While planning a trip to the Keys, we noticed that one of our favorite south Florida blues bands, IKO-IKO, was scheduled at America's southernmost continental winery, Schnebly Redland's Winery. And with this being the only true opportunity to "drink local", we based our first day around visiting the winery. Located so far south, the winery owners, Peter and Denisse Schnebly, could have decided to source grapes from northern Florida or other states, but instead chose to make wines from tropical fruits which excel in the hot, humid environment. And why not; the same holds for vineyards in other environments - only grow grapes suitable for that region. Plus Schebley's supports the local Redland area by purchasing all fruit within a four mile radius.
Arriving at the winery, we were greeted by an impressive structure. The tasting room and grounds are surrounded by coral stone blocks and thatch roofs, enclosing the facility in a tropical village. Entering the grounds visitors pass an initial koi pond and then to a large covered pavilion. The band and early partiers were setting up shop as walked past heading straight for the waterfall and larger pond. Bring plenty of quarters if you want to feed the hundreds of fish waiting below. And walk along the elevated walkway to the back hut for another view of the fish. A very impressive landscaping feet. We finally entered the tasting room, which itself, is a large structure with a central circular tasting bar, boxes of wine ready to be purchased, and a nice video area of the Redland community. Basically, Schnebly Redland's Winery is geared for the consumer to stay put while visiting; and why not, not only is it an awesome setting, but since its so remote - why leave anytime soon.
The winery charges different tasting fees, $6.95 for 5 wines; $9.95 for all, and $7.95 for the sparkling and desert selections. Look for local coupons to help alleviate these fees. As mentioned earlier the wines are made from non-traditional fruits - guava, passion fruit, mango, lychee, carambola (star fruit), and avocado. Yes, avocado - apparently their was a field that was too overripe for resale, so they gave tested their ability to make wine out of the fruit. In fact they make three versions, dry, semi-dry, and sweet. And quite frankly, they are not that bad at all, I still feel the need for a salt shaker whenever I sip - but not bad. One of my favorites was the Carambola Oak, where their starfruit wine is aged 6 months with French oak chips. This process gives a much fuller profile than their regular Carambola which didn't have enough flavor for my taste. Their most popular wines are the sweeter varietals, but none of these were syrupy sweet or gritty. In fact, their best seller, the Cat 3 Hurricane, a blend of Carambola, Lychee, and Guava, is actually a refreshing wine. The Mango was another I liked; the Guava and Passion Fruit I thought different, but not disagreeable; but interestingly the Lychee is their most awarded wine; but I didn't care much for it. Shows that everyone has different tastes and opinions - so don't trust mine - go sample some local south Florida wine. Plus I didn't even get into their dessert and sparkling portfolio. And checkout their weekend music schedule. IKO-IKO is a rocking swamp blues band.