Do you like wine? Silly question. Maybe you’ve been to Napa or explored century old vineyards in Tuscany or Bordeaux. But have you heard about vineyards in Florida?
You are in for a treat!
While there are many sleepy vineyards in Florida to be found all over the state, this is a behind the scenes look at our favorite central Florida vineyards.
Lakeridge Winery: Vineyards in Florida for weekend entertainment
Leave the hustle and bustle of Orlando and head over to Lakeridge Winery in Clermont. Here every weekend is a celebration. Upon arriving, follow the signs to take a walk through the winery for some free wine samples.
You will be asked for ID at the entrance and given a little sampling cup (for wine, not urine!). Someone from the winery will be at each station to pour you a taste. The winery posts banners near each station so you can learn about the wines.
These wines are made with Muscadine grapes which are a bit sweet. However, they also have a few drier California wines imported from California to sample.
After that, browse the shop. In addition to wine merchandise, there are free recipes. Plus you can purchase mouthwatering jams, and tasty sauces.
Wait! Just browse for now. Make purchases later so you don’t have to carry them around. Then head upstairs.
Once upstairs watch a short movie about the winery. When that’s done pass through the back door for a brief self guided tour.
Don’t let this confuse you!
The film takes place in a room people often mistake for a chapel. On the other hand, if you want to skip the film, go ahead. Instead head straight back for the tour. Once you complete your tour, you can sample additional wines available on the second floor.
Further, why not make a day of it? Journey out back for live music Saturdays and Sundays. Although no outside food or beverages are permitted, there is an outdoor kitchen with food available for purchase.
Consequently, the picnic tables fill up fast. But you can bring lawn chairs. You can also buy soft drinks, and of course, wine.
If you buy wine to bring home, make sure you are storing your wine properly. You certainly don’t want it damaged from the heat.
Discover unusual natural wines and jam at Bunker Hill
Country roads take you meandering to Bunker Hill Vineyard & Winery in central Florida. You will think you landed in the middle of nowhere, until you spot rows of muscadine grapes. Behind the vines a two story country home, complete with a wooden swing, greets you from another place and time. Meanwhile a stream gently babbles along in the distance.
Located beside the vineyard, a metal bunker welcomes visitors with a sign proclaiming “Wine tasting this way.” Park your car nearby and head on in.
Larry and Lenora Woodham planted these grapes over 20 years ago. Then in 2009 they bottled their first wine.
Tomatoes, and jalapenos, and coffee. Oh my!
But they didn’t stop with grapes. They now create over 40 varieties of wine including coffee, green tea, and dandelion to name a few. They do not filter their wines. Therefore they retain all the health benefits from the products used to create their wines.
Larry and Lenora use local fruits and vegetables to create their wines. As a result, most are seasonal. While they create wine with muscadine grapes as well as other fruits, their more unique wines drew our attention.
Come on and share the wine
We opened the door to a friendly reception from Lenora. After that she ushered us to a long table and asked us where we were from. Although Larry was at the other end chatting with two young couples, he quickly came over to us to set us up for a tasting. Tastings are only $6 per person with a purchase.
Tastings include your choice of 5 wines plus a “wild card”. Larry recommended my husband and I each choose different wines so we could double the pleasure by sharing.
I chose to sample Dandelion Wine, Green Tea, Cucumber Wine, Cherry Tomato, and one I can’t remember. Larry threw in Bamboo Leaf Herbal Tea as my wild card.
My husband chose Black Tea, Jalapeno, Red Grapefruit, plus two more. Larry gave Dan Natural Fresh Spiced Apple for his wild card. After trying a sip of the spiced apple, Larry heated it for us to try warm. Wow! Great for the holidays!
While most wineries filter their wines to increase clarity, at Bunker Hill gravity does the work. Sediment settles to the bottom naturally for a year before bottling. As a result, some of the fruit particles remain intact, increasing the health benefits of the wine.
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Formosa Gardens: When time is not on your side
Right off US Highway 192 near Disney, this blueberry farm with a central location makes a great place to stop when time is limited. This venue is often used for weddings and events due to its botanical gardens.
The winery focuses on farm-to-glass and farm-to-table thinking. Therefore they grow their blueberries organically.
When you get a salad at their bistro, you eat fresh produce grown on site. To conserve water, they use an irrigation drip system, rain gauges, and harvest rainwater. They also use natural fertilizer and pest control.
In addition to their blueberry wines, they offer a selection of wine from around the world and a variety of craft beers. To taste wines, just purchase a swipe card loaded with a preset dollar amount.
