When you think of Florida, one of the first things that comes to mind is oranges. And while the Emerald Coast is undoubtedly a hotbed for some of the best orange juice you can find on this side of the Mississippi, Florida wine is one of the sunny state’s best kept secrets.
The surprising distinction of Florida’s wine culture
Most people don’t realize that Florida was the first region in America to grow wine over 400 years ago when French Protestants and Spanish missionaries started to harvest grapes near what we now know as Jacksonville (American Winery Guide).
Unlike the world-renowned wine country in Napa, California, which is largely condensed to one California region save for a few vineyards spotted along the coast, Florida’s wineries are scattered all across the state.
Florida wine even has its own distinct flavor since growing grapes is a challenge in the state’s well-known heat and humidity. The area lends itself to growing Muscadine and Niagra grapes, which have a sweeter taste than, say, the dryer-tasting grapes grown in Napa, California.
Also unique to Florida wineries, the University of Florida bred the Conquistador grape in the 1930’s in response to the hot and humid climate, which makes an appearance in many of Florida’s dessert or port wines.
And while it used to be a faux pas in the wine world to prefer sweet, Southern wines, they’re without a doubt a beloved facet of the saccharine Southern culture that extends into regions like Florida’s 30A.
Wine in 30A
Just like 30A itself, the wineries in the area seamlessly blend country charm with beachy laissez-faire to create their own kind of wine culture. 30A’s must-see (and must-taste) wineries boast cozy tasting rooms with palate-pleasing, handcrafted blends with names like “Mama Guava” and “Beach Berry” that taste like a vacation in a bottle.
Whether you’re looking for a new date spot or a place to bring the entire family when they come to visit, you’ll be sure to find a winery in 30A that gives you exactly what you’re looking for.
While none of the wineries on our list are terribly lavish, their quaint, easygoing vibe is exactly what 30A is all about and sets them apart from the West Coast’s more formal wine scene. For the wine connoisseur (or the wine curious), we’ve put together a quick list of 30A’s three best wineries to visit for a sip of South Walton hospitality.
1. Panama City Beach Winery
If you’re looking to wow your out-of-town visitors or push your palate to the next level, Panama City Beach Winery is the only 100% fruit winery in the nation. That means that beyond traditional grape wines, PCB actually brews wine from fruits like oranges, kiwis, peaches, key limes, bananas, and blueberries, just to name a few.
Their promise is that what’s on the label is in the bottle, with no added sugar. In addition to their unusual take on wine, they also offer their sweet blends in slushie form to enjoy after a long, hot day catching a tan on the beach.
While it certainly wouldn’t hurt to make PCB your next date night destination, this particular winery truly lends itself to a girl’s day out or a fun family afternoon.
The winery itself has an informal atmosphere with a homey, down-to-earth warmth where shorts and flip flops are more than welcome and complimentary tastings happen seven days a week.
And if you’re trying to plan the perfect beach-bound wedding, PCB lets brides- and grooms-to-be stop in for complimentary tastings without an appointment.
For the wine lover, PCB is the kind of winery that ends up on their winery bucket list. For the wine-tasting newbie, Panama City Beach Winery offers a refreshingly approachable array of wines that are a far cry from the traditional blends that often call for an acquired taste.
Check out Panama City Beach Winery’s website here.
2. Emerald Coast Wine Cellars
Right off of the Scenic Highway 98 and just minutes away from the beach and Stewart Lake, Emerald Coast Wine Cellars is a somewhat more traditional winery that still has that sweet, Florida twist with a heavy focus on Muscadine flavor.
In addition to an affordable selection of fine Southeastern wines that hover around $10 per bottle, Emerald Coast Wine Cellars also offers a number of unique Muscadine gourmet foods such as Muscadine jelly, syrup, grape juice, and preserves.
The artisans here carefully source their wines from Carlos Muscadine grapes to create their fresh, fruity white blends and harvest their Noble Muscadine grapes for their richer, red wines.
The winery is also home to a 12,000 ton Europress, the largest wine press of its kind East of the Rocky Mountains that’s sure to impress your wine-loving friends and relatives who are lucky enough to spend a weekend getaway with you in 30A.
To get a taste of Emerald Coast’s offerings, they hold complimentary wine tastings every day at its sister winery, Chautauqua Vineyard and Winery.
While the winery is fairly small and has a relaxed atmosphere, its rustic, romantic charm makes it a great stop after a lunch date or a sweet beginning to a casual date night to grab a bottle of wine to go.
You can visit the Emerald Coast Wine Cellars website here.
3. Three Oaks Winery
About an hour out from 30A, Three Oaks Winery in Vernon, FL is a family-owned winery that specializes in its own high-alcohol port dessert wine made from Conquistador grapes, as well as low-alcohol, smooth Muscadine wines, and vinifera wines such as Chardonnay and Merlot.
If you’re hankering for a scenic drive, this quaint gem is right off Highway 79 and easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there.
Its old-fashioned gift shop offers charming gifts such as hand-painted wine glasses, candles, and even collectible dolls.
The winery is even a beloved stop on Harvest Host’s winery RV tour in the Florida region for self-contained RV campers.
Three Oaks is the perfect destination for an unpredictable weekend outing for the couple who appreciates the finer things in life or for a solo trip to reflect and unwind.
Learn more about Three Oaks Winery here.
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Coastal Inspirations Real Estate is always looking to highlight the best of 30A. If you can’t stop raving about a new restaurant, shop, salon, or any other gem you find on the best beach in the country, feel free to leave a comment or