Questions and Comments
Since many of you have great questions and observations of interest to
everyone, this regularly updated section will try to address your
In this edition of your feedback, for the most part we continue to
discuss the Mondavi Winery located inside the new California Adventure
I really enjoy your columns and wrote you a few weeks ago about
our experiences at Disneyland's Rancho del Zocalo, The Plaza Inn, DCA's
Hollywood and Dine, and Hook's Pointe and The Storyteller's Cafe in
the hotels during the grand opening week.
What I didn't mention was our experience at Mondavi since it
occurred during a DCA preview day on January 19 and isn't a Disney
Your splendid piece on Mondavi and it's numerous problems prompt
me to write you again about our dinner there. Being guests of the
sales division of Disney Hotels and with $10 in Disney Dollars given
each of us for food purchases in DCA, our party of four decided to
try the Vineyard Terrace. I bought a $6 glass of Coastal Merlot at
the wine bar while we waited to be seated (this particular wine can
be bought for $8 per bottle at Bristol Farms stores) and thought
this was quite pricey but ok for a decent glass of wine until I saw
the small portion I was handed in an undersized plastic glass. I'd
say it was about half what you would receive at any good restaurant
Upon being seated on the Terrace we were shocked at the wine
prices on the wine list. One of our party actually thought that the
"wines by the glass" list were whole bottle prices. The $6
glass of Merlot from the bar downstairs had jumped to $8 upstairs.
Our wine "expert" (she was probably 20 years old) was
there in a flash to answer any questions and take our drink order. I
was still sipping my mini glass carried from downstairs and the rest
were so turned off by the inflated wine prices that they ordered
Prices seemed high on the dinner menu but we expected that and
placed our order for various dishes. My minestrone arrived in a
large bowl that was 1/3 filled and was so overly salted it was
nearly ruined. I then had the mussels which turned out to be a
generous portion and were superb even though they were priced at
$9.50. The rest of our party had a Caesar Salad, the Meat Platter,
the Risotto and the Pasta dish. The rice and pasta arrived with
great flourish in large bowls that turned out to be half-filled or
less. The Meat Platter was equally stingy. The bread was good and
plentiful and rounded out the meal which came to $72 plus a $15 tip.
We all discussed our meal at length and everyone found the staff
well trained and professional, the food pretty good to very good but
we felt totally ripped off overall. None of us would dine there
again although several of us are curious to see what $50 for the
Prix Fixe menu with wines gets you.
I wrote a letter to Mr. Mondavi in care of the restaurant on
January 26 in which I praised the staff, restaurant design and
ambience but told him exactly what we thought of the meal, prices
and our disappointment overall. We have not received a reply so far
and don't expect one at this point.
It was with great interest that I read your column this morning.
I'm curious to hear what feedback you get from others who've eaten
there and am especially interested in reading what they felt about
the food and serving sizes at those 5 star restaurant prices.
All the best!
I reiterate my hope that Mondavi can
find a way to make this work; I think the location is a neat idea
and I like the way it looks. I do admit the concept seems flawed,
especially at inflated prices.
But wait: I have news. Prices have
shrunk apparently this week at Mondavi: word is, the deli sandwiches
and the Terrace have begun some price tinkering in an effort to lure
This is a very positive sign.
On the other hand, apparently the deli
is lowering prices but reducing portions. Uh, this makes little
sense to me. Reminds me of stock splits: twice as many shares but
each only half as valuable (in other words, exactly what you started
with). In Mondavi's case, the problem wasn't giant portions and
giant prices - it was giant prices and normal portions. But we'll
see how this works, I haven't witnessed the new prices or portions
I found the Mondavi wine I enjoyed at the winery
at a local shop. They sell it for a few dollars more than buying it
at DCA. Interesting finding something *cheaper* at a Disney park
than in the real world, eh?
Indeed, this is a good sign that not everything at Mondavi is
overpriced relative to the wine market.
Someone elsewhere in email chastised me for quoting the $5 - $8
wine glass prices, since this is apparently quite normal in the wine
world. Well, that may be. But to exaggerate my point (hyperbole
anyone?), it is also normal to pay thousands of dollars for an
Eyvind Earle painting (oh how I pine for one), but that doesn't mean
a gallery of them would sell out at DCA. The audience /
market just isn't right at this venue. Possibly.
I think people are confused. "Wine
tasting" generally means just that -- a tiny taste to see what
its like, and its usually free. (At "Wines of Texas" in
Dallas they charge a few bucks for four tastes, but if you start
buying the tastes get free real quick.) At Mondavi they have little
plastic tasting cups they will give you samples of. So, their wine
tasting is free, though I don't think they do it so people can just
walk up and sample for free all day.
