Tiedemann on Wines: A trip to Florida, the Make-A-Wish Foundation makes Adler's dream to visit Disney World and Universal Studios come true

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By: Carl Tiedemann

Flavor 574 photo / Carl Tiedemann

Mrs. Tiedemann and I spent an amazing week in Orlando, Fla., from Nov. 8 to 14 as part of my grandson’s (Adler Bear Carris) Make-A-Wish Foundation trip to Disney World and Universal Studios.

Early on in this adventure, which actually started many months ago, I wasn’t very familiar with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and its activities. Like most people, I never expected I would need to be familiar with it. I want to share with you what I have experienced and learned about the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the fantastic things that transpired on Adler’s fantasy trip. Since this is a wine blog, I’ll also tell you about the wines I drank and some events I attended while on the trip.

I want to thank the local folks in Elkhart who volunteer for Make-A-Wish and laid the groundwork for this trip. The three people who assisted Adler, Elizabeth and Aaron (his mom and dad) were Kent and Cheryl Stouder, and Deb Loper. They did a wonderful job and we thank them for it. They were involved from the time Adler’s name was submitted for consideration to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and almost until the time they got on the plane for Florida. They were even on standby to handle any problems that arose during the week. Luckily, there weren’t any. They even threw a Make-A-Wish party for all of us so they could explain everything that we needed to know about the trip.

Before I get into the trip, let me tell you about the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The organization received its non-profit status in November 1980 and granted its first wish the following spring. Make-A-Wish Foundation’s vision is to grant the wish of every child diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition. As of 2015, 254,000 children in the U.S. have benefited from being granted their wish. Approximately every 37 minutes, a wish is granted in the U.S. If you do the math, that equals more than 14,200 wishes granted in 2014 alone.

As most of you know, my grandson Adler is a huge fan of superheroes and his wish was to go to Universal Studios and see superheroes and then visit Disney World. I am not sure how many wish requests are received, but we are grateful that Adler’s wish was granted. I don’t know what items are standard in wish packages, but I can tell you the depth of planning for these kids’ trips and what the families receive is amazing. The service, the deep feeling of support for the kids and the great lengths everyone goes to in order to make sure these kids have a wonderful time and create lasting memories is unbelievable.

Adler’s family package (mom and dad included) had the following (all at no cost to them):

  • Transportation to and from the airport and a rental car for the week
  • Round-trip airfare
  • Housing during their stay (a villa at Give Kids the World)
  • Passes to Disney World and Universal Studios
  • Special events for Adler
  • Meals on site at Give Kids the World
  • Some walking around cash
  • Preferential treats, like no waiting in the 40-minute lines, unlimited ice cream at the villa, etc.
  • Unlimited memories

The trip for the Carris family started with a limousine ride from Elkhart to the Fort Wayne airport for their flight to Orlando. Adler and his mom and dad were met at the airport in Orlando by a Make-A-Wish Foundation representative who explained all the details of the week and assisted them in getting started on their adventure.

During their Florida week they were housed at the Give Kids the World facility, a Make-A-Wish Foundation partner. The facility is a 79-acre non-profit “storybook” resort located near all of central Florida’s many attractions. The facility has been in operation since 1989. It features 144 villas and many entertainment attractions. Since its inception, it has served 140,000 families from all 50 states and from 75 countries.

The kids are simply treated like royalty. There are ongoing events and special little treats, like being tucked in your bed at night by Disney characters or Santa Claus. One evening there was a talent show for, and by, many of the kids. Adler took first place in his age group for his dance moves. How fun!

Grandpa (that would be me) and grandma (Mrs. Tiedemann) went along for support and to participate in all the fun. We did the two-day drive down from Elkhart, hauling everyone’s luggage. We left Elkhart on Friday morning and arrived in Orlando on Saturday. Since we arrived a day ahead of our reservation we had to find alternate accommodations for Saturday night until we could check in at our main hotel on Sunday.

Sunday

Mrs. Tiedemann and I checked into a Hilton Homewood Suites and waited for word that the kids had arrived in Orlando. As luck would have it, their plane was delayed out of Fort Wayne. It was close to 10 p.m. by the time we all arrived at the Give Kids the World facility. Adler had a great time on the plane, but was really tired from the trip. Prior to the flight leaving Fort Wayne, he got to meet the captain, sit up front in the cockpit for a bit and received a lesson on flying a plane. Big-time stuff for a 6-year-old.

Monday

Monday was a quiet day with Adler resting and taking advantage of the many activities at the Give Kids the World facility. Mrs. Tiedemann and I had a late brunch and did some sightseeing and shopping.

Tuesday

This was everyone’s first day at the Magic Kingdom. Adler was excited and told his mother he “just didn’t know what to say.” It was a great day and we all had a wonderful time watching Adler enjoy himself. He was fearless and wanted to ride every ride in the park he could, and I think he did. Grandpa and grandma had a lot of down time waiting while rides were taken.

Wednesday

On Wednesday, Mrs. Tiedemann and I went off on our own to attend the 20th Annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at Disney’s Epcot. The festival featured fresh food, fine wines and craft beers from more than 30 countries.

We had a great time, but the festival was busy (somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people, and what seemed like at least 10,000 baby strollers). The temperature was near 90 degrees (we were there during record temperatures) and it was sunny. Still, we tasted good wine and food featured by a variety of countries. This, of course, made for an enjoyable day.

Thursday

Thursday was a special day for Adler, as we all went to the Universal Orlando Resort, featuring Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

As I mentioned earlier Adler, is a huge superhero fan, and because of that Make-A-Wish and Universal teamed up to provide Adler with a special opportunity to meet and to spend time with a bunch of superheroes one-on-one. He was one excited little guy.

