There are a variety of outdoor attractions in the Plant City area thanks in part to the state’s temperate climate which provides a great deal of sunshine all year round, with many offering visitors an insight into the region’s multi-million dollar produce industry. These include the Keel and Curley Wine which began early in 2003 by producing several unique blueberry wines in three different varieties – sweet, semi-sweet/dry and dry – with each of these made entirely from blueberries with nothing else added.
The business was founded by a Florida blueberry farmer, named Joe Keel, who was looking for an enterprise for his end crop – vast leftover berries remaining after the produce had reached its market price when harvesting had been stopped – but did not want to take the more obvious route of jams, jellies or pie products. As a result, Keel began dabbling in his kitchen, experimenting in the art of wine making and decided that blueberry wine could be an unusual but innovative use for his excess berry crops. Of course, the initial results were rather humdrum albeit palatable however with dedication and practice the wine soon improved and got better and better with every each ten gallons he produced until he had over 20,000 cases of superior quality wine to launch onto the market.
Each type of blueberry wine has a very distinctive taste and this proved to be such a successful venture that Keel expanded his original idea even further, with the launch of a new range of 100% blackberry wines in dry and sweet varieties back in 2011. He has also experimented in fusions wines which are traditional grape based wines like Chardonnay or Chianti but blended with the juice of different fruits like strawberry, tangerine, raspberry, peach and key lime. Today, Keel’s winery also produces seven types of this particular product which is shipped to both national and international markets. The winery is easy to find as it is situated on Plant City’s Western Thonotosassa Road where tours are held regularly every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, on the hour from 1pm until 4pm. The basic tour itself costs just $5 and visitors can find out all about the fascinating process involved in producing the wine from crop growth to bottling and for an extra $5, one can indulge in wine tasting too which is an ideal opportunity to sample the products themselves. While walk-in visits can sometimes be arranged, these limited slots are allocated on a first come first served basis so it would be prudent to make a reservation in advance to ensure availability.