Disclaimer: Keel and Curley Winery provided the Tampa Bay Bloggers with a tour and wine tasting for an honest review of our experience and to promote their upcoming Blueberry Festival. The opinions shared are my own.
*Photo credit to Caitlyn Connolly.*
About 30 minutes from hustle and bustle city life of Tampa, lays the quite country life of Plant City. Fields of strawberries and blueberries greet city slickers on the way to sample the trendy, fruity wines of Keel and Curley winery. Upon arrival, the Tampa city slickers trade in their mini-vans and SUVs for a tractor-pulled tour through the Keel and Curley blueberry farm.
Joe Keel, a central Florida blueberry farmer, founded Keel and Curley Winery in the spring of 2003 while trying to find a way to use his remaining blueberry harvest. Through a trial-and-error process with hundreds of gallons of blueberry wine, Keel discovered three distinct tastes: sweet, semi-dry and dry, which are all made from 100% blueberries.
Keel and Curley is the only estate winery in Florida where each step of the wine (growing, making and bottling) happens on the same site. Since blueberries bruise easily, all the berries are handpicked, then sweetened Dixie crystal sugar from Florida.
Sam, our driver and tour guide, shared the four-step process for Keel and Curley’s blueberry wines: fermentation, clarification, filtering, bottling. The berries take approximately one week to ferment and pump and only four weeks to clarify. Within six weeks, the wines are available at local supermarkets and retailers, such as Publix and Total Wine.
The winery proudly boasts their business as a family-owned and operated facility as well as producing a product that supports local by utilizing as much local materials as possible. All the bottles are produced by Anchor Glass of Tampa and even the synthetic environmental-friends corks are made locally.
After our tour, we visited the Keel and Curley Tasting Room. Wall to wall shelves displayed every variety of Keel and Curley wine as well as fun wine related gift items.
The quaint country bar meets Cracker Barrel atmosphere offered limited seating but our large party found plenty of seating under the tent out back. Live music and a food truck provided a fun, casual family-friendly dining atmosphere.
Our wine steward shared all the Keel and Curley wine selections with us. Honestly, several of them were too sweet for my taste, but I really did enjoy the Dry Blueberry. The Semi-Dry Blueberry had a minty finish and tasted very similar to Manischewitz to me.
In July, 2011, Keel & Curley featured two new wines: Dry Blackberry and Sweet Blackberry; both are made with 100% blackberries. I found the Dry Blackberry to be flat, lacking in body and the Sweet Blackberry tasted like your average Welch’s grape juice.
Keel and Curley Winery also produces seven different fusion wines: Strawberry Riesling, Wild Berry Pinot Noir, Tangerine Zinfandel, Key West – Key Lime, Black Raspberry Merlot, and Peach Chardonnay as well as a Ice Wine (dessert wine). These fruit blends are grape based wines (such as Merlot or Chardonnay) and blended with fruit juices (Strawberry or Tangerine).
I found these fruit fusion wines fun and very unusual. With the hot summer Florida days fast approaching, Keel and Curley’s fruit blend wines will make a wonderful addition to summer cook-outs. I especially enjoyed the Wild Berry Pinot Noir, the Tangerine Zinfandel and Peach Chardonnay. I’ll add some ice and a bit of club soda for an even more refreshing summer drink.
This Saturday, April 27 and Sunday, April 28, Keel and Curley celebrates its 6th Annual Blueberry Festival. Admission is free as well as the entertainment and kids area. With live entertainment, over 100 Food and Craft Vendors and a u-pick blueberry patch, the event is guaranteed to be casual Florida fun for the whole family. For festival hours and directions, visit keelandcurleywinery.com/blueberryfestival.
And for the next two days, you can take advantage of a really great Keel and Curley deal on LivingSocial. The deal includes two wine tastings, one bottle of wine to take home, and VIP parking for the Blueberry Festival.
Throughout the year, Keel and Curley also offers Happy Hours and a variety of events. Tour are available Saturday and Sundays. For more information about upcoming Keel and Curley events, visit keelandcurleywinery.com.