Belle Meade Winery at the Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville
Traveling through Nashville on our way to Orlando, I couldn’t resist planning a stop at the Belle Meade Plantation for a tour and complimentary wine tasting at their private winery. The original house dates back to 1820, and the tour takes you through three generations of the Harding family who lived in the house and developed it into what you see today. Most of the tour guides were very well-versed in the history and gave an excellent presentation.
Equally well-done was the wine tasting after the tour. The men behind the counter gave a great description of the six different wines we tasted. Since we planned to purchase, we tried a few others. The wines range from nice dry reds and whites to much sweeter, fruit wines. Because of the warmer climate, you’ll find in the South many wines are created with the local Muscadine grape—either exclusively or as a blend. Muscadine grape wines are much too sweet for my taste, but I have had some nice blends. I’m not a white wine fan, but the Sauvignon Blanc here was extremely well done—very soft finish. They offer some blends, which I didn’t care for. The pricing was a little on the high side for the product, but they are a non-profit organization, and I have to do my part to preserve history. Even if it means drinking over-priced wine, right? We chose the Iroquois Red—a very pleasant Cabernet Sauvignon—as our souvenir. The wine names and labels reflect horses and horse racing, since the family was once the breeder of thoroughbreds, such as Bonnie Scotland—which I believe was an ancestor to Secretariat. The family history is fascinating, and I would encourage anyone to take the tour for all the details. http://www.bellemeadewinery.com/
Just before we crossed the Florida-Georgia line, the billboards advertising Horse Creek Winery began calling to me. I was ready for dinner, so we stopped at the lovely white mini-mansion off of I-75 to taste some wines and fill our bellies.
Five dollars gets your six tastings and a souvenir glass—what a deal! We tasted all of the dry reds. My husband and I disagreed on our favorites, so we bought by the glass in the bistro. His favorite was the Hahira Red—and it was a close second for me. My choice was the Cabernet, which just seemed to have a fuller body for a meal. You could not go wrong with either, but of course, the bottle of Cabernet came home with us. I always win. The prices were very reasonable. Looking back, I should have bought both!
The staff in the winery and in the bistro was all very friendly and eager to please. As usual, we wanted to dine on the patio, so when a table opened up, we fled our indoor table for that one. Five minutes later, we were back inside after being attacked by swarms of gnats.
The interior was clean and looked very new. Although very casual, the lighting and tablecloths gave it a touch of elegance. My husband’s sirloin was a little on the chewy side, but my barbecue burger was perfect! And oh—how well everything went down with that wine! I would definitely make this a planned rest stop for travelers seeking a relaxing meal and wine experience. We just finished off the last of the Cabernet this week at home with a bowl of soup! You know, anything goes with your favorite wine, and a good bottle will make any food taste better!I also brought home a bottle of their house made chipotle barbecue sauce. Fire up the grill! https://horsecreekwinery.com/
A vacant day in Orlando led us to LakeRidge Winery in Clermont, Florida. It was an easy twenty-five minute drive away from the hustle and bustle of the interstate. If you’ve ever been to Orlando, you know what I mean. There’s a car crash every ten minutes and traffic everywhere.
A free tour of the winery includes a free wine tasting afterwards. The tour was brief, but informative. All the wines here are aged in stainless steel instead of oak. It keeps them from having to air-condition the space, since the stainless steel bins are insulated. The winery is family owned and sits on a nice piece of ground near orchards and a lake. Unfortunately, there is no outdoor patio to enjoy the view. There are grassy areas with a few picnic tables, but very disappointing for a winery that should be taking advantage of the climate. If it were mine, I would have a double-tiered deck to watch the sunset over the vineyard. If you plan to spend the afternoon, I would encourage you to bring a blanket and a picnic basket to spread out on the grounds. They offer a modest selection of cheese, crackers and meat platters—which we enjoyed very much.
Again, I went with the Cabernet Sauvignon. This time there was no question it was the better wine for us, although I enjoyed almost every wine I tried here. They have a wide range of wines, from dry to sweet, and again offer Muscadine wines. Another great choice they offer is the Pink Crescendo—a bubbly white wine created using the Champagne method. On a hot day, it’s not too sweet and very refreshing! It’s a party in a bottle.
Having the tour group at the wine tasting made it a very fun, party-like atmosphere for two tourists from Missouri. LakeRidge wines are found in the Florida market of Publix grocery stores. Although the winery prices are very reasonable, prices are better at Publix. So consider making your own winery experience at your favorite Florida spot with some very good wine. http://www.lakeridgewinery.com/