It isn’t too late to toast to success in the New Year- so why not raise a glass of Florida sunshine! I don’t mean orange juice – the ‘champagne’ of Florida – but an award-winning natural fruit wine like those produced at the Florida Orange Groves Inc. and Winery in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The family-owned business began shipping fresh citrus around 1970. Wine development began in 1991; the winery opened it’s doors in 1997, offering exceptional wines made from fruits other than grapes. Today, the company’s ultra premium citrus, tropical and berry wines are the only Florida wines allow to display the Florida Department of Citrus’ official mark of superior quality – the Florida Sunshine Tree.
A new generation of small Florida winemakers are creating a niche in producing quality fruit wines, appealing to nontraditional wine drinkers and generation X-ers. The fruit wines have a new profile these days. Unlike the cheap souvenir kinds that taste like cough syrup or grandma’s homemade, syrupy-sweet dessert wine, Florida fruit wines are taking on an artisanal quality, as good as traditional wines made with grapes. Not meant to be aged, the fruity wines are served fresh and range from sweet to semisweet to dry.
The quality of fruit used becomes apparent with the aroma and first sip – prime, fresh fruit is the rule -no leftovers. Many of the wines do have a natural sweetness, but are not overly sweet. They are crisp, clean and fun. They reflect the bounty of Florida and a casual lifestyle. As fruit wines become increasingly popular, a number of major label wineries, such as Gallo, Sutter Home and Arbor Mist, have begin experimenting with fruit-flavored wines.
The renowned wines of the Florida Orange Groves Inc. and Winery have won national and international recognition at the Number One fruit wine judging contest in the United States — the Indiana State Fair. Many medals were awarded by the Florida State Fair.
Of 139 awards won since 1997, three gold medals were awarded for the Tangerine, Grapefruit, and Cranberry (Festiberry) Wines in 1999. Three wines have garnered Best of Show awards: Coco Polada, Florida Grapefruit and Florida Sunset Pineapple. Category Five (a White Sangria) won top awards in 2005 at Wines of the South, a southern wine competition in Tennessee.
It takes at least 3 to 4 pounds of fresh fruit per bottle of wine. It can take upwards of nine pounds of fruit to produce enough juice for one bottle of Mango Mamma, Orange Sunshine wine, Grapefruit wine or Tangerine wine. NO sugar is added. The winery uses a special process or fermentation, aging and bottling to produce true wines that capture the fresh fruit flavors.
One Florida food and wine critic recently wrote a glowing review on the “breakthrough in fruit wine quality.” Each year Disney World in Orlando selects 3 or 4 wines from Florida Orange Groves Inc. and Winery to serve with meals during the International Food and Wine Festival.
The next time you visit Florida, stop at one of the satellite stores for a tasting. A video on the wine production is available for viewing. The family winery in St. Petersburg is open for tasting and tours Monday through Saturday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Sunday hours are from 12:30 PM to 5:00 PM. Tours are at 11 AM, 1,2, and 3 PM. The winery is closed on all major holidays.
The wine is also sold at the Tampa Airport and is available by mail.
There are 18 satellite stores throughout Florida including West Palm Beach, Sarasota, Mount Dora, Key West, Naples, Jupiter, Destin, Panama City and Melbourne. There are plans to open several more stores, including in Cocoa Beach.
How to Serve Fruit Wines
Fruit wines are nice slightly chilled. Serve as an aperitif or with a meal. Red berry wines pair up well with chocolate, BBQ. chili, hamburgers and other red meat dishes.
Tropical wines ( mango, passionfruit) pair well with chicken, pork and seafood.
Citrus wines are nice with fish, shrimp and salads. The intense fruity flavors of the wines are perfect for making sauces, marinades and glazes. Add to your favorite party punch, pour over ice for a refreshing summer cooler or blend with soda water or lemon lime soda for spritzers. Add mulling spices and heat for a warming beverage. Make a pitcher of sangria. .
Fruit Wines from Florida Orange Groves and Winery
Florida Grapefruit Wine
Made with pure, fresh-squeezed Florida pink grapefruit juice. A light, refreshing table wine with a crisp, clean taste like – sorbet that cleanses the palate. Great with salads, sandwiches, pizza, seafood and lamb. Try with garlicky foods. Developed with the Florida Department of Citrus! Four Gold medals, four Silver medals, three Bronze medals.
Made from the juice of fresh squeezed Honeybell Tangelos. Citrus, honey and flower aromas. This special fruit is available in Florida January-February. Bright, crisp and refreshing with undertones of fresh squeezed tangelos! A popular white wine.
