What’s one thing that can make a great meal even better? If you ask sommelier Chelsea Santiago, there are two answers: the right company and the perfect glass of wine.

“I always like to say that ‘the best wine is the wine you drink with your friends,” she says. “Throughout history, ‘dinner and drinks’ has been a pairing that brings people together to spark conversation and share something meaningful.”

That outlook inspired Chelsea to pursue a career as a sommelier, and it’s what made her a perfect fit to join The Mayflower’s dining team in early 2023. Ever since, she’s been hard at work cultivating a creative and expansive menu of beverages for guests at each of our community’s three unique dining venues.

As part of an all-star culinary team that includes Director of Dining Services Elvis Burrows and Executive Chef Patrick Tramontana, formerly of Antonio’s Maitland, Chelsea played a key role in planning beverage offerings at Cru Quarters – a new bistro-style dining venue that features brick-oven-fired pizza, beer on tap, and a wine bar with more than 100 labels.

Sophisticated and eclectic, Cru Quarters features seasonal dishes that incorporate the flavors of wine country – from Albariño charred octopus to Pinot Noir poached pear – alongside thoughtfully selected beverage pairings.

“It’s not just the wine enhancing the food, or the food enhancing the wine – it’s about the harmony between the two,” says Chelsea. “Chef Patrick has an amazing palate for flavor and he’s always up for experimentation. I’ll taste a dish, and say, ‘You know what would make this even better? A splash of Carménère.’ And then we’ll give it a try and see what happens.”

In selecting labels for the Cru Quarters wine bar, Chelsea strove to find a good balance between variety and rarity, giving guests the opportunity to try something completely new. Her personal favorite on the menu is the Amarone – a rich red wine from northern Italy – but she also enjoys a glass of No Brainer Merlot.

“Exposure is a big part of learning more about wine,” she says. “Often, people get misconceptions like ‘all Rieslings are sweet,’ or ‘I don’t like Merlot.’ That’s not always the case – and when you broaden your perspective, you’re opening the door to enjoying something new.”

At The Mayflower, that learning process extends beyond the dinner table. The overwhelming success of the summer’s “Chef Experiences” – hands-on culinary classes led by Mayflower chefs – spurred Chelsea and her team to begin offering “Wine Experiences,” sommelier-guided tasting sessions for residents.

And while wine is a big focus for Chelsea, she’s the first to agree that happy hour isn’t only for oenophiles. The community’s selection of signature craft cocktails – from the award-winning ‘Mayflower Margarita’ to the Captain’s Olde Fashioned – features creative twists on classic drinks. And for those who prefer alcohol-free beverages, a diverse mocktail menu ensures everyone can enjoy a refreshing drink while still feeling like ‘part of the crowd.’

“We believe wholeheartedly in the trend toward fresh ingredients and healthier living,” she says. “And we’re rising to meet that demand – not only with non-alcoholic options, but also with vegan wines, organic drinks and cocktail syrups made in-house from fresh fruit.”

After a year of sweeping changes and enhancements to The Mayflower’s dining venues, Chelsea is eager to bring even more to the table in the years ahead. “We really want to keep pushing the envelope. People here are so open and curious, and it’s a joy to present them with new flavors and possibilities.”

When you live at The Mayflower, you don’t have to go far to enjoy the best things in life. Exceptional dining, creativity and culture, wellness, and lifelong learning are at the heart of our vibrant community – and with stylish (and surprisingly affordable) apartments available now, there’s no better time to get on board.

Ready to learn more? Send us a message or give us a call at 407.672.1620 to book your personal tour today. We look forward to hearing from you!