Royal Manor Winery, Interlachen FL
by Dale Owens
We were lucky enough to pull up in front of the attractive Victorian style welcome center/ tasting room at just the right time, on just the right day.
As we got out of the car, I could see a tall lanky man working out in the vineyards. When he saw us, he put down his tools, and accompanied by several dogs, he walked up to meet us.
The man who met us turned out to be the owner, winemaker, farmer and firefighter Joe Passco. He was happy to take a break from working in the hot sun, and told us his story as he poured samples of nearly all of his delicious fruit wines.
Joe is a Florida native who has a passion for fruit wines. He made it his business to learn all he could about the wine making process, and what he couldn't learn elsewhere he found out through trial and error.
As anyone who has been in the wine business for a while will tell you, cute labels and legends are all well and good, but the proof has to be in the bottle.
There is proof in these bottles.
As one who regularly enjoys cabernet sauvignon or shiraz, fruit wines were a new thing for me. When I saw the color, and tasted and smelled the fresh blueberries, peaches, or strawberries in my glass, I knew there was something special going on here.
One of Joe's award winning wines is called Southern Passion. Made from a blend of fresh peaches and passion fruit, the taste is indeed in the bottle.
I think the name reflects as much on Joe's passion for making the finest fruit wines possible as it does on the name of the fruit.
While Royal Manor has grapes galore growing, mostly they are the southern vitis labrusca types that make sweet wines. One new varietal cultivar I saw in the vineyard was the Blanc DuBoise, which is able to withstand the Florida climate and makes a white table wine reminiscent of a fume blanc or Vouvray.
The star here seems to be blueberry wine, made from two varieties that are grown on the property. Sweet and fruity, they can be enjoyed by anyone, whether you have spent a lifetime tasting European wines or even if you have never had wine at all. Made in two styles, (one has honey in it!) These wines have won medals when tasted against other fruit wines.
Joe is working on several new wines, but I promised I wouldn't tell anyone what they are, because they won't be sold if they aren't up to Royal Manor standards.
The winery is located near the end of a long road that reminded me of a corkscrew (Sleepy Hollow), east of County Road 315 and south of Interlachen.
Open most every day except Sunday and Monday, visitors are welcome, and if my visit was any indication, southern hospitality is the rule here, not the exception.
The grounds are regularly used to host events, like the recent Saturday afternoon concert which raised money for the Japanese tsunami victims.
Be sure to bring your camera.
Visit their website here: Royal Manor Winery