The end of the school year and the beginning of summer is always a crazy busy time for our family. This year, it was even more crazy as our youngest daughter graduated high school. While we enjoyed celebrating with her, what Hubby and I really longed for was just some downtime where we could relax and, well, unwind. Or should I say unWINE?
Just a short 40 minutes from our neighborhood and situated among the rolling hills of Clermont, you will find a charming 127-acre estate known as Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards or, as we like to call it, the location of our most recent date. Lakeridge ranks as Florida’s largest premium winery and is known as a pioneer in the development of premium and sparkling wines from the native Muscadine grape varieties, Noble, Carlos and Welder, as well as Vinifera varieties that include Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. And yes, I pretty much just copied that last part straight from their webpage because, to be perfectly honest, Hubby and I really don’t know a whole lot about wine. But that’s what was so cool about this date … it was a great way to learn more about the process of making wine, to taste a bunch of different ones they produce, and to just have fun! But I am getting way ahead of myself.
We decided to go on a Saturday afternoon so we could participate in their Weekends at the Winery event, which includes free musical entertainment on the winery greens and the opportunity to purchase yummy food from the vendors they bring in. And, of course, their complimentary winery tasting tour, too. So, we packed up our lawn chairs and headed out! (There are a few picnic tables on the green, but they go quickly so folks are advised to bring their own chairs and/or blankets.) We decided to do the tasting tour first.
Because of COVID and the fact that it was a busy event day, the tour/tasting was done a bit differently than how it is done during the week. After checking us in (i.e., checking ID for those who, I guess, were questionable – they didn’t check ours … OUCH!), we were handed two tiny, plastic tasting cups and a list of the wines we would be tasting. I understood the need to try and get as many folks as possible through the tour safely, but even this wine novice knew that using the same cup to try different wines was not ideal. But we didn’t complain because, hey, free wine! And it was part of the whole experience of our date.
The tasting stations were socially distant and basically winded through the production area to several individual stations where you receive samples of their top-selling wines. Each station was attended by a winery employee who told you about the wine and what it would pair best with. We happened to be behind a couple who obviously had been to the winery many times and seemed to know a thing or two about wine, so we learned quite a lot. We learned that Hubby likes dry, heavier-bodied red wines where I am more of a sweet, light, white-wine girl. But we were determined to find at least one wine we both enjoyed so we could buy a bottle or two to have at home to remember our winery day. It wasn’t easy … but we did find one: Southern Red, a dessert wine that is actually served cold and is light with a fruity, sweet taste (very Sangria-like) that even Hubby could handle.
After the tour, we pulled out the chairs we brought and found a semi-shady spot to plant ourselves, where for the next hour and a half we sat just people watching, chitchatting, enjoying our chicken pitas we purchased, and listening to what turned out to be a rather good blues band.
If you are looking for a high-end, Napa-Valley-winery-type experience, Lakeridge is probably not for you. But if you are looking for a wonderful way to just relax, enjoy the scenery, and try some local wine, then we highly recommend giving Lakeridge a try!
Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards is located at 19239 US-27, Clermont, FL 34715. Complimentary winery tours and tastings are offered seven days a week: Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. They also offer private winery and tasting tours, too. For more information, visit their website.