John Blazon, MS
John Blazon is the former wine director for Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. During his 13 year tenure , John was responsible for the development of all standards for wine programs including product selection, service and training at all Walt Disney World locations including theme parks, resorts and new concepts. His most recent works include the creation of the wine programs for restaurants Sanaa and the Wave. The Wave’s 90 bottle list became the first wine list in the U.S dedicated entirely to screw cap closures and was named by Restaurant Business as one of the 50 Great Ideas for 2008.
Perhaps John’s most important achievement was working to earn the coveted title of Master Sommelier. Through a dedicated and self disciplined six year effort, John received his master sommelier diploma from the International Court of Master Sommeliers during a fall 2004 exam in London, England, and became the 59th Master Sommelier in the United States and 4th in the state of Florida. Today there are 100 Master Sommeliers in the United States.
In 2003, Blazon’s efforts were also applauded by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), which awarded its “America’s Best Wine Lists Special Innovation” honor to Walt Disney World Resort at the Monterey Wine Festival. In addition, Santé magazine named Blazon its 2003 “Wine Professional of the Year.”
John graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1982 with a bachelor of science in hotel and restaurant management and immediately accepted a position with New England based Dunfey hotels. He learned the required back of the house skills at the Dunfey Atlanta Hotel as assistant executive steward and worked with master chef Tom Catherall.
With a promotion from Dunfey to open a hotel in Virginia Beach, John packed his bags and headed to the kitchen of the Pavilion Tower hotel where he soon was introduced to the front of the house. He realized his passion for wine and table service after opening another hotel and restaurant project in Baltimore and in 1985 became director of food and beverage at the Park Terrace Hotel in Washington D.C. During his three years there he earned a “Best of Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator magazine for the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, Chardonnay.
Blazon moved to Williamsburg, Va., in 1987 where he helped achieve a AAA Five Diamond rating for The Dining Room at Ford’s Colony Country Club. He developed their 500 label wine list, earning the “Best of Award of Excellence” and is credited as creating a spirited wine culture throughout South Eastern Virginia through a series of wine related events and promotions that introduced many California vintners to the that market.
In 1993, Blazon left the restaurant business and joined wine distributor Robins Cellars as general sales manager in Richmond. It was in this role that John gained great insight to the distribution and supplier community, which assisted his future position at Disney. In 1996, the phone call came to interview for Disney and it caught John off guard. What could Mickey Mouse offer a passionate wine professional in terms of growth and development? Wasn’t it just burgers and fries in the Magic Kingdom?
After a dinner meeting with the award winning Chef Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert’s, John became convinced that Disney was soon to break out as a definitive dining experience that guests would soon talk about. Following two years at the helm of V&A, John was then promoted to the position of opening general manager at Cítricos.
As Walt Disney World continued to build and commit to food and beverage excellence Blazon found himself in a position to join Dieter Hannig’s team as the corporate beverage manager. It was in this role that John developed educational courses for Disney’s food and beverage team, which includes the Disney sommelier certificate program in partnership with the Court of Master Sommeliers. More than 750 cast members have passed the introductory certificate level since the training began in 2000, which is a greater number than any food and beverage organization in the world.
In 2006, Blazon was recognized by The STARWINE International Wine Competition as their “Sommelier of the Year.” In 2008, Blazon was elected to serve on the board for the Court of Master Sommeliers and was also appointed board member to the American Guild of Sommeliers.
John lives in Metro West with his wife, Debbie, and his two teenage boys, Andrew, 16, and Thomas, 13. When John’s not teaching, training or developing exciting new wine concepts, he can be found on the links trying to earn a 12 handicap or grilling outside on his patio while sharing a great glass of wine with friends, perhaps something special they’ve never encountered before.