Further, Formosa Gardens has their wines on tap. Choose your wine from the dispenser. Then swipe your card. After that just press the button for the amount you want. Hint: smaller pours means you can taste more wines!
Fruit wines tend to be on the sweet side so we skipped out on tasting any sangria. Instead we tried the Berry Dry Blackberry which we found to be a bit tart. However, the Black & Blue Dry Berry and Kinda Dry Blueberry were our favorites. They were not too sweet but very flavorful. Of course, we bought a bottle to take home with us.
You can also snack on a variety of appetizers, soups, and salads if you need some food to go with your wine. In addition, they serve flat breads, and sandwiches. They even have a brunch menu on the weekends. We hadn’t eaten breakfast so we ordered some hummus with pita bread. Yum!
Stop for lunch at Keel & Curley vineyards in Florida
Drive out to Plant City to experience Keel & Curley Winery. Keel & Curley gives tours of their blueberry farm. But make sure to go on the weekend or you will miss out.
This winery has a full menu, making it an excellent choice for lunch. However, it fills up fast, even on weekdays. Instead, if it’s not too hot you can head out to the patio or grab seats at the patio bar. In the heat they have large fans blowing so it doesn’t get too hot.
Keel & Curley serves a wide variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and burgers.
Of course, they have created some recipes with blueberries such as the berry salad. They top this spring mix with blueberries, strawberries, bleu cheese, and pecans. They also serve blueberry cheesecake for dessert. However, the BBQ wings and spicy gator bites are my favorites. Both were delicious!
If you want to do a wine tasting, they offer those inside. Sometimes it gets crowded. Another option is to order a wine flight with your meal. This way you still get to taste five wine varieties. If you think that is too much wine at one sitting, you can always share a flight with your favorite travel partner.
Chocolate wine? Whispering Oaks vineyards in Florida
Whispering Oaks is located in central Florida near Inverness. Like many vineyards in central Florida, they create blueberry wines. You can order wine flights as a great way to sample their wines. They also serve a menu of light snacks. We got a fruit and cheese platter.
One of the unique wines they create is the Cha Cha Chocolate. If you’ve had chocolate wine before, it was probably a creamy wine. However, this was normal blueberry wine with a definite taste of chocolate.
You will immediately see why it is one of their best sellers. We ended up leaving with a case of wine, 6 bottles of which were Cha Cha Chocolate.
Whispering Oaks hosts several weekly events. Fridays and Saturdays, make a reservation for steak night on the patio. You will feast on a full course meal for $32 per person, which includes baked potato, fresh veggies, soup/salad, and fresh bread. Choose from delectable entrees such as rib-eye, beef filet, surf & turf, chicken or fresh fish.
They also have live music Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
In addition, Whispering Oaks offers tours of the winery Saturdays and Sundays between 11am and 7pm and by appointment during the week. During the tour you will learn about the wine making process and view the facility.
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Donna Emperador is a creative blogger and copywriter. Donna believes in learning about different cultures while sharing good food and wine. She has lived in South Florida for over 20 years and enjoys spending time traveling and making wine culture easier to understand for readers.
I guess I really never thought of Florida as a place with vineyards. Great to have that cleared up. It was interesting to see the different kind of wines at Bunker Hill. Fun to do a tasting and try several. I might even try the less sweet fruit wines at Formosa Gardens. This will be something to remember for our next visit to Florida.
Let me know how it turns out!
I love wine tastings and vineyard tours. And I had some very tasty wines from Florida here in Europe. However, I am always a bit reluctant to try wines with exotic ingredients like chocolate or jalapenos. Even fruitwines are not really my cup of tea.
Fruit wines are often a bit sweet for me, but they are great summer sippers. The apple pie wine at Bunker Hill makes for a great holiday dessert wine. Also the chocolate wine at Whispering Woods was not sweet, but you could definitely taste hints of chocolate which made for a complex flavor.
These vineyards sounded wonderful. Who doesn’t like a free tasting? It’s a smart way to make visitors to buy your wine. I drink wine occasionally, but I want to try the fruit based ones. I like the sweet wine.
You would love the blueberry wines and the other fruit wines then.
Wine tasting is a wonderful activity that teaches you that wine-making is a true art and wine is an amazing drink. I love to taste the different nuances of fruits in the wine – which is the reason why I prefer red wine. It’s simply fuller and somehow almost misterious.
I have been finding that I am enjoying a lot of red blends lately. The combinations of grapes are rich with fruits but not to full of that tannin feel.