A specialty premium wine for tangerine lovers. “Powerful bouquet with more honey, citrus, and flowers than any hive in the grove. Best white – WOW!,” says the St. Petersburg Times Food critic. Terrific with seafood and Italian cuisine. Two Gold medals.
Gold medal winner with a cherry pie aroma and a light, pleasant, finish. Great with red meats, chicken, Amaretto cheesecake and chocolate desserts like Black Forest cake, truffles and chocolate mousse. Made from sour cherries. A top red.
Florida Blueberry Blue Wine
Just think all those antioxidants! Each bottle made from three pints of Florida Blueberries! Fruity taste like Pinot Noir but slighly dryer. Always in the top ten sellers each year. Great with cheesecake, lamb, game, lobster, cream pastas or grilled salmon. A top sipping wine. Two Gold medals, four Silver medals, one Bronze medal.
Think rich, red cranberries. Yummmm! Great with holiday fare or a meal of roast poultry or pork. A nice finish for fresh cranberry sauce. Cheeses like Swiss, Havarti, Gruyere, or Gouda. Lightly sweet with a bit of tanginess.
This semi-sweet red raspberry wine is a double Silver medal winner. Twirl it, smell it (intense raspberry aroma), sip it and swallow. Pleasant flavor. A memorable wine for casual or elegant dining. Recommended for weddings and parties. Good with Brie, Camembert, Gouda, angel food cake, chocolate desserts or just sip as you nibble on a fine chocolate bar. Six Silver medals, two Bronze.
Strawberry Cream Sherry – Millennium Gold
Specialty strawberry wine, aged with a special brandy, then oak aged four more years. Delicious for sipping before or after a special meal. A special treat for sherry fans. This would be wonderful over fresh fruit salad, in desserts like strawberry trifle or in chilled berry fruit soup.
Crisp, semi-sweet, and smooth, this pineapple wine offers an exciting burst of tropical flavor. Cook your next ham with this wine as the marinade. This wine took TOP honors out of 3,240 wines from around the world. Top winner – 2003 Best of Show- Indiana International Wine Competition
Smooth dry white wine, with a hint of tomato and bell pepper taste. Feel the gentle warmth…your tongue will tingle. Serve with crackers and cheese, nachos, enchiladas, snacks, salads, and bread. Use in cooking. One of the winemaker’s favorites. Two Silver medals.
Pina Colada – Cocoa Polada Wine
“This orange, pineapple and coconut wine will create a tropical feeling that will put you in a “Jimmy Buffett” frame-of-mind. If you like pina coladas, sunsets, beaches and great tans, this wine is for you. A party for your mind and senses every time you pour a glass! ” Two Gold medals, one Silver, Four Bronze and a Best of Show at the Florida State Fair in 2003.
Florida Cocoa Beach Tropical Wine
If you love the combination of chocolate and orange, this wine is for you! Buy it for Valentine’s Day. Made from 100 percent Florida Valencia Oranges and a fabulous rich chocolate! It will satisfy your “chocoholic” inner child.
Cracker Hammock Sparkling Pink Grapefruit Wine
Made with Florida pink grapefruit. More acid produced in this champagne-style sparkling wine as compared to the pink grapefruit wine. The taste is slightly more tart and somewhat less sweet than the wine. Perfect for toasting any special occasion. Sparkling Tangerine wine also available.
Category Five – (White Sangria)
A secret blending of several popular tropical wines. Uniquely Florida, it is elegant for any occasion and perfect with any food. Serve it at your next “Southern”get-together. If you wonder how this wine got the name, Category Five -just think hurricane! It was under production during a hurricane two years ago. The winery says, “Made for the courageous, cheerfully optimistic and romantic of temperament — especially during Florida’s hurricane season! ”
Key Limen Wine
Nothing says “Florida” better than Key Lime Wine. If you like margaritas, you will love this one. Made from Florida Key Limes and Grapefruit! This new star is terrific with any seafood, salad, garlic seasoned food. Awarded 3 Gold medals, 5 silver medals and 3 Bronze meals.
Other choices include Watermelon wine, White Gold (a light peachy wine), Strawberry Blush Wine, Sinful Noble (sweet and dry -from the muscadine Noble grape), Midnight Sun (orange wine with roasted coffee beans), Honey Wine or Mead, Florida Fever (Passion Fruit Wine), Black Gold Blackberry Wine (like Merlot) and 40 Karat Florida Carrot Wine. The latter veggie wine is a buttery semi-dry white wine similar to Chardonnay. Faint taste of carrots. Good with shellfish and spicy dishes.
Check with the winery for shipping and prices.
Florida Orange Groves and Winery
1500 Pasadena Ave. South
St. Petersburg, FL 33707 www.floridawine.com
Toll Free – 1-800-338-7923
Local – 1-727-347-4025