Let’s face it. Most Florida wines are not good. Before you get your fur all fluffed up, I do drink Florida wines. I’m not a snob. But the simple truth is that Florida is not ideal for growing good grapes, which is kind of essential for wine. Florida is hot, soggy, wet, flat, swampy, … you get where I’m going. Good grapes need, well, the opposite.
So Florida growers have relied heavily on the good old favorite, the muscadine. Which is not high on the list of designer grapes. If the muscadine were shoes, you would find them at Target next to the Isaac Mizrahi clearance rack. These would not be the shoes that make women purr and groan when they try them on in the store.
On the other hand (you heard that coming, didn’t you), if you live in the area and are having a little road trip into St. Augustine to slum with the tourists and eat good food, your first stop on the way into town should be at the San Sebastian Winery. The people that run the wine tasting are usually fun (free wine tasting!). Weekdays and slow days, they have tastings in the main room, but Saturdays or other busy days, they open up the walk-through tour which is a slightly different experience.
San Sebastian is partnered with Lakeridge, which is further south outside of Orlando. Most of the grapes they use are grown in the area, a mix of muscadine and specially bred varietals meant to thrive in the South. The wine produced tends to be overly sweet and heavily flavored. Not something you would likely serve with dinner or to wine snob friends. With a few exceptions, they both produce basically the same wines just with different labels. You can get both locally. I’ve seen them in Ward’s and Publix, so it can’t be difficult to find a bottle.
I wouldn’t buy it locally but we have fun doing the tasting whenever we drive out to St. Auggie. And we usually buy a few bottles while we’re there. They offer a port, a cream sherry, and a few dryer whites that aren’t bad chilled and mixed in spritzers or mimosas. One of our friends enjoys the muscadine wine and there’s nothing wrong with that. Really. You drink what you like. That’s the whole point.
In fact, if you’re planning a wedding or other event that requires an affordable wine that’s not going to intimidate your guests, Lakeridge has festivals a few times a year where they offer huge deals on cases of wine. Yes, we’re guilty of getting a few cases after an afternoon of drinking sweet wine and washing it down with kettle corn and pretzels.
So on your next road trip to St. Augustine, stop by San Sebastian and acquaint yourself with Florida wine. They’re easy to find. Right next to the police station. I am not making this up.
Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards
19239 U.S. 27 North
Clermont, Florida 34715
Check their site for wine tastings and festivals.