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The Inside Story of the Epic Wine List at Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando

August 24, 2020
Pouring a glass of white wine

Guest post by Ken Finegan, Director of Food and Beverage, Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando.
Ken holds Level 1 Sommelier Degree from the Court of Master Sommeliers

People always ask me what my favorite wine is and I tell them, “It’s the wine in my glass.” I try a lot of different wines because the practice of a sommelier is to continuously explore different wines. With that knowledge, I curate the wine list for our hotel. (I know, I know – it’s a tough job.)

That’s why I was so psyched when we got the news that The Kitchen restaurant was one of only 3,776 restaurants in the world to receive Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence this year. A lot of people just don’t expect a three-meal restaurant (that’s hotel jargon for a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner) to earn a prestigious wine award.

Winning awards has never been our motivation, but giving our guests a great experience is. We have several certified sommeliers on our team and we all love to learn and explore, but our absolute favorite part is guiding our guests who want to know what wine will pair best with their dinner.

We’ve always thought of The Kitchen here at Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando as much more than a typical hotel restaurant. The hotel’s design was inspired by the famed “Hotel California,” so we want to celebrate California wines but also have selections from other regions around the world. We do that really well, I think, and we’ve come a long way. Years ago, our wine list had 20 selections and today, it has 108.

So, back to that question I’m always asked. Right now, some of the standouts on our wine list are Orin Swift’s 8 Years in the Desert Zinfandel and the Groth Reserve Cabernet. I’m a big fan of rosé and love the Miraval Rosé from Provence. I also think one of the best representations of sparkling wines in the world comes from California with Schramsberg’s Blanc de Blanc.

Let us know what we’ll be pouring for you!

Rock on,
Ken
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