Pricing is not too bad compared to what I remember at Epcot -- in
fact, Disneyland has always seemed *cheaper* that WDW in all areas.
DCA seems right up there with the Epcot prices, but I hope someone
comes out and posts specifics. (My girlfriend had a $6.50
"shot" at Epcot, for instance... OUCH.) At the Kansas City
Renaissance Festivals wine is about $5 per glass (and its cheap
stuff too -- Arbor Mist which is only $6 for a big bottle!). A beer
at LAX is much more than you'd pay at DCA.
In perspective (airports, festivals, WDW) their prices aren't
really out of line at all. Still too much, though -- makes you
wonder how much more they'd make in volume if the prices were less
Thanks Allen for the WDW perspective. My
business instincts agree with yours: sell it smaller, cheaper, and
in greater volume, and then everyone is happy.
You missed the point I think. There is no doubt
that $5 to $8 for a full glass of wine is a good price. The problem
is that for a wine tasting they should be offering small half or
quarter full glasses of wine, four to six, for $10 to $12. The idea
is to get people to try a lot of different wines for a little money
so they will buy a bottle (or two) of the one(s) they really like.
Having to buy a full glass of wine is NOT wine
tasting, it's wine drinking, and if you don't particularly like the
one wine you've chosen, you either pay another $5 to $8 for a
different glass (and waste what's left of the first) or you walk
away with a bad taste in your mouth and no inclination to buy a
bottle of wine.
The Wine Cellar at the Disneyland Hotel used to have a real wine
tasting option, which they enhanced with cheese and crackers, and
still the price for 4 partial glasses of wine was $10 (a couple of
years ago). We forgot to visit this spot last September, so I don't
know if this is still an option.
I remember the wine tasting at the Wine
Cellar. I seem to recall that some version of wine tasting still
goes on at the Disneyland Hotel, but maybe that's just wishful
In any event, I agree with you taking
them to task for their choice of words: an expensive glass of wine
is indeed drinking, not tasting. And by expensive I do not mean
relative to the wine market, I mean relative to the prices of entire
McMeals elsewhere in the park.
DCA was designed to lure out of state
visitors, right? Folks on vacation seem to want McMeals, not
Mondawines (OK I admit that pushed the limit of acceptable word
I really enjoyed your article on the Mondavi
Restaurant. However I must disagree with you on one point.
Particularly your take on why the Grape vines keep dying. I live in
the Temecula Wine Country, and have 5 acres 3 of which are planted
in Merlot vines. As you probably know Temecula gets much hotter on
average than Anaheim, yet there are about 4,500 acres of various
varieties of wine grapes and 14 wineries.
In addition, Anaheim in the 1880's was a wine
producing region! There was an insect that infected the vines and
wiped them out. (an interesting side note, an Australian scientist,
introduced a natural predator to the insect in 1902 in Anaheim, the
predator? The Lady bug, which has since spread all over North
America) After the loss of the vineyards, the farmers went to
citrus, and Anaheim became famous as a citrus region.
I think the reason the grapes might have died was
the shock of the hot weather just after planting as you said (which
was unusual) but had they been established, this would not have
mattered. Also Napa and Sonoma frequently get into the 90's and even
100's during the summer. Just thought you would be interested.
I got a few letters like this one, rightly calling me on my lack
of wine history.
As it turns out, I'm glad you wrote that, for it gives me a
chance to air what I have learned recently: apparently the real
reasons the vines are dying is that Disney is over-watering them.
Seems the landscaping department did not adjust for the special
needs of grapes.
The vines were being watered nightly just like any other trace of
shrubbery at the Disneyland Resort, and that plus the nasty rains we
had combined into a fatal mix for them... or at least this is what
I've been told.
I read with interest your article about Mondavi's problems. I
went to the passholder preview on Saturday, February 3 with several
friends. We are from San Francisco and Napa, and pretty into food
and wine. We were delighted to discover the Vineyard Room option,
and immediately signed up for dinner that night (which sold out
We thought the room was lovely and comfortable. I really wouldn't
worry about being too cold, even if it's raining.
As to the cost, I think $50 is reasonable, given the quality of
the food and the nice wines. But we were shocked to discover that we
all had to order the same thing for each course. What on earth were
they thinking? They claimed it was "family style", but
family style usually means they bring a big bowl or platter to the
table and everyone helps himself (and it doesn't usually cost $50
Instead, each course was brought to the table in silly and
pretentious copper pans and then spooned out onto our plates. After
we'd started on our second course, they brought around the third and
added it to our plates, which made rather a mess. We asked to have
the third course held, but were told "this is how we do
One tip: If your party pays separately you can order more than
one thing -- one choice for each bill. We discovered this by
accident after asking to have the bill split between two credit
cards. Evidently everything is keyed off the bill.
