Florida Wine Tour: Flagler Beachfront Winery
You know those Lifetime movies where the writer decides to get away from her normal surroundings and she goes to a small town to finish her book? You’ve seen that one (or ten) right? That’s how it feels sitting here in the Flagler Beachfront Winery.
You are literally only steps from the beach!
The owner, Ken Tarsitano is the consummate bartender. You walk in the door and he’s ready to help you find the right wine for you. His first question after greeting you, “what do you normally drink?”.
“Why not truck them (grapes) to the beach!”
Ken and his wife Kelly moved to Flagler Beach from Ohio. Wine is his air because not only does he oversee the Flagler Beachfront Winery but he’s also hands-on at his winery outside Cleveland, OH. He opened that winery in 2000. He racks up the frequent flier miles between the 100 acre OH farm and the “mighty little winery” AKA the Flagler Beachfront Winery.
Ken’s knowledge is seemingly limitless and his desire is infectious. Maybe it’s because his creds include professor, certified wine judge and lecturer to name a few.
It’s hard to believe his first thought was to open a winery in the US Virgin Islands. It’s good for the Flagler Beach community that he decided to transform the “little blue building” instead. That’s a name affectionately given by his kids. But Kelly takes the credit for this location because they settled on it after she fell in love.
The grapes for the 40+ varieties of wine come from Washington, California, Oregon, Florida and Ohio. All grapes for what’s sold here are processed at the winery in Flagler Beach which opened for business in 2013. This isn’t an operation where the juice is brought in or the wine itself is made somewhere else and then brought here. It’s all done in the building you see at 611 N. Oceanshore Blvd.
The more than 40 varieties of wine includes slushies. What’s a slushie? Frozen wine that never touches a bottle.
Being a Louisiana girl the first thing I think of is a daiquiris when someone says anything about frozen alcohol.
While I was sitting there conducting the interview and stuffing my face with a delicious glass of Riesling, baguette, olive oil, pesto and two types of cheese, I saw two customers return for a slushie refill. They got slushed!
Ken says they make 10,000 gallons of wine at the Flagler Beachfront Winery. Remember the wildfires last year in California? Well that had an impact on where he got grapes in 2017. The ones from California suffered from smoke taint so it’s very unlikely you’ll be drinking a California grape wine after the 2017 aging process is done.
He says it’s a “delicate dance” between making wines to age, white wines and wine for slushies. It’s so delicate that he turned down the opportunity to sell his creations in the likes of ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and Total Wine.
Before a special blend is bottled you can sometimes get it on tap. Ken says he does this so people can try the wine and he knows how well it’ll be received by his guests.
What I tried
Corduroy: Ken describes this as a red wine blend that includes Cabernet, Malbec and Petite Syrah. Ken says when he first blended this wine the tannins were a mouthful. He decided it needed to age and that’s when it got better.
I can’t say that any of these grapes alone really jump out at me. Cabernet is usually a red meat kind of wine and I don’t eat red meat. I’ve never truly warmed up to Malbec and Petite Syrah does absolutely nothing for my taste buds. I doubt that I’d buy it to bring home but wine is always worth a taste. I try to be open to the possibilities because you never know how your tastes may change.
Merlot: As expected
Chardonnay: Unexpected. This Chardonnay was aged in a stainless steel barrel. If you’ve read my other posts you know I’m obsessed with the Cooper’s Hawk Lux Chardonnay and I’m on a mission to find something comparable. This isn’t it. Ken explained 4 different styles of Chardonnay that he bottles. I’m more interested in the buttery style and that comes with an oak barrel.
Gewurztraminer: Very unexpected. This is the first time I’ve tried a Gewurztraminer and it wasn’t sweet. Ken says he doesn’t control nature and at times you can expect this to happen. Mind blown!
Riesling: As expected. I didn’t even try this one before I ordered it to go with my tapas. It was a hot, sticky, Florida day and somehow I knew it would be exactly what I needed. It was! Refreshing, semi-sweet and perfect with my cheese, baguette, olive oil and pesto.
This sounds like the perfect opportunity to checkout the wine-making process in an unlikely place, right? It does! Unfortunately, there are no tours right now but Ken tells me they’d like to expand. I’ll be first in line for a tour.
The Flagler Beachfront Winery is such a relaxing place that I’m sure to return.
I’m honestly not a beach person. I’ve lived 10 minutes from the ocean for more than 15 years and I’ve never touched the water. However, I like beach vacations. Go figure!
If you live in the area and there’s a wedding in your future, you can get your pic on their wine bottle. Talk about a fun idea!
Until next time!
Really enjoying this Florida Wine Tour but next week I’ve got something a little different. We’re talking about beer. Not just any beer but a Louisiana favorite, Abita Beer.