Wine in Orlando

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    A chance to sit under the stars on a warm December night is worth the tolls and endless construction. The Sanford Wine Company, located in the severely underrated historic district, boasts an international wine list that includes classics from Spain, Italy, France and the western United States, and more obscure vintages from Canada and Eastern Europe. With over 100 wines to choose from, even the staunchest white zinfandel devotee will trade in that sophomoric rosé for a sophisticated riesling.

    Sanford Wine Company is as much dive bar as it is wine temple. There are over 40 micro-brewed and specialty beers both on tap and in bottle, sourced from Poland to Portland. Try Florida’s own Honey Amber Rose beer ($3.50), brewed along the Indian River, with hints of rosehips and orange blossom honey.

    Unpretentious surroundings and ESPN-beaming flat-panel televisions defy the example of the trendy wine bar and encourage more discussion of onion rings than opera. In fact, the Wine Company forgoes so-chic seared-tuna appetizers in favor of snappy bratwursts (perfect paired with a glass of Elyse 2003 Le Corbeau from California) and meaty burgers (the dark fruit, leather and tobacco of the Italian barolo makes for a classic combo). A variety of cheeses is also available, and the knowledgeable waitstaff can pair camembert with the perfect cabernet.

    The wine bar hosts wine and beer tastings, live music, lectures, and block parties throughout the year, making it an epicenter of the North Central Florida social structure. Taking wine from insurmountable pretension to cool modesty is a formidable task, but the Sanford Wine Company accomplishes this without sacrificing dedication to high-quality beverages. This temple to fermentation is as friendly to the diehard Mondavian as it is to the most urbane oenophile.

    The Disney community of Celebration, steeped in 1950's atmosphere and designer architecture, isn't a place one would associate with English high tea or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Yet this is the place that two Londoners have decided to open a tearoom filled with Sherlock Holmes memorabilia and the aroma of Earl Grey.

    Tony David worked right next to the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London for many years and came to Florida with the aim of bringing a unique experience to Celebration. He and his wife June opened Sherlock's not on tourist-attractive Market

    Tony David worked right next to the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London for many years and came to Florida with the aim of bringing a unique experience to Celebration. He and his wife June opened Sherlock's not on tourist-attractive Market

    Street, but on Bloom Street. It's a small, intimate shop packed to the ceiling with deerstalker-capped bears, boxes of loose tea, a diverse selection of wines and miniatures of Sherlock, Watson and Moriarty. The room holds only a few tables, but the outdoor courtyard affords a delightful place for a hot cuppa and a serene lake view.

    Street, but on Bloom Street. It's a small, intimate shop packed to the ceiling with deerstalker-capped bears, boxes of loose tea, a diverse selection of wines and miniatures of Sherlock, Watson and Moriarty. The room holds only a few tables, but the outdoor courtyard affords a delightful place for a hot cuppa and a serene lake view.

    Most Yankees know little about what goes into a proper English tea ("tea" is the entire meal, not just the drink), something David is emphatic about. "Serving loose tea is an art form," he says. "You must heat the pot first, and steep the leaves for only five minutes." And if you're in the company of Brits, never put the milk in first (milky tea is the lifeblood of the English.) The teas at Sherlock's come in four formal varieties, the largest being "Sherlock Holmes' Tea" ($13.50). The three-tiered tray had other customers peering in envy at the buttercream-rich pastries and moist, rich scones (it's "skon," not "skown"), and these are the best in Orlando. An authentic "tea" would have had little finger sandwiches instead of spinach pies and egg rolls, but I guess it's a compromise for Americans. The other offerings are smaller versions, the "Mrs. Hudson's" being the best value of a fresh pot of tea (your choice of variety) with homemade scones, real Devon cream and strawberry jam ($6.95).

    Most Yankees know little about what goes into a proper English tea ("tea" is the entire meal, not just the drink), something David is emphatic about. "Serving loose tea is an art form," he says. "You must heat the pot first, and steep the leaves for only five minutes." And if you're in the company of Brits, never put the milk in first (milky tea is the lifeblood of the English.) The teas at Sherlock's come in four formal varieties, the largest being "Sherlock Holmes' Tea" ($13.50). The three-tiered tray had other customers peering in envy at the buttercream-rich pastries and moist, rich scones (it's "skon," not "skown"), and these are the best in Orlando. An authentic "tea" would have had little finger sandwiches instead of spinach pies and egg rolls, but I guess it's a compromise for Americans. The other offerings are smaller versions, the "Mrs. Hudson's" being the best value of a fresh pot of tea (your choice of variety) with homemade scones, real Devon cream and strawberry jam ($6.95).

    The hot items are still in the shakeout stage. "Vegetable egg roll delight" ($7.95), three crisp rolls filled with julienned veggies, were tasty, but nothing I'd travel out of my way to eat. Meanwhile the microwave does nothing to enhance the puff-pastry shell of the tiny "brie en croute" ($6.95).

    The hot items are still in the shakeout stage. "Vegetable egg roll delight" ($7.95), three crisp rolls filled with julienned veggies, were tasty, but nothing I'd travel out of my way to eat. Meanwhile the microwave does nothing to enhance the puff-pastry shell of the tiny "brie en croute" ($6.95).

    There are more than enough other venues for egg rolls; Sherlock's should be your destination for a real tea in the grand English manner.

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