Homestead – The room's focal point is a circular bar supported by wooden barrels. The bar circles a tree sculpture, the branches reaching to create a canopy. Hanging from the branches aren't leaves but wine glasses.
Some guests are eating pita chips and sipping wine. Only, these wines are not made from French or California grapes but avocados, lychees, mangoes and carambolas.
Schnebly Redland's Winery is in Homestead's farmlands, 45 minutes from downtown Miami and a short detour on the drive to the Florida Keys. Redland's is Miami-Dade's first commercial winery. Peter and Denisse Schnebly started in 2005 with a one-door trailer.
According to Peter Schnebly, the couple stumbled upon this idea by accident. Peter and Denisse were owners of Fresh King, Inc., a produce packing house. In 2003, Peter invited Bob Wagner, an acquaintance who operates a winery in upstate New York, to visit their Homestead property. It was Wagner who suggested the idea of making wine out of the overripe tropical fruit.
"We use number two fruit," Peter Shnebly said. They may look less than perfect for shipment or for the supermarket, but they are excellent for wine.
"Our dry avocado wine tastes like many dry grape wines," said Peter Schnebly. "Some other wines, like the lychee, may have a bit more residual sugar, and therefore, taste more like the fruit."
Driving through fields and farms, visitors forget they're only miles south of skyscrapers and bustling beaches. In the countryside, tractors and trucks slow down the drive. The winery is about five miles west of U.S. 1, appearing as an oasis in Redland's agricultural community.
Wood and glass double-doors open to the tasting area. On the left is a deli selling locally made ice cream.
"They're from Gaby's Farms," Peter Schnebly said of the family company that harvests its own fruit. Flavors include "Mad over Mango" and "Go Coconutz."
The deli also offers gourmet crackers, salami and cheeses. Guests can purchase one of the wine-tasting packages are $9.95 a person. On weekends, 40-minute tours of the winery cost $7. Wine prices range from $9.95 to $35 a bottle. Schnebly Redland's also ships to 36 U.S. states.
"My favorite is the Lychee wine," said Henry Ackerman, who lives in Broward County. Ackerman and Irena Cekarska begin each visit with a wine tasting to sample new flavors. Then they buy a bottle of wine and head outside to sit under the shade of oversized Tiki huts.
Visitors are welcome to bring their own snacks and enjoy an outdoor picnic near the 18-foot coral rock waterfall. Koi, pacu and blue African cichlids glide beneath boardwalks. Children cool off with tropical slushies or stand on the shaded boardwalks feeding the fish.
Every Friday night at 6, local bands perform. There's an $15 cover charge for adults, $4 for children.
In 2011, the Schneblys opened a brewery, with tropical-flavored beers. The beer garden opened just in time for Oktoberfest.
If You Go
Schnebly Redland's Winery
30205 SW 217th Ave., Homestead
Fruit Wineries around Florida
The Key West Winery
103 Simonton Street, Key West?
The Naples Winery
1200 5th Ave. S, Naples
Florida Orange Groves Winery
1500 Pasadena Ave. S, St. Petersburg
Nola Tropical Winery
466 John Ringling Blvd.
St. Armand's Key, Sarasota
Sanibel Tropical Wines
2340 Periwinkle Way Suite C-1, Sanibel
Panama City Beach Winery
8730 Thomas Drive, Suite 1103B, Panama City Beach
46 1/2 St. George St., St Augustine
Keel and Curley Winery
5210 W. Thonotosassa Road, Plant City
Maria Delis is a college lecturer and freelance writer. Her work has appeared in various publications, including The Miami Planet, The Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice, and Ocean Drive Magazine.