Uncorking the Sunshine State

Here’s a look at five properties across the state and their unique wines

Photo courtesy of Fiorelli Winery & Vineyard
Photo courtesy of Fiorelli Winery & Vineyard

While Florida might seem like an unlikely choice for a wine destination, it is actually one of the original homelands of American wine. Spanish missionaries harvested native Muscadine grapes to make wine as early as the sixteenth century, and Florida is currently home to around 20 certified wineries. These wineries and additional vineyards produce wines from a variety of Muscadine grapes as well as tropical fruits and citrus varieties—many of which make a great base for cocktails. From traditional vineyards to lush courtyards and oceanfront destinations, Florida’s wineries and their flavorful creations are worth exploring. Here’s a look at five properties and their unique wines. 

Photo courtesy of Fiorelli Winery & Vineyard 1
Photo courtesy of Fiorelli Winery & Vineyard

Fiorelli Winery & Vineyard 

Perhaps the most traditional of all Florida’s wineries, Fiorelli Winery in Bradenton has been making dry, semi-sweet, and sweet wines fermented from grapes for 20 years. The Fiorelli team produces nine wines on their scenic property, which overlooks acres of Muscadine-filled vines. The Breeze variety—a blend of Noble and Valvin Muscat—is a medium sweet wine that makes for a lighter riff on the classic rum mojito. The winery also regularly hosts events with live music, wine tastings, and food. 

Vineyard's Mojito. Photo by Papp Photo
Photo by Papp Photo

Vineyard’s Mojito

Rum, sugar, mint, lime—the Cuban mojito needs no introduction. For days when you fancy something lighter, this lower-proof option is sure to satisfy. 

  • 1 oz. white rum
  • 1 oz. Fiorelli Breeze wine
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • ½ oz. simple syrup
  • 8 mint leaves
  • Mint and lime wedges or wheels to garnish

In a shaker with ice, add all the ingredients and shake thoroughly. Strain into a glass with ice and garnish with mint and fresh lime.

Keel & Curley Winery

For a more unconventional wine experience, visit Keel & Curley in Plant City. Here, instead of vineyards, you’ll walk through fields of blueberries. In Florida, blueberry wine production comes in second behind grape, and Keel & Curley is one of two main producers with the Florida Farm Winery seal of approval (the other is Island Grove Wine Company in Hawthorne). Using Southern Highbush blueberry varieties—which are most adaptive to Florida’s temperate winters—vintners ferment the berries with the skins on, just like with Cabernet or Merlot. The resulting wine is complex in flavor, with a nose that most resembles a Cabernet or Syrah. Keel & Curley makes three types of blueberry wines, ranging from sweet to semi-sweet to dry, as well as a blueberry rosé, a black raspberry Merlot, a wild berry Pinot Noir, sangria, a strawberry Riesling, a peach Chardonnay, and a key lime wine. 

Somm’s Cup. Photo by Papp Photo
Somm’s Cup. Photo by Papp Photo

Somm’s Cup

The official cocktail of Wimbledon, the quintessential Pimm’s Cup is made with Pimm’s (a gin liqueur that oyster bar owner James Pimm created in the 1840s), lemon juice, and ginger ale, served over ice with an abundance of mint and fresh fruit. The Somm’s Cup calls for a dry blueberry wine for a refreshingly light, fruit-forward variation.

  • 2 oz. Pimm’s No. 1
  • 1 oz. Keel & Curley’s dry blueberry wine
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • 2 oz. ginger beer, to top  
  • Cucumber spear or slice, mint sprig, seasonal berries, and citrus to garnish

In a Collins glass, add Pimm’s, wine, and lemon juice and stir. Add pebble or crushed ice, top with ginger beer, and stir gently to mix. Garnish lavishly with  cucumber, fresh mint, berries, and citrus.