As arranged, we checked in at a specific location to inform Universal that we had arrived. The instructions were to wait at the bookstore at noon. A little after noon we were met by a Universal Studios representative and led out of the main area to a behind-the-scenes location to meet with five superheroes. They were great and spent almost a half an hour with Adler, asking him questions and horsing around with him. He’ll certainly remember this special occasion.

Friday

On Friday, Mrs. Tiedemann and I went our separate way to visit a wine festival at Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards at 19239 U.S. 27 North in Clermont, Fla. Thanks to Mrs. Tiedemann for finding this opportunity and arranging this fun and surprising trip. The winery is located about 30 minutes from Orlando, so it was an easy drive to get there from our hotel (interstate highways most of the way).

San Sebastian Port

I found this Port to be nice and fruity with flavors of currants, cherries, and perhaps a touch of chocolate and cinnamon, which might account for the spice in the finish. This is a good dessert wine. It is priced at $19.99 a bottle.

Ruby Port

This is a younger port than their regular port. It ages less time in oak barrels. This port tastes less of fruit, but does have a nuttiness flavor that provides a very different, but good, flavor profile. It is prices at $16.00 a bottle.

 

The winery hosts a different festival each month of the year. November’s festival was a holiday theme. They featured about 25 vendor tents with lots of arts and crafts to choose from, plenty of food vendors and live music and, last but not least, a tasting of all the winery’s offerings.

Mrs. Tiedemann and I had a good time at Lakeridge. We took advantage of the food tent and listened to live music as we ate. After lunch we did a tasting of Lakeridge’s wines in the winery and barrel room and then spent a little time (and money) in their shop.

I enjoyed the two port wines they produce and couldn’t leave the winery without purchasing some. I might add that the ports are made at a second winery called San Sebastian Winery in St. Augustine, Fla., a sister winery to Lakeridge.

Saturday

Saturday was our day to head back to Elkhart. We began with a quick trip to Give Kids the World to pick up luggage and the enormous amount of toys, stuffed animals and other various items purchased on the weeklong trip. We loaded the car and Mrs. Tiedemann and I headed out for Indiana and home. It was a pleasant drive home, except for all the traffic on I-75 in Atlanta, which was awful. We arrived home on Sunday evening, and although it was a great trip we were happy to be back home in Elkhart.

 

Wine on the trip

I decided to not take any wine along on the trip from my cellar, but to purchase wine along the way. I established a budget of $15 to $35 per bottle and purchased five bottles of wine on the trip: one bottle at Target (Coppola Diamond Collection) and four others at a small wine shop I found. All my purchases were based on the following criteria:

  • I wanted them to be California wines
  • In the established price range
  • With brand recognition (if possible)

Here is my review of the wines in the order of my personal preference:

Silverado Vineyards Estate Grown Cabernet

Of the five wines I purchased this was the most fruity, which is to my liking. The wine color was a deep purple. On the palate the wine offers flavors of blackberry, plum, spice and some oak. The finish was short on tannins and a little spicy. This wine was a decent wine which benefited from having the bottle open for a while. It is rated in the upper 80s and sells for $34.95 a bottle. It was the most expensive wine I bought on the trip.

2013 Smith & Hook Central Coast Cabernet

This was not a bad wine. A medium-bodied to light-bodied wine, it had a nice color and had flavors of vanilla, plum and some black fruit. Finish was of medium length with some tannins. This wine is rated in the 85-88 range and sells from $15.99 to $18.99 a bottle.

2012 Uppercut Napa Valley Cabernet

This wine is a good medium-bodied everyday Cabernet. There were aromas of black fruit. On the palate you will get some smokiness, mocha and a hint of oak. The finish has some tannins and light spice and is of medium length. The wine scores in the mid 80s and sells around $19.99 a bottle.

2013 Coppola Diamond Collection Ivory Label Cabernet

This wine had a suppressed nose and benefitted from being in the glass for 20 minutes. It would definitely benefit from one to two hours of decanting. It was a blended Cabernet that was purple in color with aromas of cherry and smoke. On the palate the wine was light and not very fruity. There were hints of plum, dark berries and cocoa. The finish was light and of a medium length. This wine would definitely be helped with some red meat. This wine scores around 85 points and sells at $16.85 a bottle at Target and $20 a bottle in a wine shop. Although Coppola makes some really good wine, this one falls in at the low end of the scale. It is, however, worth trying to make your own decision.

2013 Joel Gott 815 Cabernet

This was my worst selection, and I wouldn’t buy it again and certainly wouldn’t recommend it to any of you. The nose was not aromatic at all. However it did open slightly after time in the glass. After opening up, it had hints of fruit, leather and cocoa. Interestingly, the nose seemed to fade in and out. The palate lacked many flavors and seemed flat to me. The finish was short but did offer some soft tannins. The wine scores in the mid to upper 80s (to my surprise) and retails for $16.85 a bottle at Target and up to $20 a bottle in a wine shop.

If you are looking for a couple good every day Cabernets, I would recommend the Silverado Vineyards Cabernet and the Smith & Hook Central Coast Cabernet. Both offer good value for the price.

 

In closing

I am sorry we had to take this trip for the reasons we did, but thank goodness for organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Give Kids the World who make it possible for so many kids with life-threatening diseases and their families to create such fun and lasting memories. Unfortunately, for some of the kids, it may be their last of fond memories.

As always I appreciate your support of our wine blog and encourage you to share it with family and friends. If you care to share your comments on this blog posting or other topics please do so in the comments section below.

Until next week,
Cheers

 

For more wine tips and recommendations from Carl Tiedemann, visit TiedemannOnWines.com. Plus, find out how to join the wine club for exclusive local discounts.
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