Most of the food was pretty good. The best items were the two
types of antipasto platters (it appears from your menu listing that
they've narrowed it down to one type, which is a pity). But after
our nice but unprofessional server told us a long story about how
Mondavi has its own fishing boats and everything is first quality,
etc., etc., we were surprised to find that the snapper had a
definite "off" (old) smell and taste. When we mentioned it
to her, she said "I think it tastes good" and showed no
further interest. No offer to replace it.
On the plus side, the wine guys were great. On finding that our
party included a couple celebrating a wedding anniversary, one
brought us a beautiful Pinot Noir that wasn't on the menu. He was
extremely knowledgeable and very charming. The other one was
learning, but was terrific too, with a wonderful personality. We
predict he'll go far.
My problem with the restaurant is that it's schizophrenic -- they
appear to be aiming (and charging) for a high- end experience, which
should attract people who care about food. Yet they force everyone
to eat the same thing. Perhaps we're odd, but we always share tastes
and compare dishes when we eat out. And it's incredibly difficult to
get more than two people to agree on what to order! This requirement
will probably prevent me ever from returning to the Vineyard Room
unless they change it. And I'd really rather get my food on a plate
instead of the elaborate spooning- out ritual for each course. And
each course should be served separately!
We liked the look of the Golden Vine Terrace and thought we'd try
that next time. But what really thrilled us was discovering the
deli. Yes, the cost is rather high (though about what we pay at home
for similar items), but the food is fantastic! You can order a glass
of wine and get a few takeout items and sit on the lovely patio
under a tree (one of the few shady places in DCA). It's terrific. I
just wish we'd discovered this BEFORE we spent about $7 or $8 each
on tasteless wrap sandwiches at the "Bountiful Valley Farmer's
Market." For this privilege we stood in line in the sun for 30
minutes, and then discovered there was absolutely no place to sit
down (nor shade), either there or at the Pacific Wharf area. So we
stood in the hot sun and gobbled it down. By contrast, the Mondavi
deli is paradise.
(In fact, on a side note, I liked it so much (though the rest of
DCA under- whelmed me) that I figured I'd go ahead and upgrade my
passport for both parks just so I could have lunch there. The next
morning I went to renew and upgrade it while my friends went into
Disneyland. That's when I found out about Michael Eisner's
Friday-night decision to stop passport sales. I hadn't renewed in
December because I wasn't sure whether to upgrade, and figured I'd
decide after the preview. Since this meant I'd have to pay $43 to
enter Disneyland for a couple of hours (we were driving home at
noon), I asked if my friends could be paged. Thank God for the cast
members; a very nice person working the gate just let me in, for
which I'll be forever grateful. I was sorry to hear how frustrated
the person was by the decision, since the cast members were the ones
getting the brunt from upset passholders. I think it was an
incredibly stupid decision, especially as we were given absolutely
no warning. Nothing like alienating your biggest fans.)
As I'm sure you know, Annual Passport
sales are back now, so hopefully that part of the equation has been
I got several emails complaining about
the need for families to all eat the same thing, and as a former
restaurateur, I agree with you that a high- end experience should
not force you into a low- end type of selection. I'm hopeful that
this will be one of the first things they change about the Vineyard
Dear Kevin Yee,
I appreciated your article on the Mondavi winery at DCA. Please
let me help you with some of the facts concerning the wine side of
the article. (I have spent the last 16 years working at all three
levels of the business in CA; retail, wholesale, and supplier.)
The fastest growing wine category is at $12 to $20 per bottle at
retail (grocery stores & wine shops)
When it comes to regulating wine sales this is one of the most
regulated areas of our economy, relying on laws to discourage
bootlegging enacted at the end of prohibition by the State of
$50 per person is in line with dining at a white tablecloth
restaurant in Los Angeles (including wine).
You'd written: "What sales there are frequently go to
guests of Disney hotels, where they can be sent without effort on
the guestŐs part, and then guests have a chance to get drunk in
their rooms. I wonder if this is what most people think of when
they hear the words Disney vacation?"
Give me a break, moderate consumption of wine has been medically
proven to be part of a "heart healthy" life style as
reported in numerous medical journals. Your characterization of
people getting drunk in their rooms simply feeds into the
anti-alcohol hysteria the neo- prohibitionists rally around.
