So what do you do if you want to experience the best of Epcot International Food and Wine, do it all in one day and have an adults only outing? That is easy – take the Disney VIP Ultimate Day at Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Tour.
I was lucky enough to have a chance to experience this Disney VIP Tour and I can tell you it is magical. Every tour is a little bit different but let me share with you what I experienced so you can decide for yourself if it is worth it.
The day begins by showing up by 8:45 am just outside Innoventions West. At 8:45 am a Cast Member will walk you to the Festival Center and a tour guide will greet you outside and get you all signed in. In our case our tour guide, Jeff from New Orleans, met us and instantly became our best friend.
Once inside we were all gathered outside of our first event and we all introduced ourselves and met our other guides. Jeff and Jennifer were going to be our primary guides for the day while Jude and Ashton were our advance team. They made sure everything was timed perfectly and anticipated our needs before we even had them.
We were a group of 13 from all over the country. We were told they can have groups of up to 26 but 13 made for a more casual experience.
What’s Cookin’ With…
The first event of the day is a brunch with a guest chef to perform a cooking demonstration. Before the demonstration, a full brunch was provided along with a glass of proecco.
Once brunch was complete, our guest chef Elizabeth Falkner appeared to cook fish tacos (which of course we got to sample with your choice of a glass of red or white wine).
Hosted Beverage Demonstration
Once brunch was finished we headed over to the festival wine shop where we met the wine buyer for Walt Disney World. He gave us an overview of different kinds of wine and shared some hints for handling wine. We also had the chance to try Lasseter (yes, that John Lasseter) Amoureux which is a Bordeaux-style blend made primarily of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.
While we were listening to our speaker, our wonderful Cast Member VIP tour guides went and invited Elizabeth Falkner to join us. She listened in for a bit, chatted with us and let us take photos. She really is down to earth!
For history buffs we actually got to see a very rare bottle of wine. It was a Ropiteau Freres Cuvee Du 40 Anniversaire 6 juin 1944 bottle of wine commemorating D-Day and the alliance that won World War II.
Soarin’ Around the World
We were then escorted back stage (no pictures allowed) and through a private entrance into Soarin’ Around the World at the Land Pavilion. We walked directly into a loading zone and onto the ride. No waiting here!
After the ride we took a moment to use the restrooms and chit chat. That is when we got our first experience with Ashton and his uncanny ability to sense our needs even if we didn’t know what they were. He just came out of the woodwork and handed us all cool towels that were good for the entire day.
We were then lead over to the corridor behind Innoventions East where tables had been reserved for us. They did mention that this should have been set up outside but since it was so hot they thought indoors would be better.
Epcot Festival Proprietor Rick Decicco and Epcot Executive Chef Chef Michael Deardorff spoke to us about what it takes to plan for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. They talked about all of the mobile kitchens there are to support the booths and that all of these had to be inspected prior to opening on the first day. Can you imagine getting permits for over 30 restaurants in a single day!!
We were then treated to a sampling from the The CHEW Collective food booths. First up was a Grilled Beef Skewer with Romaine, Apricots and Feta Cheese (dish created by chef Micheal Symon) and a glass of Robert Mondavi Maestro (a Bordeaux blend celebrating the 50th year of Mondavi vineyards).
Then we enjoyed Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli with Rustic Tomato Sauce (every ravioli is handmade each day) with a glass of Wagner Conundrum blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscat Canelli, and Viognier.
For a little sweetness we finished our tasting with a Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Mousse with a Caramel Drizzle. Yum!! Even those that don’t like peanut butter enjoyed this.
Frozen Ever After
To take a break from eating and drinking we were guided over to the hottest ride in the park – Frozen Ever After in the Norway Pavilion. We were whisked into the Fastpass line and were quickly on our way.
No one in our group was a Frozen groupie so we just had fun walking past everyone waiting (Wayne’s World style holding up our VIP lanyard).
My two cents on the ride is that the animatronics are fabulous but there is a lot of dead space. As one of the other guests on the tour said, that although the animatronics were stunning it was “not worth 80 minute wait…or 8 minutes for that matter!”
