Our Florida trip two years ago was mostly business, but there were a couple of opportunities to wine taste. This and the next blog show the diversity in Florida wines; this one outside of Clermont Springs and the other outside of Lake Placid.
The Spanish style winery is the first view of the Lakeridge Winery, it is pale yellow cinder block capped in red tile. Palm trees and sandhill cranes grace the landscape on the approach to the building. Vineyards stretching away over the gentle ridge behind the winery provide native and hybrid American grapes for some of the wines produced here and in the Ponce de Leon area in the panhandle region.
It is charming, friendly, and well-organized. We began our tour with a video, followed our guide, Sarah, through the smaller fermenting room, out onto the balcony that overlooks the vineyards and largest fermenting tanks (too large to fit in the buildings) and back in via the bottling side of the operation.
Seemingly the largest of the Florida wineries, Lakeridge has nearly two hundred acres of vineyards and has contracts for the remainder of the juice they need. They produced about 1.5 million bottles in 2010; statistics for 2011 are not yet available, but were anticipated to have climbed well passed that number. Lakeridge bottles for the San Sebastian Winery in St Augustine as well. Both wineries have produced award-winning wines in international competitions repeatedly.
Muscadine grape varieties and hybridized bunch grapes are pressed, reds being left on the skins, just like European wines, for color. These grapes are quite different than the European grapes more generally known as wine grapes. As I mentioned in my last blog, most Florida wines are sweet. Lakeridge has a sparkling sweet wine, Pink Crescendo which begins tart and finishes sweet; serve cold. The fortified creme sherry, Proprietor’s Reserve, has a black cherry flavor with a subtle aroma of honey. This would be served as a dessert at a moderate temperature. My experience with the drier wines, made with the hybrid grapes, is that the acidic tartness dominates the palate, I would be happy to pair one with a meal, but would not be inclined to use it as a sipping wine. Maybe with more exposure and experience I would develop a stronger taste for these dry wines.
Florida and Georgia see distribution of a couple of wines from these wineries in grocery and liquor stores, online ordering is available to a broader audience. If you are in the area, make time to explore this lovely winery. Music events are planned for January; each month there is something exciting to attend if you live nearby.