Moderate consumption of alcohol is the way the vast majority of
responsible adults enjoy this legal beverage, whine which goes back
to the bible, is part of enjoying the good life with family,
friends, and responsible consumption.
You'd also written: "Seems the Orange County soil and
climate, so suitable for orange groves, is not all that
well-suited for wine grapes."
Not so before the turn of the 20th century Anaheim (yes Anaheim)
was the center of the California wine business. Established by
German immigrants Riesling and Chenin Blanc where the mainstay
grapes and did very well in our climate (this year's weather has
been an aberration). You can still see some of the remnants as you
drive on the 15 FWY to Las Vegas near Rancho Cucomonga. The vines
were wiped out in Anaheim by the Phylorxia disease that has
accounted for the recent loss of over half of the vineyards in
Temecula and is currently a multi billion dollar problem in the
Thanks for the additional history of
vines in Southern California. As noted earlier, my complaint about
the prices is not that they are out of line with other wine
experiences, but that they are simply too expensive for the kind of
visitor DCA is likely to attract.
As a footnote, I am by no means a neo-
prohibitionist (they have those?). I enjoy libations all the time.
On the other hand, I also do not take bottles of wine with me to
And my comments about folks doing so to
get drunk were not off the top of my head, they were relayed to me
as actual comments made by guests who bought bottles of wine and had
them sent to their rooms. Just because *you* wouldn't get drunk in
your room doesn't mean no one would.
As always, I am a faithful reader of your columns on MousePlanet.
After reading your most recent, "Feedback for 3/12/01", I
had a couple of comments.
First, a reader suggested--and you confirmed with your own
opinion -- that it is Disney's "job" to present a rosier-
than- realistic picture of returns to potential participants. I'd
like to think that you meant that it's important to put your best
foot forward in marketing, but as I read it, what instead you have
done is endorse what appears to be Disney's blatant disregard for
realities that they must know very well. I know that "business
ethics" has become something of an oxymoron over the last
decade or two, but I can't help but believe that honesty is still
the best policy. Be optimistic, yes -- but honest. While Disney may
enjoy short- term returns from hoodwinking companies into expensive
deals, they do themselves a great disservice in the long run, when
Disney becomes known as a company that cannot be trusted.
Second, another reader suggested that perhaps Mondavi (and
perhaps DCA as whole) would benefit from more relaxed liquor
restrictions, and cited more lax restrictions at Epcot. While I am
not aware of the specifics of Epcot's policies on taking liquor
outside of the serving area (I assumed they were the same as DCA's),
it's important to note that the governmental entities controlling
these sites are radically different. Epcot, as part of Walt Disney
World's "Reedy Creek Improvement District", enjoys the
benefits of government that is essentially "by Disney, for
Disney." Reedy Creek implements its own liquor licensing, so
unless there are overriding State or Federal mandates, they may set
the implementation of licensing and consumption however they see
fit. The California property does not enjoy this same freedom.
I cannot argue with your comments on
business ethics, and I thank you for pointing out that Disney is
being short- sighted here. This is one of the points many of us here
at MousePlanet agree upon: Disney is all about short- term profit
With this economic downtown and sliding
stock market, I *shudder* to think of what's coming next for the
Don't you think it would have been better to
actually wait for the weather to improve and a holiday attendance
period to happen before blaming the poor performance of the facility
on the idea or price point? The whole park is way off attendance so
it is natural that the high end offerings would be off even more.
The Blue Bayou wasn't instantly busy until it
built its own audience and I expect Mondavi to be similar. It was
easily the best thing at DCA on my visit and was a great relief. It
is pricey and not a mass idea.. but that IS the idea. I hope they
didn't over project the performance of the place.
As with the rest of the park, patience and a more balanced season
will determine the long term value of this unique offering. I hope
it stays too.
To my mind, the article I wrote doesn't
try to claim that Mondavi is dead in the water, just that they are
in trouble and that the prices are too high. I'm hopeful they can
fix the problems... by settling on a much lower revenue stream than
they had anticipated (and therein lies my pessimism: you don't sign
an expensive lease and build a $12 million complex if you suspect
you will have to lower prices a month after opening... they are
still in trouble).
On the plus side, this weekend when I
visited, the place had some life! There were about 10-15 tables
occupied on the lower level with folks drinking wine, with a
constant 1-3 people in line for more wine. I temper my enthusiasm
with the knowledge that this was the first weekend after annual
passport sales were renewed, and I'm betting a good chunk of those
visitors were AP's that might only be visiting Mondavi this one
time. On top of that, the second wine bar was still closed. You
don't build two wine bars, close one, and then proclaim financial
success when the remaining one has moderate sales....
