Florida’s largest winery sits in the heart of what was once citrus country.
Opened in 1989, the Lakeridge Winery sits on 127 acres (51 hectares) of land just north of Clermont. Located on historic US Route 27, it’s not far from the Citrus Tower and Presidents Hall of Fame – the two other attractions that call Clermont home.
Florida has numerous wineries even though the state isn’t world famous for wine making the way California is. Mostly, that’s the fault of the Florida climate and the expectations of most oenophiles. Florida’s climate makes it difficult to grow the most common and popular varieties of grapes from Europe: The so-called noble French varieties – Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon, Cabernet and Pinot – can’t handle Florida’s heat.
Still, Florida has its own grape varieties that can provide very enjoyable wines. Based on the native Muscadine grape, Florida varietal flavors can be just as complex and surprising in nature. Of course, it comes down to expectation as well as flavor. Basically, all wines from France, Spain, California, Australia, Chile, South Africa and Israel use European grapes.
Connected with Lafayette Vineyards in Tallahassee, Lakeridge was begun by a group of investors. Calling themselves “Florida’s largest premium winery”, Lakeridge is one of the largest producers of wine in the state. Using varieties of the Muscadine grown on their property as well as at other vineyards in the state, their grape production covers nearly 800 acres (324 hectares) of Florida’s sandy soil as of 2020.
Lakeridge also produces wine from European varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon. San Sebastian Winery, located in St. Augustine, is owned by the same parent company – Seavin, Inc. – founded in 1983 by Gary Cox. San Sebastian uses grapes from the same vineyards as Lakeridge.
Lakeridge offers tours of their facility and wine tastings. They have numerous styles of wine available as well as some of the most flavorful grape juice anywhere. They also have several special events during the years – often with food stands and live music. The grape harvest season in summer is their busiest time.
Lakeridge is well worth a visit. Located in Lake County’s rolling hills, the area around it is beautifully scenic. Anyone taking a Florida tourism trip along US 27 or even State Road 50 (located a couple miles to the south of the winery) should stop and enjoy Lakeridge. It’s also located close to Florida’s Turnpike.
Up until the early 1990s, the hills around the winery were covered with orange trees, but today they’re gone. Ironically, the citrus, which was originally an import from Spain, has been replaced by Florida’s native grapes which produce a rather different nectar.