I used to live in beautiful Lakeland, FL.
Lakeland is a wonderful city. It’s just about right… not so small that you don’t have all the amenities of a big city, but not so big that you have all the horrors of a really big city (crime, traffic, etc.). Although, when I left nearly 2 years ago, it had crossed the imaginary line in my head for “too big for me”. When I first moved to Lakeland it had under 50,000 residents. It is now over 90,000. I actually had to put on my turn signal to turn into my own driveway or risk being rear-ended.
Lakeland is located nearly in the center of the state and midway between Tampa & Orlando. It is the lightning capital of the US. As its’ name implies, it has many beautiful lakes. Two of my favorites, where I spent many evenings under the stars, are Lake Mirror and Lake Morton. Lakeland has also lots to offer in the way of Arts & Entertainment, including a marvelous Symphony Orchestra, Museums and great dining.
During my 15 years living in Lakeland, the city hired professionals to totally revitalize the downtown area. It is a marvelous place to eat, shop, enjoy the parks or just stroll the sidewalks and many outdoor Bistros.
But what I really miss about Lakeland is George. George was my “go-to guy” for wine.
There is a tiny wine store tucked away in an old plaza on the southside. It is there that you will find Vintage Wine Cellars, and it is there that you will find George.
I am a member of the Wine Taster’s Guild, or I was. Since moving to Georgia I have not found a wine store who offers Wine Pairings or even Wine Tastings, never mind Taster’s Guild membership. To my utter amazement, when I received my first membership card in the mail I discovered that Bronson Mela, the then esteemed owner of Vintage Wine Cellars, had the dubious distinction of being Chapter #001 of the Taster’s Guild. (Don’t I have fancy pants now, eh?) And as brilliant as Bronson was when it came to really knowing wine, George knew my preferences. Bronson mentored George well over the years; George is no wine slouch, either.
The most wonderful thing I love about George? All I had to do was call George and ask him to mix me a case. Presto! An hour later I’m watching George load the wine into my car – Thoughtfully hand picked just for me, packed in a case and my credit card billed; all by George. Seriously, how cool is that? Never once was I disappointed in George’s choices for me. He really understood the types of wines I especially enjoy.
I may have to take a drive to Lakeland again soon. I feel the need to reconnect with some dear friends. But, George, I miss you most of all! And George, my Spiegelau Vino Grande no longer runneth over. It is empty. Salute.