For a change of pace we headed towards the Odyssey and the Craft Beer center where we met Nikki the beer princess. She is a certified cicerone (think beer sommelier) at Cavalier Distributing in Lakeland, FL. She spent close to an hour telling us all about beer and then answering many many many of our questions.
We then had a chance to try a few of the samples from the Craft Beer center. In our case we tried Orlando Brewing Orlando Weiss, Two Henrys Blueberry Vanilla American Wheat Ale and Florida Beer Company Passport 20 Belgian-Style Tripel Ale. All were quite refreshing and mild.
We thought we were about to sample a couple of more dishes but boy were we wrong. At the festival center, they walked us through the Chocolate Experience and upstairs to a private room.
Literally our directions were to head to the chocolate millenium falcon, take a left and through the trees. This area was so secret we had to move branches to get there.
We were then seated for a Mondavi wine tasting presented by Jose Hernandez of the Mondavi vineyard.
We had the opportunity to try a Mondavi Pinot Noir, Fume Blanc and Chardonay with all of our dishes. In fact Jose encouraged us to try different combinations of food and wine to see how the flavors changed.
Then Chef Tim came out and we realized we were not getting more samples from the Food and Wine booths (which we would have been happy with). Chef Tim had actually created a three course menu to match the wines we were tasting. (no sample sizes here)
Our first course was a seared tuna sushi rice cake with a soy reduction and spicy aoili sauce. He called it a deconstructed sushi roll and if all sushi was like this I would be happy (I am not a sushi fan and I ate every bite).
Second course took our breath away. It was a roasted lobster tail in a white wine sauce served with jumbo lump crab meat linguine. Silence fell in the room as we all enjoyed our meal.
The finale was an orange guava sorbet made right in front of us using liquid nitrogen. I think Chef Tim learned that smaller batches are in order next time.
We were then whisked away into vans and taken backstage to the Italy pavilion. As we stepped into the pavilion rain drops started to come down and there was Ashton again handing out ponchos. (he really did think of everything)
We went into Enoteca Wine Shop for a glass of rose regale and to bid our farewells to our tour guides. We toasted to a wonderful day filled with good food, good wine and good friends.
Eat to the Beat
Our tour guides may have left us but there was still more to the VIP experience. We had reserved seats at the Eat to the Beat Concert. In fact we had an entire row for 13 people! And with rain pouring down outside we were very happy with these seats.
On this night we had 4th row seats for Starship. You might ask why we didn’t have 1st row seats and that is because it is hard to see from there. 4th row is acutally the best.
I have to be honest, I did not make it to Illuminations but if I had we even had a VIP area for that. It was in the United Kingdom pavilion next to the fish and chips booth. Not bad!
The Disney Difference
In addition to everything we got to experience it was definitely the service level that stood out. I mentioned Ashton a couple of times in this article and I will once more. He was amazing at making sure we always had everything we needed. If you saw him you knew you were being taken care of.
Jude was definitely in charge and he was always one step ahead of us lining everything up so when we got there it seemed natural and everything went off without a hitch. He was always smiling and was constantly greeting other Disney guests wherever we went.
Jeff and Jennifer were our best friends. They chit chatted, told stories and even at one point sang ‘Let it Go’ with us. They smiled and laughed with us the entire day and we were sad to see them go.
They all spoiled us rotten for the day and each and every one of us appreciated it. They were amazing.
About the Tour
- The 7-hour experience is offered following Fridays: September 16, 23, 30; October 7, 14, 21, 30; and November 4, 11, 2016.
- The cost of The Ultimate Day at Epcot International Food & Wine Festival experience is $399 per Guest, plus tax.
- A 15% discount is available for Disney Vacation Club Members, Annual Passholders and Disney Chase Visa Cardmembers.
- This tour is wheelchair and ECV accessible.
- Theme park admission is required and is not included with the cost of the VIP Tour.
- For reservations, please call (407) WDW-TOUR or (407) 939-8687.