Raise your glass and enjoy one of the state’s hidden gems.
OK, all you newbies to The Villages. We know you’re looking for fun activities not too far away from your new home.
If you’re an oenophile (wine lover), then you can have a mini- Napa Valley experience right here in Florida.
Yes, I said wine. That’s something we don’t associate with Florida. When you raise that glass and sip on tasty, fine wine, you must be drinking Napa Valley’s finest, right? Well, maybe. However, you could just as easily be sipping on some of Florida’s finest wine.
Believe it or not, winemaking occurs in Florida, too. It just so happens that Lake County is home to the state’s largest winery. Lakeridge Winery officially opened its doors in February 1989. A trip here allows you to enjoy a lesson in wine making, a tour of the facility, an opportunity to pick grapes, and even sample wine.
Boasting a total tank capacity of 202,000 gallons, the company produces more than 1 million bottles each year. Of course, quality is more important than quantity. That explains why Lakeridge has received hundreds of awards for excellence in winemaking. Among its award-winning wines are the smooth and rich Southern White; the classic semi-sweet and fruity Sunblush; the smooth, fruity Pink Crescendo and the spicy, semi-dry Blanc Du Bois.
Most of the wine is made from Muscadine grapes, which are native to Florida and produce a sweeter, fruitier taste. The variety of Muscadine grapes used include the Carlos and Welder (both white grapes) and Noble (red grapes). In March, the grape vines start to flower, and the harvest season begins in June and continues throughout the summer.
Taking a tour at Lakeridge is a must. Visitors see up close and personal the large stainless-steel tanks where wine is fermented and stored prior to bottling. The tour also leads guests to a balcony offering a majestic view of the vineyard. In the background, you’ll see rolling hills. Locals jokingly refer to the hills as “the Rocky Mountains of Florida.”
Lakeridge also is home to several festivals, including a summer music series and a grape-stomping event where visitors can feel the sensation of grape juice oozing between their toes.
Yes, new residents to The Villages will have plenty of activities to enjoy not only in their retirement community but also throughout the state. However, attractions like Lakeridge Winery gives them an opportunity to explore local treasures without breaking the bank or waiting in long lines. We promise you’ll have a ‘grape’ time.