Summer Wine

August 20, 2012

Saturday, my friend Mary took me to the Keel & Curley Winery in Plant City, FL, for a tasting and tour. What better way to spend a rainy afternoon than with a friend drinking wine?

Keel & Curley got its start in 2003 in owner Joe Keel’s kitchen. Keel, a blueberry farmer, was looking for a way to use end-of-season blueberries, and decided to try making wine with them. It took him a couple tries, but eventually he came up with a wine worth selling and Keel & Curley (Curley is Keel’s mother’s maiden name) was born. In addition to three types of blueberry wine, K & C also produce two blackberry wines and seven “fusion” wines: grape wines combined with other fruit juices. Their wines have won several awards, and in 2010, their Strawberry Riesling won Best of Show at the Florida State Fair International Wine Competition. Keel & Curley is the Tampa area’s only estate winery—meaning it is the only winery that grows and produces wine from its own fruit (in their case blueberries) on site. (They don’t grow all the other fruits they use in their wines on their own property.)

High bush blueberries
We arrived a half hour before our scheduled tour so we could divide up our tastings instead of doing them all at once. (Even with only a sip or two per wine, after tasting 12 of them at once I’d be reeling, and I wouldn’t be able to savor the different flavors.) After we checked in for our tour, we got our tasting cards and began with the Dry Blueberry (100% blueberry juice, with no sugar added).  The room where the tastings take place was a large open space with a distinctly happy vibe (sorry, I didn’t take any photos of the whole place—but you can see some on the K & C website). The wine hosts (a term I just made up) were friendly and knowledgeable, happily pouring wine and answering questions. I know very little about wine, but I enjoyed tasting the fruity combinations Keel & Curley produce. To me, they seemed sweeter and less complex in flavor than many other wines I’ve had, and according to our tour guide, they are considered “young wines,” and best drunk within a few years of bottling.

After tasting several wines, it was time for our tour. Our guide brought us to the large warehouse-type building that housed the entire small operation, from fermentation to clarification to bottling. The spotlessly clean building smelled yeasty, from the wine-making yeast used in the fermentation process. Wines in various stages of completion filled the imported (from Italy) stainless steel vats.

Fermenting wines
Filtering apparatus
Bottling machine
When we returned to the main building we finished up our wine tastings, and chose some wine to take home: Dry Blackberry, Wild Berry Pinot Noir, and Key West Key Lime Sauvignon Blanc (which I did not think I’d like but turned out to be one of my favorites).

Usually my Saturdays are taken up with chores or other work, or I keep myself available for family activities that we seldom seem to take advantage of. Thank you, Mary, for getting me out of my usual rut and taking me on an everyday adventure! I’ll think of you every time I raise my souvenir glass!

What did you do this weekend? I hope you had at least one everyday adventure.

You Might Also Like


  1. Sounds like a fun way to spend the day. The only thing missing is your sketch. ;-) I've been spending time cleaning my sewing studio and spare bedroom so I don't have to keep moving things back and forth - out of the spare bedroom into my sewing room whenever we have company, then back to the spare bedroom when I want to sew. Not my favorite activity, but I've made lots of progress and I'm quite pleased with that.

  2. Cheryl--I didn't take my sketchbook, but it would be a good place to sketch once the weather cools down. It's too busy inside, but there are some tables and benches outside and some sketchable vistas. Of course, after tasting wines, I don't know how the sketch would look... :)

    I know the cleaning isn't fun, but ultimately it'll make your life a little easier--I spent last weekend cleaning out my laundry room. It's a tiny room used for lots of storage, and we enter through there, so it can get pretty bad. I reorganized it this time, and so far we are keeping it neat. Keeping my fingers crossed that it'll stay that way!

  3. That sounds like fun! I've always wanted to visit there, but have never made the time. Maybe a sketching trip when it cools down?

    We spent a good portion of the weekend cleaning and rearranging furniture and cutting down on the clutter. Still a long way to go, but it looks so much better! I actually found a desk under my computer yesterday morning—amazing what you can find when you start digging! ;•)

  4. Laure--Yes, it would be a good place to sketch after it cools off--we'll have to go!

    Sounds like you had a productive weekend. I think even small steps toward goals are energizing. Congratulations on discovering a desk--hopefully more happy discoveries await!