If you didn’t think you could enjoy wine while having a magical time at Disney World theme parks, think again. Shadow and Act Unscripted had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Debbi Sacleux, a certified sommelier at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. She gives all of her wine expertise to those dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Sacleux participated as one of the hosts of a cooking demonstration alongside her colleague Chef Douglas, and The Chew favorite Carla Hall. it was part of a multi-day food and wine curated event for Black journalists to enjoy all the cuisine the parks have to offer, with food from all parts of the African diaspora. The event was part of Disney’s Celebrate Soulfully initiative, an ongoing campaign of events and experiences to celebrate the culture of Black and Brown patrons at its parks worldwide. This time around, the company introduced the first line of merchandise for Princess Tiana: a cookware set. To coincide with the film’s theme of southern and cajun cuisine, Chef Douglas, a native of Jamaica, treated us to lamb chops and collard greens, a combination most attendees would have never thought of. But it was a winner thanks to the spice blends, and the tender lamb prepared.
Sacleux paired it off with a wine tasting from the famous McBride Sisters Collection. Guests were able to try three wines from the company’s popular trip collection: a Sparkling Brut Rosé Hawke’s Bay from New Zealand, a Chardonnay from Central Coast California, and a Red Blend also from Central Coast California. Sacleux gave us tips on which wines pair best with menu items of your choosing, and also dished on her work with Disney.
We spoke about her journey and love of wine, why wine is perfect with food, and exposing fine wine to Black patrons at Disney. It’s a journey that she’s taken in her 30+ year career at Disney.
S&A Unscripted: So when did your love of wine start?
DS: The wonderful thing is that Disney teaches us. I was drinking wine since I was old enough to drink it. But they have this sommelier program where you go to class and you have training with actual master sommeliers that are here who are teaching us about learning about wines and stuff. It was probably around 2005-2006 when I really got into it. I work in food and beverage, and food and wine are the perfect pair.
We do a whole festival at Epcot for its annual Food and Wine Festival. Tasting something by itself without the wine and then going back and tasting it with the wine brings a whole another dimension to the experience. As experienced as I am in this now and understand that certain flavors may go better with red or white, I encourage people to have what they love. People say, ‘Oh, white wine with chicken or red wine with steak.’ Go with what you love, with what feeds your taste buds. And try something new along the way.
So tell us a little bit more about the program, because I've noticed in recent years, just as a wine lover myself, that there's been more of an interest of our community drinking and learning about wine versus running to the typical spirits.
DS: I think before, we weren’t in it. We were consumers and of us had grandmothers who made wine. But until very recently, we realized that we we can do this too. It just took a while because we didn’t see ourselves in there. So once we sort of interjected ourselves and got the knowledge and saw how amazing it is, that mindset changed. You take something, and you make a beautiful wine out of it. I think that gets us excited because we created a lot of things already that we didn’t get credit for. I mean, now we’re taking something else and making it our own along the way.
We’re taking over. I love how we can have wine at the center of our girls’ nights. People are actually getting together and educating each other about wines, working in restaurants as I do, and building a wine list. It’s just really getting them to do it, not only as consumers but as business people. It’s a great business.
How has the reception been? Because I didn't even know that there was a program. And people view Disney as such a family-friendly place that wine wouldn’t be as integrated as it is.
DS: It’s been a long time since we’ve had this on the program. It started back in the ‘90s. But it wasn’t us. We weren’t there. And one year, I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to do this.’ And I might have been the only maybe one or two in the room. Disney has the largest population of sommeliers because we invest in that program. So it’s about appealing to our guests. So I love when I go into the restaurant, and guests dining are surprised to see me and learn about what I do.
It makes me proud, and I wish we had more of us in the program. And I think eventually, because Disney has really tried to show that we have diversity, so more will begin to participate. I am starting to see more people like me. I want to make sure I’m educated and be able to give them great information about the company that I work for.
Another great thing is that I’m in food and beverage, so I talk about wine, I talk about the foods. But I have a great partner who is a female chef I work with. So it’s like we’re the queens of the castle because I’m in front of the house, she’s back of the house. She cooks it up, and I serve it up.
How intense was the sommelier program? Because watching Uncorked on Netflix made it seem impossible.
DS: I haven’t seen the movie yet, but he was probably going for the Master’s level.
DS: That is one of the most difficult tasks. I am like entry-level. I haven’t gotten to the point where I can blind taste the wine and narrow it down to the region or the year. I’m not that type. I’m not that’s a master sommelier level because they can just tell you everything about the wine. I can taste it and give you the flavors and give you the profile and give you a recommendation. I can build a wine list, but to say a master, I am hundreds of miles away from that.
But does Disney offer that?
DS: Yes, just depends on how you are doing. Because it’s like you have your entry-level, then the certified level – I am a certified sommelier. And then you go to the advanced level, which is a little step down from the master. And then the master sommelier. At the Master level, there are three parts of that exam. So I’ve had peers, one of them being female, that has gone through all that process, gotten to the advanced level. And it’s so difficult. She didn’t make it to the master’s, but she got her advanced. And one of my former peers, he actually became a master. He lived and breathed wine nonstop every day. All day. He had maps all over his house. It was just it was such an intense program. So you can pass one part and fail the other, and then they’ll give you the opportunity to go back and try again so you can get to pass that. It’s quite an accomplishment when you become a master sommelier.
How important do you feel wine is as it relates to food?
DS: It’s a match made in heaven. My goodness. So many people feel the experience is complete when they do the food and wine pairing. And people love to discover new things. That’s why I love to do flights and the restaurants.