There’s one aspect of Disney properties that visitors tend to overlook: There are epicurean delights all over the parks — if you know how to find them. Epcot is full of elevated dining experiences like Monsieur Paul, which serves nouvelle cuisine and an extensive list of French wines. There’s even a restaurant at The Grand Floridian, Victoria & Albert’s, that serves a nine-course degustation menu with wine pairings. The restaurant is so exclusive that it takes six months or more to get a reservation.
And while some Disney vacationers may go for the fine food and wine, there’s a secret menu that even the most wine-loving, Minnie-eared pleasure seekers may be missing: The Disney Family of Wines. Available in its entirety only at the Al Fresco Tasting Terrace, a tiny lounge in Disney’s California Adventure Park, that wine list celebrates Disney in a different way. Each of the California wine estates on the list is owned by someone who figures prominently into Disney’s cinematic history, who is considered part of the “Disney family.” Here’s a rundown of the list, with pairing suggestions — movie pairings, that is.
Fess Parker Winery
You might recognize the tasting room at Fess Parker as the place where, in “Sideways,” the main character demands a full glass of wine and ends up drinking the spit bucket in protest. You might also recognize the raccoon-skin cap on each of the winery’s bottles as the signature accessory of Davy Crockett. Fess Parker, the winery’s founder (now deceased) was also an actor who portrayed Crockett in the Disney miniseries, and then went on to work as a contract actor for Disney, starring in movies like “The Great Locomotive Chase” and “Westward Ho!” The Santa Ynez Valley estate, still owned by the Parker family, is known largely for its Pinot Noirs and Syrahs. On the Disney Family of Wines list, you can try multiple Fess Parker wines, including a Riesling, Ashley’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, and Rodney’s Vineyard Syrah.
Pair with: “Old Yeller,” which Parker filmed at the height of his Disney fame. You’re definitely going to need a glass of wine to make it through that tear jerker.
Wines at Al Fresco Tasting Terrace. Credit: Disney
MacMurray Estate Vineyards
No discussion about vintage television is complete without mentioning the much-loved actor Fred MacMurray, who played the father in “My Three Sons” for 12 years, from 1960 to 1972. He also starred in seven Disney movies, including “The Shaggy Dog” and “The Happiest Millionaire,” and was the first person to be named a Disney Legend. MacMurray Ranch in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley didn’t start producing wines until after the actor’s death, but the family legacy continues, with his daughter Kate MacMurray overseeing winemaking. On the Disney Family of Wines list, sip MacMurray Estate’s Sonoma Coast Pinot Gris or Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.
Pair with: “The Absent-Minded Professor,” the movie that is MacMurray’s biggest Disney claim to fame on a very long list of those claims, in which he drives a flying car powered by flubber.
This winery has a slightly less obvious connection: Molly Chappellet, who owns the winery, is the sister of Frank G. Wells, who was the president and COO of The Walt Disney Company from 1984 to 1994. Wine from this estate, in the Pritchard Hill area on the eastern side of Napa in the Vaca Mountains, is in such high demand that there’s a waiting list to join the wine club. On the Disney Family of Wines menu, try Chappellet’s Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Cervantes Mountain Cuvée, a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
Pair with: “Beauty and the Beast“. Of all the movies released under Wells’s leadership, this one focuses the most on food and wine. (If you can get into Be Our Guest, the Beast’s magic castle restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, you can try the restaurant’s surprisingly good private label rosé, Enchanted Rose.)
If the name doesn’t already give it away… skip this one. You’re not enough of a “Star Wars” fan to drink this wine. George Lucas planted the first vines that would become Skywalker Vineyards in Marin County in 1991, and the winery has since purchased Château Margüi in Provence and launched a second label, Sommità. Italian for “summit,” the grapes for Sommità are grown at the highest elevation on the estate’s property. On the Disney Family of Wines list, try Skywalker Vineyards’s Sommità Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Pair with: “A New Hope.” Not only is it the first (and arguably best) of all the “Star Wars” movies, it’s also the one with the iconic cantina scene where Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker hire Han Solo and Chewbacca, but first have to fight their way past drunken “scum and villainy,” as Obi-Wan calls the bar patrons.
California Grill in The Grand Floridian Hotel. Credit: Disney
Silverado Vineyards was started by Diane Disney Miller, daughter of Walt Disney, and husband Ron Miller, who was president and CEO of The Walt Disney Company from 1978 to 1984. Diane also founded the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. This winery, in the Stag’s Leap area of Napa, adds a Disney-themed wine to the Disney Family of Wines list: Fantasia, a Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon blend.
Pair with: The obvious choice, “Fantasia.” With a glass of wine in hand, it’s easier to kick back and unwind, fully appreciating this trippy, cinematic masterpiece.
Kurt Russell’s GoGi Wines
Kurt Russell purchased the land in the Santa Rita Hills that would become GoGi Wines after filming Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Wish” — definitely not a Disney movie — at a location nearby. The actor has named the wines at GoGi after his loved ones: Goldie Chardonnay is for Russell’s longtime love Goldie Hawn, and Lulu Viognier is for his mother. Each year’s vintage of Pinot Noir gets a nickname from another family member, like 2015 “Southpaw” for son Oliver Hudson, 2016 “29” for son Wyatt Russell, and 2014 “Birdie” for daughter Kate Hudson. On the Disney Family of Wines menu, try the Goldie Chardonnay and the Southpaw Pinot Noir.
Pair with: Any of Russell’s 12 Disney movies. The man is a literal Disney Legend. For something more modern, go with “Guardians of the Galaxy.” For a deep dive, go with the 1969 “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.”
Frank Family Vineyards
Richard Frank was the president of Disney Studios from 1985 to 1994, overseeing Disney’s movie releases. His Frank Family Vineyards is located in Calistoga, and its tasting room is filled with Disney movie memorabilia. The winery has an extensive portfolio, but is most well known for its Winston Hill Cabernet blend. The Disney Family of Wines list has three Frank Family selections: a sparkling Blanc de Blancs, a Chardonnay, and a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pair with: “Oliver and Company.” This is a totally underrated release from Frank’s tenure, featuring Billy Joel, Bette Midler, and Huey Lewis on the soundtrack. For another deep dive, go with “Newsies,” starring an early-career Christian Bale; this theater-kid, cult classic later became a Broadway musical.
As noted, the Al Fresco Tasting Terrace, tucked above the walk-up wine bar in California Adventure, is the only place imbibers can order from the entire Disney Family of Wines menu. The lounge became an Annual Passholder exclusive earlier in 2020. But don’t despair: Many of these wines are available for direct purchase from the winery websites listed above.
However, if your heart is set on tasting them on site at a Disney venue, head to Carthay Circle, a restaurant in California Adventure, where several of the wines are available, or try the restaurants at Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel. In Florida, some of these wines are featured at Cítricos, a restaurant in the Grand Floridian Hotel, and at California Grill in the Contemporary Resort. With the Florida parks set to reopen in July, followed shortly after by the California parks, it won’t be all that long before you’re sipping with a view of a Disney castle again.
Published: June 10, 2020