Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lakeridge Winery - Clermont, FL

Recently my fiancee and I decided we needed to do something for the blog, but with gas prices and our schedules we couldn't commit to something to far away or an all day event.  I thought long and hard and came up with the "Tour of Clermont".  Not only is it not far from our house but 2 of the three and half things we did were free!  So we jumped in the car and headed out to our first destination, Lakeridge Winery.  They are open Mon - Sat 10am - 5pm and Sun 11pm - 5pm.  The tours and tastings are always free and happen every 15 minutes and last about 45 minutes in length.  We had done this before a long time ago, but I thought it was definitely interesting enough to go back for the blog. 

You begin the tour with a 15 minute video about the history of Lakeridge Winery and the Cox family who were responsible for opening the winery.  It goes through how they choose the site for the winery to how the 127 acres of land is divided for all phases of the operation. 

Next you are ushered out onto a walkway that overlooks the bottling floor.  In this room are huge tanks that hold the wine as it is fermenting.  They are stainless steel jugs, so any oak flavor you get from the red wines are do to oak chips being added to the grapes.    If you are interested in the step by step process, there is a tab on their website which is included and you can check it out for yourself.

one of the smaller tanks inside
They also explain the only different between white and red wine is that the red wine is marinated with their skins still on while the others are removed before the squishing process. This machine goes through and gets rid of the skins (for the white), leaves and stems, before squishing into into a mushy substance.

Next you proceed outside where you get to see the machine that they use to pick the grapes.  This machine straddles the vine and shakes all the grapes of the vines and out the tube into a large collection bag that rolls along side it.  No manual picking at this winery.  You also get to see some of the larger tanks holding the wine.  They said last year they made over 500,000 gallons of wine.

the big outdoor holding tanks
This winery uses only two types of grapes in their wines.  The first is called Muscadine and it is a sweet grape that is natural to Florida.  This makes the majority of the wines that Lakeridge serves to be on the sweeter side.  For those of you that like yours a little drier, they do also grow Hybrid grapes.  Are you a bubbly person?  They have sparkling wine that is brewed the same way as Champagne, but since it must come from Champagne, France it must be called sparkling wine.

to the left are the hybrid grapes and to the right are the Muscadine grapes
At this point, you circle around to another walkway over looking the bottling machine area, where each bottle gets filled, corked, labeled, vibrated, and packaged.

the bottle starts on the left side and works its way around to the right
Finally you end up back in the gift shop and it is now time to taste the wines you just learned so much about.  Belly up to the bar and get ready to taste the 10 varieties that they offer.  They pour just enough to taste and teach you the proper way to taste wine.  Don't worry the samples are the equivelent to one glass of wine.

your supplies for the tasting

Don't want to run home right after the tasting?  Get something from the gift shop - snacks, perhaps a bottle and have yourself a picnic overlooking the vineyard.

The other thing this winery is known for are their monthly events.  They have a calendar page on their website that gives the entertainment for the year.  They just ask for a small donation of $2.00 that goes to a local charity.  Typically they are filled with musicians, wine and good food!!

So the next time you need something to do that doesn't require a lot of cash or time.  Come check out the winery.
19239 Us Highway 27, Clermont, FL 34715-9025

U.S. Hwy. 27, 3 miles south of Florida's Turnpike Exit 285 and 6 miles north of Clermont. Approximately 25 miles west of Orlando via Hwy. 50, and 30 miles north of Walt Disney World ® via U.S. 27.

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