I’m a product of college in the 60’s. That means when I hear the words “local”, “southern” and “blueberry wine” in the same sentence, I think of the Boones’ Farm Apple wine and “Mad Dog 20/20” common at fraternity parties. But I’m a pretty open-minded guy and recently took the opportunity to visit Island Grove Winery, just down the road (in Island Grove, near Cross Creek, in Alachua County) from Gainesville. And what a surprise!
First, I was expecting to see a ramshackle mobile home with a couple of folks who looked like my famous relative and Cracker Cowboy Bone Mizell, sitting on the front porch, smoking corncob pipes. Not hardly. After a lengthy ride from “downtown” Island Grove, I saw acres and acres of perfectly manicured rows of berries–blue and black. In the middle was the “welcome center/store”, surrounded by blooming gardenias, with a crew of very nice folks running the store, doing demos on wine production, and best of all–doling out samples of wine!
My sidekicks and I tried several of the wines on the tasting table. I’m no fan of sweet wines, except for using them in cooking (blueberry wine will turn chicken blue!) and over ice cream, for dessert. And I expected the wines, many of which are award winners, to be sweet and not dry. However, the “Black and Blue” was dry and flavorful, made from both blueberries and blackberries and the “Kinda Dry” was, well, kinda dry. I’d reserve the Moscato or “Sorta Sweet” for dessert or cooking, though. However, lots of folks like sweeter wines than I and I suspect the folks at Island Grove Winery put as much work into their sweet products as they do with their dry offerings.
No matter your wine preference, show some respect to the God Bacchus and head out to Island Grove for a tour. They’re open 10AM to 4PM Monday-Friday and on Saturdays by appointment for group tours. And on the way, stop and see one of Florida’s great treasures, the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings homestead, in Cross Creek. You won’t be disappointed at either place.