When you think of a Florida vacation, many people only envision never-ending white sandy beaches. Those same folks will be surprised to know that there are actually 24 independently owned wineries here. From appearance to the overall ambience, each location is unique. The following wineries produce native grown and indigenous muscadine vines, hybrid bunch grapes or exotic and citrus fruit wines, all with a distinctive Sunshine State signature.
Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards, Clermont
Located on a 127-acre estate of rolling countryside about 25 miles west of downtown Orlando, Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards is Florida’s largest, and perhaps busiest, winery with about 160,000 visitors annually. You’ll only find grape-based wines here, including native American varieties like noble and welder muscadine, and Florida hybrids like Stover and Suwanee. Tours take place inside the Mission-style building where the massive horseshoe-shaped oaken bars for wine tastings take center stage. The winery is open every day. Tours and tastings, where you get to sample six to eight wines, are always free for guests. Lakeridge also regularly hosts festivals, jazz concerts and grape stompings. Up next: Wine & Chocolate Festival (December 13-14) and the Winter Music Series throughout the month of January.
Where to stay: Just a 45-minute drive from Lakeridge, tucked away on 1,500 acres near Orlando, is Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Villas of Grand Cypress. The perfect place for relaxation and recreation, the Mediterranean-style luxury resort is home to 45 Jack Nicklaus Signature golf holes and Four-Star chophouse Nine18.
Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery, Miami
Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery in Homestead is the southernmost winery in the U.S. The anything-but-traditional address features natural coral waterfalls, tiki huts and exotic fruits for exciting pours such as mango dolce and sparkling lychee. Schnebly’s, which sits on 20 acres of lush tropical grounds, is paradise found. Of note on the property is the 5,000-square-foot Grand Tiki and 900-square-foot Waterfall Tiki. In the center of it all is a large open courtyard with a host of picnic tables. Right behind the winery is another huge patio and gathering area with Seminole-style chickee pavilions. The tasting room, with its enormous tasting bar, tropical-themed artwork, live music and an overall unpretentious vibe, is always bustling. Off to the side of the grounds, there’s a quieter bar with beer on tap. There’s a brewery onsite, too. Winery tours are held on weekend afternoons. Tastings come with your choice of five wines.
Where to stay: There are plenty of great upscale hotels in nearby Miami: For Old World elegance, head to Four-Star The Biltmore in Coral Gables; for an Art Deco-style beach setting, check out Four-Star Loews Miami Beach Hotel; and for a taste of glitz and glam, try Five-Star Mandarin Oriental, Miami on Brickell Key.
Rosa Fiorelli Winery & Vineyard, Bradenton
Over on the West Coast in Bradenton, Rose Fiorelli Winery & Vineyard consists of 10 acres of grapevines and a 3,000-square-foot facility. The mom-and-pop-style winery is perhaps Florida’s most quaint. Started in 1998 by Sicilian native Antonio and wife, Rosa, the label prides itself on traditional, handcrafted Italian-style options in three varieties: dry, semi-sweet and sweet. Rosa Fiorelli’s is open year-round (closed on Tuesdays) and provides complimentary tastings as well as does tours and hosts special events. From now through May, you can partake in Wine & Dine in the Vines, a weekly outing featuring an Italian dinner, live music and your choice of a muscadine white dry, rosato or one of Fiorelli’s other signature wines.
Where to stay: For the ideal complement to the wonderful sipping in Bradenton, make the 12-mile drive to Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota for world-class digs, dining (Jack Dusty) and de-stressing (Four-Star The Members Spa Club).