Strong Tower Vineyard & Winery

Nestled on 11 verdant acres in Spring Hill, Strong Tower Vineyard & Winery is well-known for its Norton, Ison, and Carlos Muscadine grapes. It also offers fruit wines (when in season) including blueberry, strawberry, and even apple blossom. In total, the winery makes more than 15 wines, all of which are produced, bottled, and labeled on-site—and some have even won awards at the Florida International Wine Competition. One of Strong Tower’s most unique wines is the Reserve Port, which is made from the rich Norton grape and features flavors of dark chocolate, black cherry, and plum. 

Port Cobbler. Photo by Papp Photo
Port Cobbler. Photo by Papp Photo

Port Cobbler

The Cobbler is a pre-Prohibition cocktail made with Sherry, sugar, and fresh fruit that is shaken and enjoyed over crushed ice. Author Charles Dickens popularized this nearly two-centuries-old drink when the titular character of his novel The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit described his delectable first sip. This modern version uses Strong Tower’s own Port.

  • ½ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 5 berries
  • 2 oz. Strong Tower’s Reserve Port
  • ½ oz. mezcal
  • Fruit and citrus to garnish 

In a shaker tin, muddle the berries with the lemon juice. Add the Port and mezcal. Shake and strain over crushed ice. Garnish with fresh Florida fruit and citrus.

Photo courtesy Schnebly Redland's Winery
Photo courtesy Schnebly Redland’s Winery

Schnebly Redland’s Winery 

You won’t find any Muscadines or traditional Florida wines at Schnebly Redland’s Winery in Homestead. Instead, this “southernmost winery in the United States” is home to specialty wines made from exotic fruits such as avocado, mango, lychee, passion fruit, guava, and coconut. Take in the views of the covered courtyard and waterfalls while sipping on a glass of tropical fruit wine. Frequent luaus with DJs and fire dancers up the fun factor even more. Schnebly Redland’s wines are ripe for making mixed drinks. The chocolate passion fruit wine, for example, boasts subtle cocoa notes that are delightfully spotlighted in this riff on the New York Sour.

Vintner's Spoils. Photo by Papp Photo
Vintner’s Spoils. Photo by Papp Photo

Vintner’s Spoils

The perfect balance of fruity red wine and smoky-sweet bourbon, the New York Sour (also known as the Continental Sour or the Southern Whiskey Sour) is a classic for a reason. This sour cocktail dates back to the late 1800s and includes a red wine float, which adds both texture and acidity, as well as an appealing crimson hue. 

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • ½ oz. simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water)
  • 1 ½ oz. Schnebly Redland’s chocolate passion fruit wine

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add bourbon, lemon juice, and syrup. Shake well and strain into a glass over ice. Pour wine over the back of a spoon to float on top of drink.

Photo courtesy of Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards
Photo courtesy of Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards

Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards

Nestled 25 miles outside Orlando, Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards is Florida’s largest premium winery. The 127-acre property boasts a picturesque landscape of rolling vineyards dotted with hybrid grapes such as Stover, Suwannee, and Blanc du Bois as well as varieties of Muscadines including Carlos, Welder, and Noble. Among Lakeridge’s most popular bottles are the Southern Red and Southern White sweet wines, the semi-sweet Sunblush, and a semi-dry Chablis, all blended with different Muscadines. Other choices include the Pink Crescendo, a sweet sparkling wine ideal for Florida’s tropical climate. Stop by Lakeridge on a Saturday or Sunday for Weekends at the Winery, complete with live music, food, and—of course—wine. Also, if St. Augustine is on your summer travel list, stop into San Sebastian Winery, Lakeridge’s sister property located in an old East Coast Railway building. 

Tropical Sbagliato. Photo by Papp Photo
Tropical Sbagliato. Photo by Papp Photo

Tropical Sbagliato

The Negroni Sbagliato—which translates to “mistaken”—is the Negroni’s spritzy cousin. It’s also made with Campari and sweet vermouth but replaces the gin with sparkling wine. Use Lakeridge’s Pink Crescendo for a crisp, effervescent, and decisively tropical riff on this classic sipper.

  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • Lakeridge’s Pink Crescendo
  • Orange peel for garnish  

In a mixing glass, add Campari, sweet vermouth, and ice. Stir and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice or serve up in a coupe glass. Top with Pink Crescendo and garnish with an orange peel.

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