Episode 26

Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards - Clermont, FL Pt. 1

Florida started in the wine industry back in the early days when the settlers came over here. They discovered that these Muscadine grapes were here in Florida, so they tried to make wine out of them didn't particularly like the flavor of it. They went ahead and brought over their own varieties from Europe. At one time, there were thousands of acres of grapes here in Florida. But they discovered that in this climate, they wouldn't grow. There's actually a bacteria. It gets in the vines, and it leads to what's now called Pierce Disease. And so, when all the vines died out after a couple of years, they eventually moved everything out to the West Coast. The wine industry kind of fell off here, of course, and it wasn't until, I don't know, the eighties early 80s when families like the Cox family started Lakeridge Winery they decided that they were going to reinvigorate the wine industry here, and they were going to make wine out of the native Muscadine grapes that grow here naturally. They failed at first, and then they kept trying and eventually got the formula right and the recipe right. And we're here today as Florida's largest winery. Now when you say the largest winery, does that mean just visitors, or is that production? Yeah, we're Florida's largest by both visitorship and production. We are about one hundred and fifty hundred and sixty thousand case a year winery, which is by far the largest here in the state that's selling grape wines. There are a lot of other wineries here. There's only; I don't know, twenty to twenty-four wineries in the state. It's not a big industry here, and many of those are fruit wines, mostly blueberry wines because that's blueberries grow well here. There are a few like us that do grape wines, but we're by far the largest.

Transcript
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Welcome to the best five-minute wine podcast, I'm your host, Forrest Kelly, from the seed

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to the glass wine has a past.

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Our aim at the best five minute wine podcast is to look for adventure at wineries around

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the globe. After all, grape minds think alike.

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Let's start the adventure.

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Our featured winery is in this episode.

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We head to the state with the most golf courses.

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Approximately a thousand people move here each day.

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The state's highest natural point is only three hundred and forty five feet above sea

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level, and it makes it the flat estate in America.

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We head to the Sunshine State Florida to Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards.

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Yeah, my name is Barry Hus and I am the chief operating officer here, basically just in

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charge of making sure everything runs smoothly.

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Before we find out about the winery, let's find out a little bit about Barry.

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How do you become COO of Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards?

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Oh, it's a long story, but I was a firefighter and a paramedic, and I got hurt.

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In your 20s? No, I was in my forties.

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I'm 63 now, so on my days off I when the early 90s came around, I got really into the

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internet, like when it first came out, programing and designing and things, and I had a

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on my days off. Most firemen do something on their days off.

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I had a web design company.

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It was in the small town next over from Claremont in Winter Garden, and I think it was in

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2000. Charles Cox, the president and one of the family members, come walking into my

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office and said, I need I need websites for my winery.

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So at that time, I built their websites and started handling their I.T.

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stuff, and I became friends with Charles over the years.

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And then I eventually sold that company and went to work for another client of mine,

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helping them rebuild some factories and doing some of that kind of stuff.

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I was working for them and was at home and kind of semi-retired.

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The winery had continued to grow and Charles got with me and I'd stayed friends with them

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and continued to do their work.

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They said, You know, I need to hire a CEO.

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We're just getting too big.

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I need another level of management here.

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So I was helping him that people, we were looking for, someone qualified to do the job.

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He knew that I had been in and been at that level of employment, so I was helping to look

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at somebody and we found somebody that we thought would be really good.

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And when we offered them the job, they got a promotion where they were.

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So they stayed. And he just said, Why don't you do it?

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And so for about three months, I said, No, no, no, no, no, I'm pretty comfortable.

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I'm pretty comfortable here.

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And my wife and I talked about that like, you know, that would be a great challenge.

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I mean, it's it's a beautiful place.

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I know the family well.

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I've known them for fifteen years.

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They've always treated me well.

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I said, I think I can do a lot of good over there.

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So I took the job five years ago and it's been it's been a blessing.

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I mean, it's been a great experience,

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Something that I didn't realize until I was doing some research for this interview was the

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rich history of Florida wine.

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Florida started out as the wine industry back in the early days when the settlers came

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over here, they discovered that these Muscatine grapes were here in Florida, so they

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tried to make wine out of them didn't particularly like the flavor of it.

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They went ahead and brought over their own varieties from Europe.

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At one time, there were thousands of acres of grapes here in Florida.

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But they discovered that in this climate, they just wouldn't grow.

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There's actually a bacteria.

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It gets in the vines and it leads to what's now called Pierce Disease.

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And so when all the vines died out after a couple of years, they eventually moved

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everything out to the West Coast.

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The wine industry kind of fell off here, of course, and it wasn't until, I don't know,

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the eighties early 80s when families like the Coquard family who started Lake Ridge

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decided that they were going to reinvigorate the wine industry here, and they were going

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to make wine out of the native Muscovite grapes that grow here naturally.

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They failed at first, and then they kept trying and eventually got the formula right and

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the recipe right. And we're here today as Florida's largest winery.

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Now when you say largest winery, does that mean just visitors or is that production?

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Yeah, we're Florida's largest buy, both by visitors, ship and production.

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We are about one hundred and fifty hundred and sixty thousand a year winery, which is by

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far the largest here in the state that's selling grape wines.

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There are a lot of the other wineries here.

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There's only, I don't know, twenty to twenty four wineries in the state.

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It's not a big industry here, and a lot of those are fruit wines, mostly blueberry wines,

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because that's blueberries grow well here.

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There are a few like us that do grape wines, but we're by far the largest.

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Thank you for listening.

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I'm Forrest Kelley.

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This episode of the Best Five Minute Wine podcast was produced by I his.

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If you like the show, please tell your friends and pets and subscribe.

About the Podcast

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The Best 5 Minute Wine Podcast
The Best 5 Minute Wine Podcast is a weekly podcast by Forrest Kelly exploring wineries around the world. We take 5 minutes and give you wine conversation starters and travel destinations. In addition, you'll hear candid interviews from those shaping...

About your host

Profile picture for Forrest Kelly

Forrest Kelly

The Best 5 Minute Wine Podcast is a weekly podcast by Forrest Kelly exploring wineries around the world. We take 5 minutes and give you wine conversation starters and travel destinations. In addition, you'll hear candid interviews from those shaping the wine field. Join us as we become inspired by their search for extraordinary wine and wineries.
WELP Magazine recognized the podcast as one of the best Travel Podcasts of 2021.