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Making Wine at Lakeridge Vineyard and Winery
If you enjoy the odd glass of wine (or maybe the odd bottle or two) then you should try to fit in a visit to the Lakeridge Vineyard and Winery, just north of Clermont on Highway 27. Although Florida does not have the best climate for grape growing, this vineyard has flourished, and now produces award winning wines. You can enjoy a free tour and wine tasting every day of the week, and it is fascinating to hear how they harvest the grapes and produce the wine.
When the grapes arrive at the winery they first have to be weighed and the sugar and acid content checked, to ensure that it is the right time to harvest them. The grapes are then crushed and pressed outside on the crush deck. The crusher-stemmer has a large hopper into which the grapes are tipped, and then they are separated from their stems by a sort of paddle, following which serrated rollers pierce the skin to allow the juice to flow. The crushed grapes are now called ‘must’ and this is pumped into the press, which squeezes as much of the juice out of the grape as possible. Great care must be taken to ensure that the bitter pips are not broken as this can add bitterness and astringency to the wine. At Lakeridge, two main types of grape are used, the Muscadine which yield about 165 gallons of wine from each ton, and the Florida Hybrids which yield about 160 gallons, and approximately 67 cases or 807 bottles per ton.
At this stage, yeast and pure cane sugar are added to start the fermentation process, which takes place at between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and takes two to eight weeks to complete. This relatively slow fermentation helps to preserve the fruity flavour and delicate aromas of the white grapes. The wine is then ‘racked’ several times during the fermentation process, and when this is completed it is then racked into storage tanks which can hold 5, 000 gallons each.
Both white and red wines are bottled within six to twelve months of being harvested. It is important to seal the bottle well as without a good seal the wine might leak, or oxygen might enter the bottle which would spoil it, so Lakeridge use natural cork cut from the bark of a tree grown in the western Mediterranean. At Lakeridge they only use the highest quality corks. The wine is inspected a total of seven times before being finished, and it is then left to rest for a month. It is recommended that the wines are consumed within three years, at most, and preferably within a year.
After your fascinating tour you can browse in the shop which has, of course, plenty of wine to choose from, as well as gifts and books.
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