NCL’s Meet The Winemaker, the cruise line’s unique program featuring renowned winemakers and culinary experts, returns for its seventh year.
On February 23, 2023, Norwegian Cruise Line announced the lineup for its 2023 Meet the Winemaker series. The program brings winemakers and culinary experts aboard NCL’s newest ships to share their knowledge and expertise with an intimate group of guests.
Meet the Winemaker Returns to NCL
Returning for its seventh year, Meet the Winemaker will include new experiences from a Johnnie Walker Master Blender. This year will also see the first Winemaker cruise on Norwegian Prima, the cruise line’s latest ship.
With the Meet the Winemaker series, wine enthusiasts and foodies will have an exclusive opportunity to engage with winemakers and other food and beverage experts.
Programming includes wine tastings, wine-paired dinners, interactive culinary demonstrations, seminars, and meet-and-greets.
Guests will also be able to purchase wines on board that are usually only available by visiting the wineries.
Returning hosts this year include Salvatore Ferragamo, world-class winemaker (and member of the historic fashion house), celebrity chef Aarón Sánchez, Michael Mondavi of the Michael Mondavi Family Estate, and 2023 “The Drinks Business” Master Winemaker of the Year Gérard Bertrand.
“Our Meet the Winemaker series is back and better than ever,” said Harry Sommer, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line. “Every year we aim to elevate this exclusive experience and I believe we’ve done just that as we enter the program’s seventh year with an impressive guest lineup.”
“These unique sailings offer a rare opportunity to get one-on-one exposure to esteemed winemakers and their collection of wines, all while visiting multiple destinations and enjoying an unforgettable vacation aboard our innovative fleet,” Sommer continued.
New to Meet the Winemaker for 2023
For the 2023 season, NCL’s Meet the Winemaker series includes several new special guest experts—and they’re not all wine-related!
Learn about whisky from a Johnnie Walker Master Blender
For whisky aficionados, special guest Emma Walker from Johnnie Walker is a noteworthy addition to this year’s series. Walker, a Master Blender (the highest rank in whisky craftsmanship), has spent over a decade perfecting whisky production, maturation, and blending processes.
Walker leads the Johnnie Walker Whisky Specialist team based in Menstrie, Scotland, where she has access to more than ten million casks of maturing Scotch whisky.
She will join the September 17, 2023 sailing on NCL’s newest ship Norwegian Prima for NCL’s first-ever Johnnie Walker cruise. On the northern Europe sailing, guests can sample a wide range of aged whiskeys and learn about the iconic brand’s history.
A new culinary component to Meet the Winemaker
Ashley Breneman, Executive Chef at Certified Angus Beef, one of the top beef brands in the United States, will be on hand for the July 9, 2023 sailing aboard Norwegian Encore to Alaska. Certified Angus Beef is featured across the NCL fleet in its specialty steakhouse restaurant, Cagney’s.
Chef Breneman, who began her career studying at Le Cordon Bleu, has worked for numerous celebrity chefs, including Gordon Ramsay on the TV show Master Chef. She’ll join returning winemaker Antonio Hidalgo to add a culinary component to the Meet the Winemaker experience.
Miguel Torres of Familia Torres joins the program for 2023
Miguel Torres is also joining Meet the Winemaker for the first time this year. Torres, a fourth-generation winemaker who pioneered planting Cabernet Sauvignon in Spain, famously created Mas la Plana in 1970.
The Familia Torres winery has a presence in over 100 countries and has established itself over the past 30 years as a producer of high-quality wine.
Torres will join Norwegian Encore’s April 9, 2023 Eastern Caribbean voyage.
NCL Sailings with Meet the Winemaker program
The complete 2023 Meet the Winemaker series lineup includes:
- April 2, 2023 – Norwegian Bliss, Mexican Riviera: Featuring award-winning celebrity chef and TV personality Aarón Sánchez
- April 9, 2023 – Norwegian Encore, Eastern Caribbean: Featuring fourth-generation winemaker Miguel Torres
- April 22, 2023* – Norwegian Bliss, Alaska: Featuring world-class winemaker Salvatore Ferragamo of The Il Borro estate in Tuscany, Italy, producing world-class wines
- June 10, 2023* – Norwegian Bliss, Alaska: Featuring Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite Wine Dinner Hosted by Special Guest: Diane Flamand
- July 9, 2023* – Norwegian Encore, Alaska: Featuring Antonio Hidalgo of the globally recognized family-owned Spanish Sherry house, Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana, and Certified Angus Beef® Executive Chef Ashley Breneman
- September 17, 2023 – Norwegian Prima, Northern Europe: Meet the Master Blender, Emma Walker of Johnnie Walker
- October 22, 2023 – Norwegian Escape, Bermuda: Featuring Michael Mondavi of the Michael Mondavi Family Estate
- October 28, 2023 – Norwegian Joy, Western Caribbean: Featuring Gérard Bertrand, “The Drinks Business” Master Winemaker of the Year 2023 recipient
- October 29, 2023 – Norwegian Escape, Bermuda: Featuring Randy Ullom from the Kendall-Jackson family
*Guests on these sailings will also have the opportunity to partake in a special wine-paired dinner featuring Certified Angus Beef.
April 2, 2023 – Norwegian Bliss, Mexican Riviera
Special guest: Celebrity chef Aarón Sánchez
Award-winning chef, author, and television personality Aarón Sánchez grew up in the restaurant business and is passionate about Latin cuisine and encouraging diversity in the kitchen.
