Vineyard Vines

Road tripping through Florida’s backwoods wine country

Beneath the tall trees and sitting alongside dirt roads and grassy pastures in rural Florida, there exists a bustling business of independent vintners. These wineries are quaint mom and pop growers with muscadine grape vines stretching across acres of land, all within driving distance of Jacksonville, the perfect landscape for a quick, romantic getaway. Royal Manor Meadery and WineryAn hour-and-a-half drive southwest to a small town called Interlachen leads to Royal Manor, an award-winning winery nestled at the end of several dirt roads which wind around a glistening blue lake. The Royal Manor Winery property includes a wine shop, horses stables, pastures and rows and rows of vines. Former firefighter Joe Pasco owns Royal Manor. He decided to start his wine making business after 14 years battling blazes. Accolades for Royal Manor’s wine and meads comprises more than 40 medals from some of the most prestigious competitions in the country. Gold medals hang around the necks of bottles on display in the shop. Their Southern Passion wine, a blend of passion fruit and peaches, received Double Gold from the Florida Grape Growers Association. There are more than 20 wines and meads to choose from here, and Pasco is more than eager to share a taste or two with those who visit. Royal Manor Winery isn’t the only option for local oenophiles. Just east of Gainesville in Grandin is Tangled Oaks Winery, one of the first certified farm wineries in Putnam County. With a wide range of wines, a gift shop and free tastings, Tangled Oaks takes a very hands-on approach to the business and guest experience. Log Cabin Farm is a winery and vineyard also located in Putnam County in Satsuma, and has been making wine for more than 50 years. A log cabin is the main focus and stands as a replica of the original cabin that stood when the winery first began operating. There are currently 24 independently owned wineries in Florida, each packing its own juicy, muscadine grape punch. tryfloridawine.com

— Rebecca Day

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