Monday, June 20, 2011

Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards Harvest Festival

Here, in sunny Florida, we grow oranges—that’s about it. Trust me, if anyone could call themselves an expert on Florida agriculture it should me moi, who has traversed the entire length of the state about a billion times. How, by the billionth and 1 commute from FSU to south Florida, I never noticed vineyards among those endless rows of orange trees, is beyond me.

(Sips my wine pretentiously)Now that I have traveled the word and tasted wine in the cafes of France and on the hills of Tuscany, I feel I know a good glass of wine when I taste one. So, when my friend invited me to Clermont for the weekend, for the annual Lakeridge harvest festival, about 15 minutes north of Orlando, I immediately though, “this probably won’t be the best wine I’ve tasted”. With our terrain and ridiculous heat, Florida really isn’t a hospitable host to most wine grapes, but I was eager to give it a try. Why not! I live in Florida; why not take a 3 hour drive to enjoy something most people fly hours to California for?

The Lakeridge winery and vineyard is a beautiful, vine encased, Mediterranean style building overlooking about 100 acres of grapes. They grow a variety of grapes, including an extremely sweet Muscadine grape, quite indigenous to the south.

On one of the hottest days of summer, the harvest fest was packed with people from all over Florida. There was a live band, plenty of food, beer and wine, arts and crafts, grape stomping—and my personal favorite, real kettle corn! Did I mention this was all for a donation of $2 for charity?

We perused the overpriced tents of paintings, beads, and modern day charlatans, and enjoyed the food and music, but the best part of the day was our tour of the winery which included wine tasting. I enjoyed it so much, I did the tour three times—to refresh my memory. Of the 8 wines they make there, I personally enjoyed their two dryer wines the most: The Cuvee Noire and the Cuvee Blanc. Everything else ranged from sweet to maple syrup. One of the red wines literally reminded me of drinking agave nectar. If you like Juicy Juice with an edge, the muscadine Chablis is the one for you. Anyway, I cant say it was the best wine, I’ve ever tasted, but it’s locally grown and with a deal like, buy one case, get one free, I couldn’t resist buying a few bottles: 2 Noirs, 1 Cuvee Blanc, and one semi-sweet Chablis.

3 wine tours later, I emerged from the trenches mildly tipsy and very hyperglycemic from all the sugary wine. I was ready to stomp some grapes. Luckily, there was a grape stomping competition going on. I was practically puffing out my chest and bellowing (a la Danzel Washington in Training Day) that “Lucille Ball aint got shit on me!”

Grape stomping is not for the faint of heart—and I was definitely about to faint from a heart attack. Who knew there was so much cardio involved in stomping grapes? It was exhausting! I’m not sure if it was the oppressive sun, the wine, or the fact that I haven’t worked out since Bin Laden was alive, but that workout was way above my cardio level. Needless to say, I didn’t win first place.

My quest for a fabulous summer is already a success. When I got home from Europe a few weeks back, I felt like I’d been unplugged from my avatar. Now I feel like I’m keeping the momentum of my trip going. There is so much to do, right here, in Florida—and cheap! So, if you’re planning a trip to Orlando (or South Florida), definitely plan it around the many events held the Lakeridge vineyard, and make a day out of it.

This week, I’m headed for New York—not for pleasure, mind you; I actually just lost my aunt to cancer. However, I think somehow I’ll give myself something to blog about. I’ve been to NY a few times when I was a kid, but I’ve never actually toured Manhattan—I don’t think I ever left Queens, honestly. So I’ll probably do a rendition of London-in-a-day, NYC edition.


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