Everyday adventures

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.