 1985 to run the restaurant, and he and his wife are now the owners. Not only that, they’ve built the cellar up to 30,000 bottles, and have regular wine classes – which brings us to the Yalumba session last night. We had a big act to follow, as the last class two weeks ago was the famous riesling winemaker Dr Loosen. We had 40 people, eight wines, two seafood appetizers and one beef appetizer … and a lot of wine ground to cover. Stars of the night were definitely the 2008 Y Viognier and the scallops, and the 2007 Scribbler Cab Shiraz with the rare roast beef.
What a great crew! I’ve taken some pics of Don and part of the class group in the bar after the event – you can’t paint those sort of happy smiles – they come from having a great time, and last night we all did our bit for economic recovery. Nice to know that a dozen of those wines are going to be a thanksgiving wine tasting lunch for a group of the local schoolteachers’ families. That will be a good house to drop in on! Good news yet again is that we’re going to make the Norwood’s Yalumba tasting an annual event, so that’s a date! I’m going to make sure we bring some of our big guns to the next one, and really spoil the New Smyrna locals, as they really looked after us last night. Thanks Norwoods, thanks Mark, thanks New Smyrna – see ya next year.
PS and thanks to the gals at The Riverview – real Southern hospitality – when I actually went out the front door this morning to have a look at the river, what a lovely old place. It was built in 1885 as a place for hunters and fishermen to stay while chasing fish and waterfowl in the Indian River Lagoon. Charming stuff, and you almost expect Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn to come floating down the river on their raft!
So we dragged ourselves away from New Smyrna and went across to Orlando, or more correctly Winter Park, to do our trade lunch at Chez Vincent. Another gem with a couple of our wines on the list, and we sat down with 20 people from our distributor (Transatlantic), restaurants and retail around the area. We had a spirited lunch with Pewsey Vale Riesling, Wild Ferment Chardonnay, Eden Valley Viognier, Bush Vine Grenache, Patchwork Shiraz, The Scribbler Cabernet Shiraz and The Menzies Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon – covering two regions, a stack of varieties, and four vintages. There was a stream of rapid fire conversation and questions – then bam – it was over! Terrific food from a great family business, with the only underground cellar in central Florida – beautifully bricked up and seating 30 people amongst the temperature controlled wine vaults.
There’s a lovely photo of Vincent (Gagliano), the chef/proprietor, and Paul Bocuse on the wall, taken when he dropped in for dinner – big memorable moment for Vincent, and the only time that he says that he’s ever been nervous at the stoves. A really good turnout and a great session – thanks Transatlantic, Mark and everyone at Chez Vincent.
PS I was telling everyone that this being our 160th birthday year, the actual official day is next month – on the 17th November. Chez Vincent has decided to jump in and be a part of it all, and will do a special Yalumba 160th birthday wine dinner that night. Thanks very much folks – I’ll make sure I get the menu for the event up on the blog beforehand so we can all be there at least in spirit. Cheers!
We continued crosscountry to Tampa, a port city that was also the home of a flourishing cigar industry from the late 1800s. We had the luxury of a night off, so we went out for dinner to Kojak’s House of Ribs. They turn out good BBQ under massive old live oaks, and I had the rib dinner with corn, beans and coleslaw. Came back to the hotel, did the washing (a hotel with a washing machine and dryer in house – yay!), caught up on the blog, and now it’s an early night. Good thing too, as we’ve got a big solid three days for the rest of the week. But we continue to win hearts and palates, so it’s all good.
See ya tomorrow when it’s still humid.