Sánchez is the chef/owner of Johnny Sánchez in New Orleans, the host and executive producer of Discovery’s El Sabor de Aarón, and a judge on both MasterChef and MasterChef Junior.
The celebrity chef is also the creative director of Cocina, the first online content platform dedicated to celebrating Latin heritage through its vibrant culinary culture.
April 9, 2023 – Norwegian Encore, Eastern Caribbean
Special guest: Winemaker Miguel Torres
Fourth-generation winemaker Miguel Torres is joining Meet the Winemaker this year for the first time. Torres, who pioneered planting Cabernet Sauvignon in Spain, famously created Mas la Plana in 1970.
The Familia Torres winery has established itself over the past 30 years as a producer of high-quality wine. The family also maintains a presence in regions across Spain, Chile, and California with singular wines and vineyards.
Related: What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise
April 22, 2023 – Norwegian Bliss, Alaska
Special guest: Winemaker Salvatore Ferragamo
Heir to the legendary Italian fashion house Ferragamo started by his grandfather, Salvatore Ferragamo purchased the Il Borro estate along with his father Ferruccio in 1993. For the past 30 years, Salvatore has been transforming the property in the heart of Tuscany back to its original splendor.
The 1,700-acre property now boasts a 5-star Relais et Châteaux hotel in its 1000-year-old medieval village, along with a world-class winery. Ferragamo converted all the estate’s agricultural practices to organic farming, and produces wines with a unique concept of terroir.
June 10, 2023 – Norwegian Bliss, Alaska
Special guest: Winemaker Diane Flamand (host of Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite wine dinner)
Winemaker Diane Flamand from the esteemed Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite joins Norwegian’s MTW series as host of an exclusive wine dinner.
From 1997 to 2003, Flamand ran the Barton & Guestier (Blanquefort – Bordeaux) Wine Training Program where she promoted the brand in France and abroad, including in South and North America, Europe, and Russia.
Flamand spent several months in 2003 at California’s Sterling Vineyard and in South Africa before joining DBR Lafite in 2004 as winemaker, Bordeaux Collection Wines.
July 9, 2023 – Norwegian Encore, Alaska
Special guests: Winemaker Antonio Hidalgo and Ashley Breneman from Certified Angus Beef
Winemaker Antonio Hidalgo is part of the eighth generation of Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana. The Spanish sherry house was founded in 1792 by Hidalgo’s ancestor in Sanlucar de Barrameda, and is still family-owned and operated.
Born and raised in Sanlucar, Antonio worked every available job in the business from grape harvesting to sherry production. At the age of 17, he became part of the winemaking team.
September 17, 2023 – Norwegian Prima, Northern Europe
Special guest: Master Blender Emma Walker
Whisky brand Johnnie Walker‘s Master Blender Emma Walker (no relation to the founder!) began working for Diageo in 2008. For over a decade, she’s been part of the company’s team of 12 expert whisky makers, which she now leads.
With a Chemistry Ph.D. and an encyclopedic knowledge of whisky production, maturation, and blending, Walker blends her background in science with a passion for flavor and whisky.
In 2021, Emma Walker was promoted to become the first female Master Blender in Johnnie Walker’s 200-year history.
October 22, 2023 – Norwegian Escape, Bermuda
Special guest: Winemaker Michael Mondavi
A scion of the notable Mondavi wine family, Michael Mondavi has been a driving force behind the establishment of today’s wine industry in California’s Napa Valley.
Mondavi began his career in 1966 when he and his father Robert co-founded the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville. Michael held many positions at the winery, including winemaker for the first eight harvests—including the celebrated 1974 vintage.
In 1999, Michael, his wife Isabel, and their two children founded Michael Mondavi Family Estate, crafting a portfolio of small-production, artisanal wines.
October 28, 2023 – Norwegian Joy, Western Caribbean
Special guest: Winemaker Gérard Bertrand
Famed French winemaker Gérard Bertrand had an early start in the business—his father Georges began training him in grape harvesting in 1975 when he was only ten years old.
Just twelve years later Gérard bought Domaine de Villemajou, endeavoring to produce the most premium wines. His 2002 purchase of Château l’Hospitalet allowed his company to relocate its headquarters to that gorgeous estate overlooking the sea.
With eleven estates encompassing some of the most beautiful terroirs of Languedoc, Bertrand’s company strives to be the leader of the region’s most premium wines.
October 29, 2023 – Norwegian Escape, Bermuda
Special guest: Winemaker Randy Ullom
Kendall-Jackson’s Randy Ullom began his career as a vineyard manager and winemaker in Ohio and upstate New York in the 1970s, before joining DeLoach Vineyards in California in 1981. In 1993, Randy was hired by the Jackson family to reopen Edmeades in Mendocino and act as winemaker for the new label Camelot Vineyards in Central California. Today, Ullom has been Senior VP and Winemaster for Kendall-Jackson for over a decade.
In 2022, Randy received two prestigious awards for his role as a pioneer in the California Chardonnay movement. He was named an American Wine Legend by Wine Enthusiast, and a Sonoma County Icon by Sonoma County Vintners.
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Are you thinking about booking Meet the Winemaker cruise on NCL? You’ll find the lowest Norwegian Cruise Line prices (and no booking fees!) at CruiseDirect. Plus, they offer a best price guarantee.
More resources for your NCL cruise
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- Guide to Norwegian Cruise Line Drink Packages
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- Norwegian’s Free at Sea: The Ultimate Guide
Have you joined a Meet the Winemaker cruise on NCL in the past, or are you thinking about sailing on one this year? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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