Thursday, March 11, 2010

Report from … Wine Stop in Florida – March 9, 2010

My soon-to-be in-laws winter down in Florida, so when we arrived on Sunday they told us they’d like to take us on a winery tour of-sorts.  On Tuesday morning we set out to discover one winery in the area.  We had a choice of three (the winery map of Florida I had said there were 16 scattered throughout the state):  Homosassa Springs, Clermont or Tampa … my first choice was closed on Tuesdays so we traveled to the one in Clermont: Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards – billed as being Florida’s biggest.

My in-laws aren’t oenophiles, nor do they visit wineries all that often (if ever), so they wanted to poke around and taste some of the local wines.  The gentleman who greeted us at the door (Gino) was pushy about going on a tour (we must have declined 3 or 4 times).  I finally stumbled upon a woman (I did not catch her name) who offered to give us a little tasting and provide me with some information about Lakeridge and the grape growing in Florida.

First off, Lakeridge’s production is based on the Muscadine grape, “a grape native to the south,” we are told.  The grape is large and for the most part produces sweet wines.  “We don’t grow typical European vines because our soil eats away at the root system,” that’s a very odd statement considering from what I know about Floridian typography (which is very little); my father-in-law, who keeps this kind of info in his noggin said that Florida is built on a limestone-base; limestone is highly sought after for grape growing.  This is very interesting.  The three varieties of Muscadine grown here are Carlos (bronze grape), Welder (green grape) and Red Noble (Purple grape).

We plow through a number of wines (9 to be exact).  The ‘Cuvee Noir Reserve’ could best be described as a light red, kind of a cross between Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc in taste.  Cuvee Blanc, another wine that defies its own description, could best be described as: hints of Sauvignon Blanc mixed with Vidal.  “Chablis”, a wine which suggests the presence of Chardonnay, is a Muscadine-based white that smells of grape seeds and tastes like grape juice – red Welch’s grape juice.

‘Southern Red’ is made with Red Noble Muscadine, it smells like Concord grapes and although the taste is sweet, it has a slightly bitterish finish – this is Lakeridge’s top selling wine.  The ‘Southern White’ was very strongly grapey in both smell and flavour.

We were also offered up a wine made with a hybrid grape that the Lakeridge-lady told me was developed by their winemaker, called a Blanc du Bois (White of Wood), I’m going to have to look that piece of info up somewhere.  This is a limited 144 case production wine.

There were three wines I can recommend without hesitation.  Their award winning ‘Pink Crescendo’ ($16.99) “methode Chaampenoise” bubbly made with the Carlos Muscadine grape.  It spends 1½ to 2 years on lees in bottle … it’s a sweet bubbly with cherry, raspberry, watermelon and bubbegum nuances.  This would be a fun, hot weather fizz – good for Florida, imagine that.

The other two wines were a Cream Sherry and a Port – both tasted exactly like they were suppose to; the Port was especially pleasing.  Primarily made with the Red Noble Muscadine which spends a minimum of 4 years in barrel (and the only wine they make that sees wood) it is housed at their sister winery in St. Augustine (further north) – it is called San Sebastian Port ($19.95) and comes in a funky shaped bottle.

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