Last year I wrote a blog about the Morse Museum which features one of the largest collections of Tiffany glass in the country. Today I’m going to write about another local, non-Disney attraction. As before, I’m aiming this information to those of you who have visited Disney so often that you mouth the words along with Ben Franklin and Mark Twain in the American Adventure. You could skipper a Jungle Cruise boat because you know all of the jokes by heart. And you know the difference between an okapi and a bongo you’ve ridden Kilimanjaro Safari so many times. In other words, to those of you who could use a break from the Mouse.
The Lakeridge Winery is located about 35 minutes northwest of Disney World in the community of Clermont. As the name implies, the vineyard is perched on a ridge overlooking a lake. A total of 127 acres of gently rolling countryside make up the estate. The setting is tranquil and is exactly what you would expect from such a facility.
When you enter the visitor’s center, you find yourself in a welcoming gift shop filled to the brim with merchandise and wine. You can easily spend twenty minutes checking out all of their wares. In one corner you’ll find a number of gourmet items to accompany your next wine party. These are the type of food supplies that you won’t find in your local grocery store like exotic salsas, flavored oils, and fancy crackers just to mention a few. A number of cookbooks are also available.
In other sections of the shop you’ll discover wine paraphernalia. Every kind of cork screw you can imagine, and some you can’t, are on display. Wine racks, decanters, and glasses of every description are available. Cheese slicers, mortar and pestles, and of course, Lakeridge Winery T-shirts can be had.
In the back corner of the store is a case displaying the many awards the winery has won. Also in this section of the room is a window that looks into the laboratory where samples are tested for sugar, acid, and pH balance, among other things.
The rest of the shop is devoted to wine. A number of racks display their offerings with a price list and description overhead. You can either pick up individual bottles or if you’re really thirsty, cases can be found underneath the shelves. You can also mix and match cases with several varieties. The more you buy, the bigger the discount.
For those of you who decide to buy a case or more, red wagons are available so you can pull you purchases out to the car.
Tours are given every thirty minutes – on busy days, sometimes every twenty. Since there is enough merchandise in the shop to keep you busy until the tour begins, you don’t need to worry about timing your arrival at the winery.
My friend Donald and I were there on a Monday and things were rather slow. As it ended up, we were the only two people on the tour. Our guide was informal and made us feel welcome. We headed upstairs and the tour began in a small theater. Here we saw a fifteen minute video chronicling the history of the winery and we learned a little bit about grape harvesting and processing. I know the benches look hard, but don’t worry, they are padded on the seat and back.
When the video finished, we were escorted into the “barrel” room where fermenting takes place in stainless steel tanks. Our guide then provided us with a detailed explanation of what goes on during this portion of the wine making process.
The next stop was on a balcony that overlooks the vineyard. If you think the lake looks rather pitiful, you’re right. It does. The drought in Florida has taken its toll. We were told that in an effort to conserve water, all of the vines are irrigated with either a drip or mist system. This uses 1/10 the amount of water of that of conventional irrigation.
Also from this vantage point we could see the grape harvester, crusher-stemmer, and presser. The presser uses a large balloon that inflates and deflates numerous times to gently squeeze the juice from the fruit.
Back inside we find the bottling, corking, and labeling machine. All of the wine produced here is bottled here as well. Also in view is the warehouse.
The walking tour takes 20-30 minutes. Since there were only the two of us, and we’ve been to many wineries in the past, we didn’t have many questions. But questions were certainly encouraged on this casual tour.
When we returned to the shop, it was time for wine tasting. Our guide spent the next fifteen minutes pouring us seven different samples and explaining their differences. Keep in mind, these are “samples.” You’re only getting a small taste of each. I suppose in total we were given one full glass if you combined them all.
The primary grape grown at the Lakeridge Winery is the Muscadine. This is a sweet variety that is well suited for the hot Florida climate. Several hybrid grapes have also been developed that do well in this region and are used in several of their selections.
A banquet room is available for special occasions and you can choose from several local caterers for food service.
The winery offers a number of festivals and events during the year. Everything from jazz and blues concerts to wine-stomping contests takes place in a grassy picnic area adjacent to the main building.
I purposely did not go into detail about the wine making process or the varietals produced here. I wanted to leave something for you to discover on your own when you visit.
Lakeridge Winery is open Monday through Saturday 10am-5pm and Sundays 11am-5pm.
From most locations at Walt Disney World, travel south to US-192 and head west toward Tampa. At US-27, go north toward Clermont. In approximately 21 miles, make a U-turn at Libby No 3 Road – you are now traveling south on US-27. The winery will be on the right side of the road. You can’t miss it.
The tour, parking, and tasting are all free. Shipping is available.
Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards
19239 U.S. 27 North
Clermont, Florida 34715
For more information about the winery and the special events held here, check out their extensive website.
I’ll leave you with two pictures I took from the parking lot.
The previous post in this blog was Boulangerie Patisserie.
The next post in this blog is Hall of Presidents Reopens.