I'm curious to know where you heard that
the Blue Bayou wasn't instantly busy. This contradicts what I've
always been told and what I've read on the subject.
In your March 12th reader email column, reader Joeybats commented
about wine tasting in Temecula, which is something that Kevin and I
enjoy, as well as wine tasting in the Central Coast / Paso Robles
area. I agree with Joeybats; the so-called "wine tasting"
at DCA is not a "wine tasting" experience.
In both these areas and in parts of the Napa / Sonoma wine
country, wine tasting experiences are similar. You may pay a small
fee; $1 - $5 depending on the winery and where you are
geographically (in relation to the tourists.) In return, you get a
selection of tastes (not full glasses.) Usually there is a list of
wines and vintages being offered (typically ten to twelve) and each
person is offered about four to six tastes. My husband Kevin and I
will often "divide and conquer"; each of us will pick
different varieties from the list and then we'll share and compare.
(By the way, this is not discouraged by the wineries. Often the
people pouring the wine will make recommendations to us which wines
should be tasted side- by- side.)
We've been to the Mondavi winery in Napa once and we won't go
back. Granted, this was over five years ago but it was the most
"tourist trap" wine tasting experience we've ever had.
Even at their winery, they charged by the glass for tasting, not one
fee for multiple tastes. Although I don't remember the actual
prices, I do remember that Kevin and I thought they were *quite*
overpriced, especially compared to wineries right across the street
and down the road from them! Basically, when we were at Mondavi, we
got out of the car, looked around for three minutes, and left.
When Disney initially announced the Mondavi winery at DCA, I was
not very optimistic, based on this experience we had in 1995. I was
not the least bit surprised when I saw the prices at the winery. I
think it's unfortunate because it really does not offer visitors an
authentic California winery experience, however, I think it does
offer an authentic Mondavi winery experience!
$5 to $8 for a glass of wine is not an outrageous price if you
were to go to a fine restaurant and order one glass of wine to
accompany a meal. It is not an appropriate price (nor portion nor
variety of wines) for tasting. I think that it would be better to
describe the Mondavi experience at DCA as "Wine Sampling,"
rather than "Wine Tasting."
Thanks for the rundown on how other
wineries do wine- tasting. It's interesting to hear you echo the
other reader who commented that the Mondavi offering is more wine
drinking than tasting: there seems to be a good deal of agreement
out there about this.
Would even more people be willing to pay
$2 for very small (quarter- glass or less) portions of wine? I
What do you know about the optional Disney Dining plan on the
travel packages offered by Disney Travel? What eating establishments
accept the vouchers? Is there a $ limit or special menu? On a four
day plan is it worth the $90 or so that it costs? Thanks for any
Interesting article on the Mondavi situation. My husband and I
live close to Woodbridge winery (in Northern California) so we've
been curious as to how it's doing.
I have a follow-up to the pre-paid meals question posed by one of
your readers. We plan to visit DL / DCA this fall and are planning
to purchase these tickets (it will be the three-day plan, which is
Do I understand that the restaurants are already picked in
advance (in other words, you don't have a choice where to dine)? I
have also heard that you must use specific "coupons" on
specific days / mealtimes or you lose them? Since we love a few
restaurants in the park, we thought this would be cost effective
this time around, but I agree with you, part of the fun is
discovering what's available.
Thanks, and keep up the good work,
Dear Dave and Sandi:
I'm getting this question a lot. The
Disneyland Resort recently rolled out a package deal that mimics
what they have over in WDW, where you pay a set price and get your
meals more or less taken care of. In reality, what it means is that
you get various coupons and vouchers to take with you to the park
that you then use like cash.
I'm fairly opposed to this style service
for the vast majority of folks. It is really only good for those who
are decision-impaired or want a literally carefree trip.
It does not save you money. You
can buy a set deal for a set amount of days. Take the 3 day deal,
which costs $66. That's $22 a day, per adult, to have your meals
paid for, right? Well, it really means coupons worth that much which
are only good at certain locations. So you don't really save that
In general, you end up saving but a few
pennies and losing much of the freedom that comes from deciding you
are hungry NOW and boy does that restaurant right there look good.
Personally, I would never do one of
these meal deals. Why sacrifice spontaneity for convenience, which
manually choosing a restaurant isn't that convenient in the first
Watch this column in the near future for
more of a breakdown on the Meal Deals... I'm working up a feature
story on it as we speak...
Disneyland Resort - Complete Menu Items and Prices:
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