I’ll be the first to admit that Florida ain’t exactly famous for its wine country. The wines here, which tend to be quite sweet, don’t come close to rivaling a vino from California or Oregon, and only a handful of winemakers attempt to try. But a trip to a Florida vineyard is fun just the same.
Lakeridge Winery is arguably Florida’s biggest and most established winery. A visit can be a memorable outing for travelers uninterested in the regular tourist traps. Located in Clermont, about 25 miles from Orlando, this 22 year old vineyard sitting on a 127-acre estate produces nine different wine varieties, many of which have won awards in state and international competitions.
The site consists of a production facility, gift shop, viewing deck, and a picnic area that overlooks 80 acres of vineyards. When you arrive, check to see when the next tour begins. Complimentary winery tours and wine tasting are offered seven days a week; Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tours usually run every 15-20 minutes and start with a short yet enlightening video about growing grapes, wine making, bottling and labeling. In about 45 minutes, you’ll tour the facilities and taste some wine before heading into… you guessed it… the gift shop. Plenty of Lakeridge wines are available here for purchase along with wine-related items like souvenir corkscrews. You’ll also find lots of gourmet snacks to enjoy at the on-site picnic area.
One of the best times to visit Lakeridge is during a monthly event. Each month, the winery schedules some sort of shindig to lure the more than 100,000 visitors that make the trek there each year. Favorites include jazz concerts and blues concerts, but the biggest draw is surely the August Stomp, a harvest festival where visitors are invited into barrels to squish the grapes between their toes. Don’t worry, the nectar produced during August Stomp is discarded rather than used in wine production. Admission to these events is either free or $2, which the winery donates to the various causes it supports.
It’s an easy drive to Lakeridge passing through a lush landscape of rolling hills and citrus groves, making it the ideal day trip for those seeking a unique Disney diversion.