Some ancient genius figured out how to ferment grapes into an enjoyable beverage. Like most things, it was likely discovered by mistake when someone left the fruit in a container for too long. I often refer to it as the nectar of the gods. Don’t spill any because it’s precious. Whenever you see a movie depicting days of yore (even such films as Robin Hood) there’s always the element of wine at play. The friar who imbibes to the point of silliness. The royal trying to drown his sorrows. The labourer who washes away his reality. Wine has proven to be a very useful tool throughout the ages.
Flash forward to today and it has become a powerful industry and a chic hobby turned money maker for part time enthusiasts. What should we do with a few million of our extra dollars? Hmmm. I know! Let’s start a boutique winery!
We are all familiar with the famous wine regions around the world. Old world. New world. Ancient vines. So many varietals. Viniculture is truly an art form. (On an aside, I keep telling my friend Cathie, who’s an amazing artist, to create some funky wine labels. I think there’s a market. ) But who ever thought Florida would be a wine producing region??
Yesterday we visited the LakeRidge Winery in Clermont. The venue is set high atop a ridge with a rolling vistas of the vines and the lakes and trees beyond. The building is very Tuscan in appearance with its fountains and stucco gables and patios. When we walk through the thick wooden door the point of entry is a bustling store with, of course, racks of wine as well as all of the accompaniments for a gourmet picnic and wine gadgets. One can never have enough (under utilized and dusty) gadgets!
A cheerful attendant announces that a tour and tasting is starting. Anyone is welcome. So we head up the front stairs into a “chapel” – I say that because it was dim and lined with church pews. Inside another bubbly young winery employee is welcoming us to the tour and tasting. We learn that in the earliest years of Florida, Ponce de Leon has settled the area and subsequently brought grape vines from Europe. The Cox Family (construction owners by trade) has turned a hobby into a thriving family business in addition to construction. The patriarchs have built a legacy and each one improving the business at every level. It is now a fully operational growing, harvesting, fermenting and bottling facility.
The output is very interesting since Florida’s tropical climate is ideal for muscadine grape varieties. They have a red and a couple of whites. Otherwise they import California product to make blends. As you can imagine, grapes enjoying the heat and sun ripen to a point of super sweetness. We sampled a few varieties with some being more favourable than others. We end up buying a case. It’s one of the beauties of wine. Perfectly portable, drinkable and, for collectors, storable. (Another aside… my uncle from Berlin is a connoisseur and buys wines that he predicts will be better with age and more valuable. He told us of creating a gourmet dinner and researching an appropriate wine from his cellar. The wine was aged and worth a considerable amount of dough)
We’ve never been able to store for aging. We drink too much. I think it’s one of life’s great pleasures to enjoy wine with friends and family or as a romantic interlude. We celebrate with wine. We eat with wine. We toast with wine. The possibilities are endless. Wine is a versatile and delicious product.
In Florida it’s a consumers heaven. And that includes wine. The sheer volume and selection is mind boggling. So are the prices. We are definitely enjoying the full range of tasty options.