Even as a native Floridian, I rarely go to Miami. In fact, if I’m going to Miami, there had better be a REALLY GOOD REASON. To make my point even more abundantly clear, when I drive to Key West, I go around and over Miami at every opportunity–I avoid it at all costs. No, Miami is not hell. I just don’t like battling the traffic and confusing neighborhoods and street patterns. And it was on one of our trips “around” Miami that we took an additional detour and found the truest paradise in all of Miami-Dade County.
Even though Krome Avenue (FL 997) skirts Miami, runs through Homestead and the Redlands farming communities, and provides a direct shot to the entrance to the FL Keys, there is very little to see or do. So when a billboard advertised the “southernmost winery in the US,” I had to go. That was 4 or 5 years ago. Since then, we visit every time we are driving to the Keys and will often drive down (3 hrs) just to have lunch.
As previously mentioned, we’ve been known to make the three hour drive down just to visit, drink, and have lunch. It was on one of those Saturday visits that we took the time to tour the winery and see their production facility. You see, wine in Florida isn’t like wine in Europe, California, South Africa, Australia, South America, or any other region known for its vast grape varietals. No, wine in Florida has to be creative. We don’t exactly have the right climate for wine grape growing. The intense weather patterns and changes, along with the intense heat, humidity, diseases, and pests, wreak havoc on wine grapes. However, as the first Europeans noticed, wild grapes are abundant in Florida, but those grapes aren’t the best for wine making.
Over the past century, the University of Florida worked to develop hybrid varieties of wine grapes that would survive the hostile environment and still provide fabulous flavor. The creation of hybrid grapes lead to several successful grape wineries throughout the state. However, after the success of Florida Orange Grove Winery in the early 1990s, wine enthusiasts began producing 100% tropical wines, using no grapes, only Florida-grown fruits. Since then, Florida Wine now includes varieties like mango, key lime, orange, grapefruit, blueberry and strawberry.
On one of our weekend trips to Schnebly Redland’s Winery
, we decided to venture out of the tasting room to tour the winery. Schnebly’s, like the other modern Florida wineries, uses only tropical fruits In fact, Schnebly’s specifically uses mango, lychee, guava, passion fruit, Carambola (star fruit), and avocado. As odd as some of these fruits sound, the wine they produce has garnered quite a following. On any given weekend, the tasting room, lawn, and tikis are alive with families, parties, couples, celebrations, and even tour bus groups. We’ve even taken our own kids.
In addition to touring the winery, taking part in a tasting is one of best experiences, and values, at the winery. For $11.95, you can sample 5 wines and you’ll keep the Schnebly etched glass. As much as we tried to sample everything on the menu, my husband and I ended up picking the same 5 wines. Oh well…i guess there’s a reason we’re married. In the end, we bought a case of wine…Avo-vino (made from avocado), Guava, Gua-Vino (white guava), Mango, Coco-Vino (coconut), and Cat 3 Hurricane Red.
A couple of years ago during one of our Keys trips and visits, we discovered that the winery had expanded and was brewing their own beer. WOOOHOOOO!!! The best detour in Miami just became paradise! In 2011, the Schneblys founded the first commercial brewery in Miami-Dade County. Since then, Miami Brewing Company has established itself as a leader in the relatively young beer market of South Florida. Along with their four flagship brews, Big Rod Coconut Ale, Shark Bait Mango Wheat Ale, Vice IPA & Gator Tail Brown Ale, they brew many more experimental and seasonal beers.
This past weekend was our first visit to the new brewery tasting room, which has only been open about 4 months. Now, instead of just four flagship brews plus a couple seasonals, the tasting room has a number of special beers This past weekend, we were able to try a cafe con leche stout, several ales, a few new IPA treatments, and a peanut butter porter. Much like the winery tasting room, for $18, you sample four beers, keep the glass, and they’ll fill the glass with your favorite when you’re finished. And the coolest, most ingenious part of the new tasting room is their use of an old shipping container as the keg cooler and tap wall.
Not that I needed a new reason to make the drive to Schnebly’s, but the addition of a totally separate brewery tasting room, makes me want to move in. Hmmm…I wonder if that’s possible…