My friend Heather is like a more glamorous, more put together version of me. She wears “outfits” instead of just “clothes”. She has a beautiful home decorated in tasteful themes; the guest room, for example, is a purple-tinged voyage to Paris. She’s a wonderful hostess. She’s so Grown Up without being boring. Lovely.

We met in elementary school, and kept in touch after she moved to Central Florida, visiting each other every summer. When I visited her, we went to Disney World and swam in her pool. When it was her turn to visit me, we had Will Smith movie marathons (it was the mid-90’s, when he had a blockbuster coming out pretty much every summer) and fake-changed our last names to Duchovny (we had a thing for Mulder).

Heather is one of those perfect friends – the kind where you can go for years without seeing each other, maybe only talk once a year, and still pick up right where you left off. We’re eerily similar, despite our distance and somewhat sporadic, life-interrupted communication; she loves puns, cats, and might be better at “Friends” trivia than I am. Craziness.

Another example of our simpatico: She came up with the brilliant idea of taking me to what I soon dubbed the “Wonderland of Wine” – a place where you load up a debit card and then swipe it to get samples of different wines. On tap. With cheese plates.

{my beautiful, brilliant friend}

In short, I could’ve spent my entire vacation at The Wine Room.

Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration; eventually, I would have run out of money and one can only handle so much cheese in one sitting. But it was a truly unique and fun experience, complete with a tasting area that I believe used to be a bank safe…

The joy of scanning through the wine selection, inserting the debit card, then simply pressing a button to get a tasting is something I’ve never experienced before. It’s a way to explore wine on your own terms, at your own pace, without the pourer staring back at you to gauge your reaction (sorry, but that’s one of the things that annoys me about wine tastings).

The tasting wines are housed in climate-controlled clear cases, with a length of tube inserted into each bottle. The tube leads to the pouring system. You choose between three sizes of pours, all marked with different prices.

 

The wines are organized by region, grape varietal, etc. There’s even a section of higher-end French wines (Heather’s French husband made an abeille-line for that one). We were very pleased to discover that of all the wines in all the wine shops in all the world, one of the sampling wines was one of the two that we served at our wedding. Kismet!

The Wine Room features a menu of starters, sandwiches, and flatbreads, all designed to be perfect complements to the wine. Heather ordered the blue cheese potato chips, knowing full well that I absolutely abhor blue cheese.

So why did my dear friend subject me to a cheese that to me tastes like unwashed feet?

Because she doesn’t like blue cheese either. But she loves these chips.

I trust this woman with much more than my palate, so I dived in once the chips came. I don’t know if it was the crisp kettle chips, the gooey mozzarella, or the sweet and syrupy honey, but the chips were really good, despite being defiled with large chunks of blue cheese. I like to think it was the honey.

For the first time in my life, I enjoyed blue cheese. This is undisputable proof that miracles happen every day.

Of course, all of the wines are for sale, along with countless others. I assume they rotate the sampling selection, which means that I might have to stop in here every time I visit Heather, in between trips to the Magic Kingdom and laps in her pool. Somehow, I don’t think she’d mind.

Update: Even after perusing walls and walls of self-selected wine, Heather was the one who took us home to introduce us to one that, to this day, serves as our favorite Sauvignon Blanc – and a beautiful reminder of our friendship: Kim Crawford.

Kim is so deliciously down to earth that you can even find her at Costco in Florida. Unfortunately, Maryland is still in the alcohol-related Dark Ages, and makes us go to completely separate establishments to purchase adult beverages. A girl can dream, though…


The Wine Room

270 S Park Avenue

Winter Park, Florida 32789