An Evening With A Winemaker

Talking Wine and Food with a winemaker at one of the best restaurants in Orlando.

Live Pretty Columbia Crest WineRecently, I had the opportunity to join Columbia Crest head winemaker, Juan Munoz Oca for a dinner at Prato in Winter Park. I was in heaven. Live Pretty was honored to be invited to participate in a group dinner sponsored by the team at Columbia Crest.  Great wine, great food and intelligent, sincere conversation made it an evening to remember.  Again, heaven.

Meet Juan Munoz Oca – Born to do this.
Columbia Crest is leveraging the talents of Munoz Oca to get the word out about the under-recognized quality of their wines. And, the passion that goes into the making them. To me, it’s no longer just another bottle on the shelf. From what I experienced, the brand is a ‘sincere’ brand.  What is that?  A sincere brand is one that has an honest story to tell about products produced by the deeply passionate people who are fortunate enough to do what they were born to do. That is Munoz Oca and his team.

Munoz Oca, with this Argentinian accent, tells a story connecting his childhood with his current role as head winemaker. It seemed to me he was born to do this.  He spoke passionately about his background and how natural it is for him to lead the wine making at Columbia Crest.  You can read more about his background at  As we spoke about his role, we enjoyed perfectly paired courses with select wines from Columbia Crest.

Prato was the perfect setting.  And, the perfect food to complement the wines of Columbia Crest.

Prato was the perfect setting. And, the perfect food to complement the wines of Columbia Crest.

Primi Course – We enjoyed our Primi course of Red Wine Marinated Olives with a 2010 Chardonnay.  According to Munoz Oca, the versatility of Chardonnay provides a great background for the olives – allowing the salty olive flavor to be what it is intended. When eating olives, I taste and feel a bit of the oils naturally present.  While it may sound odd, I always chose Gin to accompany olive appetizers.  The gin helped ‘cut through’ the oils.  I rarely enjoyed wine with marinated olives.  But the medium bodied H3 Horse Heaven Hills Chardonnay worked well with this primi course. The acidity in the wine ‘broke through’ the oils in the olives.  To me, actually making more discoverable, the flavors hidden in the oils. Okay – my mouth is watering….

Formaggio & Carne Salata Course – Many times, I’ve enjoyed a glass of red wine and with some cheese and called it dinner.  Very satisfying.  Also served with the H3 Chardonnay, this course could’ve been it for me.  With a combination of provolone, gorgonzola and pecorino, Prato presents a plate that I will not soon forget.  Serve gorgonzola with fennel honey and I’m good to go.  Toscano Salumi, veal pancetta and rabbit mortadella – WHAT? This makes Prato more than a place for dinner.  It’s a place for “Hey, I want to sit at a bar, have a cocktail with a great quick culinary delight.  It would be this dish. Unreal!

Antipasti Course – Scallop Crudo, Beef Carpaccio with grilled artichokes, Pecorino Sardo and Agrumato.  Both were amazing.  I want to go back with Beth just to have these two dishes. Paired with Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux Red Blend this course set the stage for courses to come – paired with perfect wines for this evening.

Forno A Legna – From the”Wood-burning Oven”  came Bone Marrow Crostini and Prato Meatballs paired with my favorite wine of the evening,  Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Since this dinner, I’ve also purchased many of the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvingon.  THIS IS A RECOMMEND! It is reasonably priced and very, very good. The Cabernet is not too heavy, but bold. This course had to be a favorite of mine.  It was indeed a combination of great wine paired with incredible food.

Pizza and Pasta – Also paired with the delish cabernet – and at this point all the other wines we’ve enjoyed with the previous courses – Prato’s wood-burning oven pizzas are a nice option for quick bites.  In addition to the Margherita, we enjoyed a wonderful Salsiccia (with chorizo, broccoli rabe and provolone picante) along with a Florentina with spinach creme and prosciutto.  Pastas included a seafood dish as well as a Beef Casoncelli – unreal! The wines made it another wonderful course. Both the lightness of the whites, and the intensity of the reds were perfect with the pizza and the pastas – but try the cabernet with the beef pasta dish. You won’t be disappointed.

Dolci – I will be the first to admit, that I am NOT a sweet wine fan.  With that, when Munoz Oca presented the Columbia Crest Grand Estate Moscato, I was skeptical.  Sweet wine served with tiramasu, chocolate pound cake, Maple Budino and some pretty desirable gelatos – not on my to-do list.  But… worked. The flavors didn’t fight, and the wine was just right.  Not too sweet, not too dry. A perfect pairing with the must-have desserts at Prato.

My Take Away:
I was unfamiliar with Columbia Crest before this dinner.  There’s just too much competition on the shelf.  But, I am so glad I had the opportunity to meet the team at Columbia Crest. This wine maker presents an affordable portfolio of wines – with some higher end prices as well.  This is a great wine label to know.  Very approachable, the wines of Columbia Crest are definitely worth a try and have been added to our wine selections at home.


Live Pretty Columbia Crest Corks

Live Pretty Columbia Crest

Live Pretty Columbia Crest Munoz








It’s important to remember that simply because our team is invited to participate in sponsored events, we obligate ourselves to share with our readers our true perspective. The above post provides our opinions and do not represent those of anyone beyond the author of this post.

Combining his love of food and communications, Rod is a marketing guru with extensive experience in the healthcare, restaurant and luxury services industry. Rod’s special talent is cooking. He makes magic in the kitchen by relying on fresh foods and unique flavors. He is married to Beth, and together they have two little girls. Rod and Beth have the perfect Live Pretty partnership: he cooks fabulous dishes and she creates the beautiful ambiance that combines to make their events special and unforgettable.

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