Florida’s largest premium winery!
In the mid-to-late 1980s, if you were traveling Highway 27 just north of Clermont, Florida, you would wonder out loud, “what ARE they building on that hill?” I did. Soon the wondering gave way to amazement. It looked like a vineyard. Now that wouldn’t probably be such an amazing sight if you were in California. But this was Florida. This was the land that marked the heart of Florida’s citrus industry with orange groves lining either side of the highway as far as the eye could see – not grapevines. I remember thinking, “now THAT won’t last long.” I was wrong. It’s free to see!
In February 1989, Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards opened its doors in Clermont, Florida. There among the citrus groves, on only a fraction of the 127-acres that makes up the Lakeridge estate, a vineyard was established. Today, after years of phenomenal growth, Lakeridge ranks as Florida’s largest premium winery, and remains a pioneer in the development of table and sparkling wines from hybrid grapes.
Lakeridge also has become a destination for both locals and tourists alike. Daily tours and wine tastings lure them in and the friendly atmosphere and good wine keeps them coming back. Over the years, the winery has initiated special gatherings that have become annual events – Arts and Crafts Festivals, Jazz Concerts, Harvest Festivals and Grape Stomping.
Gary Cox wasn’t a stranger to wineries. He and his wife had enjoyed visiting them during their travels throughout the United States and Europe. The interest grew from there. He planted five acres of vineyards at his home in Tallahassee and then he decided to go forward with a dream to open a winery. In 1983 Layfayette Vineyards in Tallahassee was born.
It was 1988 when opportunity came knocking on Gary’s door. Investors from Orlando were interested in opening a winery in Central Florida. The next year Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards was born on a hill west of Orlando in Clermont. It became difficult to manage both wineries, so he was forced to close the Layfayette in Tallahassee and integrate most of the equipment into Lakeridge.
In 1992, Gary’s son Charles joined the team to assist in marketing, retail and the ever growing special events that Lakeridge would host. The two worked well together and the match would prove to be successful in building one of the most successful wineries in the state.
Production more than doubled within an eight-year period allowing Cox to open a very successful second location in St. Augustine.
Information and Directions
Lakeridge Winery offers complimentary tours and wine tasting seven days a week – Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is a viewing deck overlooking the vineyards and a gift shop where you can, of course, purchase wine.
Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards are located on U.S. Highway 27, 3 miles south of Florida’s Turnpike Exit 285 and 6 miles north of Clermont. Approximately 25 miles west of Orlando via Highway 50 and 30 miles north of Disney World via U.S. 27.
Take this link to a Directory of Florida Wineries