Florida Wine: Eden Vineyards

My tour of Florida’s wineries as part of “Drink Local Wine Week” continues with the family-run Eden Vineyards in Alva. It’s a rural community about 20 minutes east of Fort Myers.

The name evokes images of paradise – somewhat ill-fitting for a place where barren vines show the effects of Mother Nature. In 2004 Hurricane Charley destroyed about one hundred vines. The Kiser family replanted, only to have them wiped out a year later by Hurricane Wilma. Today Eden Vineyards gets most of its grapes from growers about two and a half hours north, in Land O Lakes. Though the Alva tasting room will remain open, the future of grape growing there doesn’t look promising.

Florida is a tough place to grow Bordeaux varietals not just because of the climate, but because of Pierce’s disease, a bacteria that kills vines (Muscadine grapes are resistant to the bacteria). In the 1950s researchers at the University of Florida developed hybrid vines to withstand the bacteria. In the mid 1970s the Kiser family purchased cuttings from these vines to start producing their own wine.

Driving up to the tasting room on a narrow dirt road, you feel like an invited guest on the Kiser family’s farm. The winemaker’s wife runs the tasting room and makes you feel right at home. She’s great at explaining to newcomers how to taste wine.

The first wine I tried was the Lake Emerald. It’s a white wine that’s fermented in French oak barrels for 10 to 13 months. It’s dry with a crisp taste of green apple. The Alva White is medium dry with a pleasant and crisp taste of honeysuckle. This would be a nice wine to drink with pasta or fresh seafood. Coral Bell, their version of blush wine has a nice fruity taste without being too sweet.

Eden Vineyards makes two reds. The Alva Rouge is created in the Beaujolais Nouveau style. It’s a little bit lighter than a Beaujolais, but is fresh and fruity with a hint of ripe tomatoes. Eden Spice is a sweet red wine that I was not a fan of; to me it tasted too similar to fruit punch.

Non-grape wines are popular to make in Florida. Eden Vineyards makes Eden Stars from star fruit. It tastes just like ripe star fruit and is so sweet it’s like drinking candy. If you like sweet wines, it would be a tasty alternative to an afternoon cocktail or sangria.

My favorites were the Lake Emerald and Alva White, with the Alva Red coming in a close third. I bought two bottles of each white for $12.95 each. All the wines cost that price.

For more information on Eden Vineyards visit EdenWinery.com.

To see more articles on regional wine across the country and in Canada, visit DrinkLocalWine.com.