PLANT CITY, Fla. — There are plenty of fun things to do around the Tampa Bay area and it doesn't always involve the beach or amusement parks. Keel Farms in Plant City is a hidden gem and it's also home to Keel and Curley Winery. They are open for tours and tastings every day.
Wendy Camacho is the Chief of Customer Experience. "If you're tired of the theme park all day and you just want to have a little break and be kind of in the country, you can stop right here. And if you're at the beach and want to get a little break and again have a little farm day here."
Keel Farms has been around since the 80s and turned into a blueberry farm in the 90s.
"With all the blueberries you get some of the leftover ones some of the ones that aren't as pretty, that people don't want to buy and we have a lot of second fruit and with those blueberries, we started making wine back in 2003," Camacho said.
Camacho says that led to making fruit fusion wines.
"What that means is we're getting grapes from different areas, whether it's Oregon, California, Canada. So we're getting the grape juice from the West coast, but we're adding Florida fruits so we try to support local Florida farmers to add the Florida fruits into all of our wine," she said.
Then in 2013, they added beer and cider. "Our tours are open daily as well and they're really fun because you get to sample our wine, our beer, our cider. As you're going through the tour of the winery, you get to see where our products are made and bottled. We package everything here on site, so you get to see that entire process," Camacho said.
But the wine is where it all started. "We're mainly known for our 100% blueberry wine. We started off with one and now we have 5 different blueberry wines, all made with different blueberries and different sweetness and dryness levels," she said.
You might imagine that fruit fusion wines are super sweet, but it will surprise you how light and crisp they are, even for the serious wine drinker.
"We have a dry 100% blueberry wine that's going to be so smooth, very dry. People actually opt to get that if they want to just do a red wine that they normally would get anywhere else."
And Camacho says they do special wines that are seasonal, like a strawberry shortcake wine, made using leftover strawberry filling from the St. Clement's 'Make Your Own Shortcake' booth at the strawberry festival. "That wine is the most popular wine we'll have all year."
Camacho says the farm is much more than wine. "We kind of decided to make it like an experience, a destination, make it family-friendly and make it where we are celebrating all the fruits that we're growing here."
At Keel Farms, there's plenty for the kids to do, touring the farm, playing on the playground and even seeing some animals. "Our chickens are incredibly friendly," Camacho said.
She adds that it's a chance to see a working farm, try some wine and have a meal. "We have appetizers, we have locally sourced gator. We have awesome gator bites. We also partnered up with Providence Cattle Company. We love them, they're 100% grass-fed beef, so we have really awesome burgers."
One of the best parts about Keel Farms and Keel and Curley winery is their dedication to being farm fresh.
"We try really hard to grow things here on the farm and then also support those farmers that are nearby that are growing different things that we can incorporate here."
Local fruits are incorporated into their wines. Camacho says you'll often find bits of the chef's garden incorporated into your meal.
She recommends reservations for tours. Also, Camacho says to keep checking their calendar for more fun, new events. "Like Wednesday nights we do live music, we do trivia on Tuesday. We have live music every Friday, Saturday, [and] Sunday so we're always doing something fun here at the venue."