Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weekend Adventures: Vineyards & Jazz

Yesterday the hubby and I went to a local vineyard and did a little wine tasting. Yes, we live in Florida. Yes, there are vineyards in Florida. And yes, they produce their own wine.

Normally when people think of American wine their minds immediately go to California. I'll admit, I would think the same thing. But growing up, I always knew that there was a vineyard located in the city of Clermont. We'd pass by the Lakeridge Winery on our way to the turnpike every summer on our trip to Georgia. But I had never actually visited the vineyard before.

Last month, our local news station was doing a feature on the vineyard and their upcoming festival, and the hubby and I thought it'd be fun to go. Only, the festival last month featured blues music, which neither one of us are a big fan of. So, we checked out their website and saw that they had a bunch of festivals throughout the year and decided to wait until there was one that interested us more. This past weekend was the jazz festival, which was a little more up our alley.

Probably the coolest part to me was the fact that they had free tours and tastings (which isn't just a festival thing - they do them daily). I didn't get any pictures of the tour or tasting. But, the tour included a short video of the history of Florida wines and how they found/created the perfect hybrid of grapes to withstand the Florida climate. Then, you walked over the distilling plant and onto an observation deck where you get to overlook the vineyards. I'll be honest, this view wasn't as spectacular as I was hoping it would be (probably why I didn't whip out my camera). The city of Clermont has boomed in the last decade, and rather than the rolling hills and lakes that it use to have, all you see is the rooftops of houses in the distance.

Normally after a tour, you go to their upstairs bar for a proper tasting. However, because of the larger crowds, the tastings were done in a walk-thru style within the distillery. Now, I'm not a wine drinker. At all. I'm not even much of an alcohol drinker. For me to like something, the alcohol needs to be disguised by something fruity or taste more like a soda. But, I figured, what better way to find a wine I like than to go to a free tasting.

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Of the ten wines Lakeridge produces, we got to try eight of them. Of those eight, we liked Sunblush, Pink Crescendo, Chablis, and Southern White. The hubby also liked the Cuvee Blanc. I should make clear that although I "liked" all of the ones listed, I don't know if I could ever enjoy an entire glass of it. It might be because I had a ton of different wine flavors on my pallet, but nothing really "stood out" as a hands down favorite to me. If I had to choose one, it'd probably be the Pink Crescendo which is a sparkling wine; almost like a champagne.

After we were done with our tasting, we walked around the gift shop for a little while and debated whether to buy a bottle or not of the hubby's favorite. At first we decided against it, but before we left for the day we ended up going back in there and snagging a bottle of the Chablis.

Then we headed out to the picnic area for some food and music. The setting was really nice; I could see people having weddings out there. I had dressed very comfortably for fear of the 90 degree weather that had been forecasted for the day. But the picnic area was covered with shade trees, so we managed to walk out of there without having to even put sun screen on. The food smelled amazing, though the prices were a little steep. They also sold beer and wine on the grounds, as well as some dessert items to help cool you down. The music was nice, though the hubby said it sounded like the lead singer had had a little too much wine himself before the performance. We didn't stay too long to watch their entire show.

Before we left, we wanted to go and actually look at the grape vines. We had hoped that it would have been included within the tour, but it was not. The vines around the picnic area had been blocked off. Why? Not sure. My assumptions would be that (A) they wanted to keep the large crowds out because (B) the grapes were due to be harvested in about a month and they didn't want any damage done to them.

I did try to get some "up close" pictures using the zoom on my camera.

Overall, we both had a good time. Considering it only cost us a $4 donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, it was a relatively cheap afternoon date. Sure, we purchased a plate for lunch and one bottle of wine (which was only $8 by the way), but you could easily go out to Lakeridge Winery and not spend a ton of money. And, the scenery is really beautiful; it's one of the local hot spots for photographers to do engagement shoots at (here's one of my favorites).

Who would have thought Florida would be considered among America's top producers of wine? What are you guys up to this weekend?

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