Florida Guide > Days Out
Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards, Clermont, Florida
Most people think of Disney when they visit Orlando, but there are a million and one other things to do if you have time. If you enjoy wine then why not visit the Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards, approximately 25 miles west of Downtown Orlando, in Clermont? The 127 acre estate is set in gently rolling countryside, and the 77 acre vineyard ranks as Florida’s largest premium winery. The vineyard and winery only opened in 1989 and it has enjoyed phenomenal growth since then. With its extensive tasting room and gift shop it offers a unique chance to sample both table and sparkling wines, from native Muscadine grapes, and is a great place to visit.
In 1988, Gary Cox, who already owned the Lafayette Vineyards in Tallahassee, together with a number of investors purchased the land in Clermont prior to opening the Lakeridge Vineyard and Winery. However, it soon became clear that it was too difficult to run the two operations, so Cox closed the Tallahassee vineyards and moved everything to Clermont, where he now employs 65 people. Although Gary Cox originally worked in the construction business with his father, and became an accountant, he always dreamed of owning his own wine business. He and his wife, Carole, visited wineries in the US and Europe, and even planted 5 acres of vineyards at his home before launching his own winery in Tallahassee. In 1992 his son, Charles, joined him to help with marketing and retail, plus organising special events. Their success was such that they were able to open a second winery in St Augustine, on the east coast of Florida.
You can take a complimentary tour with wine tasting seven days a week, from 10. 00 am until 5 pm Monday to Saturday, and from 11. 00 am until 5. 00 pm on Sundays. Tours run every 15-20 minutes and commence with a 12 minute video presentation in the theatre, which shows how Florida grapes are grown, how the wine is made, and concluding with the bottling and labelling. This is followed by a fascinating personal tour along a cat walk to view the production area, and then you are taken outside onto a balcony to gaze out over the beautiful vineyards where the grapes are grown, before being harvested in late June and mid August.
Downstairs you can taste 5-6 different varieties of award winning wines, including dry, sweet and sparkling wines. The whole tour takes about 45-50 minutes, after which there is plenty of time to browse in the gift shop where there are many accessories for home wine making enthusiasts. Here you will also find gourmet foods on sale, including gourmet mustards, salsas, fine olive oils, assorted cheeses and crackers, and a variety of salad dressings. As well as wines there are cook books and wine reference guides on sale, which make ideal gifts to take home.
The Lakeridge Winery and Vineyard can be found by travelling north up Highway 27 towards Clermont, at 19239 US 27 North, Florida 34715, and throughout the year there are special events to enjoy which include live music, food and wine.
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