Walt Disney World for Adults: Jiko Wine Tasting

Jiko – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort Area, 2901 Osceola Pkwy, Orlando, FL 32830

Jiko at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort is a South African-inspired Disney Signature Dining Experience, and if you like wine – this is the place for you.  This is one of the few spots in the United States where you can enjoy an extensive collection of over 1,800 carefully curated African and South African wines.  Jiko’s wine list is beyond impressive, and if you’d like to learn more about their wine collection we highly recommend Jiko’s Wine Tasting.

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While you begin your hour long safari through the wonderful world of South Africa’s unique and flavorful wines at Jiko, otherwise known as “The Cooking Place,” each selection is paired with an assortment of meats and artisan cheeses that will tantalize your palate.  Take a moment to enjoy this incredible venue where you will find yourself surrounded by all of the beauty and story that is Jiko – not to mention the fantastic aroma resonating from the open air kitchen.

Upon arrival, tasters will be ushered to their seats at a small table in the heart of The Cooking Place where your half full wine glasses will eagerly await your arrival.  Typically three wines are selected and prepoured for each tasting, and they will be labeled for easy identification.  However, we have also had a champagne or two on occasion which for us was a real treat.  While you wait for the rest of your small group to arrive, it’s a great time to snap some pictures and make new friends.

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Water you waiting for: Jiko’s extensive South African wine collection is calling your name

Funny Story: Prior to one of our Jiko Wine Tastings, we noticed we had a similar taste in Disney dining options as another young couple after we had been seated near each other at not one but three nights in a row during this trip to The World.  Not long after we arrived at our Jiko Wine Tasting, they entered the restaurant as well.  We immediately addressed the elephant in the room – either we inadvertently were stalking them or we had very similar Disney dining interests.  Long story short, it was the latter.  We instantly bonded over our mutual love for all things Disney, and we shared a wonderful afternoon of drinks and laughs together at Jiko.  Thanks to their persistence, we embarked on our very first voyage on Disney Cruise Line not long after.

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Amour wine please: white, rose & red wines awaited our arrival

Jiko’s wine tasting is a great activity for both first time and repeat Walt Disney World guests as you never know what tasty treats to expect! We also love the idea of trying something new each time.  The tasting features a selection of the wines, meats, and cheeses which has been different on each of our visits. Each taster receives their own individual plate of meats and cheeses as well as three separate wine pours so you don’t have to worry about sharing.  The fig & almond flavored bread is one item that has continued to reemerge on each of our visits, and we personally can’t get enough of it!  If you have any concerns regarding food sensitivities – fear not, the cast members at Jiko are happy to provide accommodations.  Simply mention your concerns when you reserve your tasting, and upon arrival at the tasting your host and server will confirm everything with your party.  We’ve attended the tasting on a number of occasions where food sensitivities were a concern, and the restaurant did an amazing job accommodating every one.

Travel Note: Did you know wine season in South Africa begins in January and ends with a harvest in March?

This elegant wine tasting is available exclusively to adults twenty-one years of age and older.  It is held once a week each Wednesday afternoon in the restaurant’s main dining room from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.  Reservations can be made via phone by calling (407) 939-3463 or online at the Walt Disney World Website.  Again, if you have food sensitivities – we highly recommend reserving your tasting over the phone so that the proper notes can be added to your reservation.  At this time, you are unfortunately unable to reserve the tasting via the My Disney Experience App.  However, once your reservation is confirmed (whether via phone or website) your reservation will appear under the “My Plans” section of your My Disney Experience App.

Reserve your tasting today via the Walt Disney World Website

Due to its intimate size (around 15 people max are seated per tasting) and the knowledge of Jiko’s fabulous staff, this event has easily become one of our favorite non-park activities.  Since South African wines are so rare in The States, we take advantage of as many of the Wednesday wine tastings offered during our trips to The World, and this experience never gets old.  However, with this event’s small seating capacity and the fact that tastings are only offered once a week, be sure to book your tasting as far out as possible since spots may fill fast.  Since the event takes place at 3:00 p.m., this still leaves a large part of your day available.  Prior to your tasting, your entire morning and early afternoon are open for park time or a number other funtivities like exploring Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort.  The cost for the tasting is $25.09 per adult (plus tax and gratuity) which comes to $62.50 with tax and automatic gratuity for two adults.  The reservation requires prepayment in full which is collected at the time of your reservation.

To say we were blown away by our wine tasting and the staff at Jiko would be an understatement.  Jiko houses some of the most professionally educated staff that the Walt Disney World Resort employees.  The format begins with a brief history of the relatively new South African Wine Region, and is very interactive unlike typical wine tasting experiences.  Jiko’s sommeliers aren’t just there to recite a standard script of tasting notes to their guests.  In true Walt Disney fashion the sommeliers and cast members are storytellers who guide guests on a South African safari through their some of the most amazing wines we’ve ever tasted.

Jiko’s sommeliers will guide you through your tasting as you sample each wine one by one.  On our most recent tasting, the sommelier shared a few interesting tasting notes and the details of the grapes contained in each of our three unique wines.  After we sampled each wine alone once, we were then instructed to try each wine a few more times but now add in a particular meat or cheese to enhance the wines respective flavors.  For us, the best part of this interactive tasting was that the sommeliers moved throughout the room, and we were each encouraged to voice our opinions as well as ask questions throughout the tasting.

If you’re new to the world of wine, don’t be afraid.  There is no prerequisite for the tasting, and the staff does an excellent job of assuming all tasters are unaware of South African wines (because most are).  Jiko’s sommeliers welcome everyone to their tastings and since you are able to ask questions throughout the tasting, this is a great opportunity for those new to wine to learn.

If you’re visiting The Walt Disney World Resort as a part of a large group or solo, this is a great activity to do together or solo to make new friends.  Perhaps you are on your honeymoon or having a Disney destination wedding and looking for a few adult activities outside of the parks.  In our opinion, this would make a great addition to your Disney itinerary.  We promise, by the end of your hour long tasting, Jiko’s staff will leave you educated and entertained!

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Our host through our very first Jiko wine-venture was Sommelier Raul who, at the time, had been with the Lodge since its opening and Raul shared so many amazing facts with us.  Raul had even spent a great deal of time in South Africa himself (as a part of his training with the Walt Disney Company) learning more about the South African culture, the art of wine making, and all this beautiful destination has to offer.  We were so impressed by Raul and his staff that we decided to return that evening in 2011 for dinner.  Needless to say we were not disappointed, and we have been dining at Jiko on the regular ever since.  Unfortunately Raul has moved on to bigger and better things with The Walt Disney Company, and although we miss having him at Jiko dearly, we are incredibly happy for him!

Follow the link for our full review of our Jiko dining experiences.

We’re a huge fan of non-park funtivities, and the Wine Tasting at Jiko is a fabulous mid-day activity for those looking to escape the parks for a few hours without blowing an entire day.  The wine and food pairings at Jiko are on par with some of the best winery tours we’ve experienced, but the best part was that we never had to leave our seats or separate ourselves from the restaurants striking surroundings.

We highly recommend booking Jiko’s Wine Tasting by calling (407) WDW-DINE [407) 939-3463] or visiting the Walt Disney World Resort website.

What are some of your favorite non-park funtivities at The Walt Disney World Resort? Are you thinking about reserving a spot at Jiko’s Wine Tasting for your upcoming trip to Walt Disney World? Let us know!

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