Part of appreciating wine is appreciating the story behind it. It has history and culture that make it every bit as alluring as its taste and how well it pairs with fine foods.
From the pairing standpoint, Florida wines have a very clear strength: they tend to be sweeter wines so they make great desert wines and summer wines. From a history and culture standpoint, I think maybe something has been lost. After you read this, you might have a new appreciation of, not just American wines, but of Florida wines as well.
For starters… just think about the basics – the oldest city in America is St. Augustine of northeastern Florida. So, it only makes sense that when the Spanish arrived there, they discovered a grape… a grape that has always been there… a native grape called the muscadine. When the Spanish arrived in this area, they made wine from this grape and it became the first American wine.
Soon thereafter, the Spanish began to bring in European grapes. None could survive the semi-tropical climate and it was clear that traditional (European) winemaking could not be practiced in Florida. A winemaking industry was not born, but many families continued to make their own wines and took great pride in what they created.
This is where the significance if Lakeridge comes in. Building on this history, culture and heritage… the Cox family, who owns this magnificent vineyard, has always been engaged in making wines in Florida from the muscadine. The vineyards are, by default, organic because they grow the native grape. The native pests are retaken care of by the native predators. The skins from their harvest serve as the fertilizer. It’s everything you’d expect from a fine vineyard.
The winery is fascinating. A perfect blend of tradition and technology… strictly out of necessity (the warm Florida climate prohibits traditional oak barrel aging so they use cooled stainless steel instead and soak imported French oak chips inside the steel vats). It is a friendly place to visit and they have developed the perfect range of reds and whites… dry, sweet and sparkling.
They have produced award winning wines and have experienced well deserved growth as a result. Everything they make is worth a try and if you are in Florida, it is worth a visit. Winemaking in Florida is now experiencing the growth it deserves. It is long overdue as you can see now that you know the history, but this is the place to start because developing an appreciation of Florida, their wines and what it’s winemakers are all about is inevitable once you step foot on Lakeridge Winery.
My favorite… Cuvee Noir.