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In January, 2000, the Florida Citrus Commission made the historic move of approving the use of one of its licensing logos on a beverage other than orange juice.
The logo? The Florida "Sunshine" tree. The beverage? Wine.
No sooner than you could say grapefruit champagne, eight distributors of taste-twisting Florida-fruit-based wines popped up throughout the state -- from Panama City to Key West. The latest to open, the eight-week-old Delray Beach Winery, specializes in more than 20 types of wine made from pure Florida citrus.
There's a Festiberry variety from cranberries that would be the perfect novelty wine for Thanksgiving dinner. And there's Sweet Strawberry blush recommended to be served with sandwiches or salads. Then there's watermelon, tangelo, Pineapple Sunset, a Midnight Sun orange coffee wine, and a blackberry wine that has the same heartiness as a merlot and would go great with a Stilton cheese.
You can sample them all if you stop by this charming slice of a shop and ask nicely. While you're sampling, take a look at the faux naive artwork of local painter Tiffany Cant. Or consider some of the more than 100 awards given these wines in national and international competition. Or just lean on the long bar and listen to owner Jim Crain speak lovingly about such pleasant surprises as the grapefruit wine (light, tangy) and the vino made from oranges, pineapples, and coconuts.
"The alcohol content [in the wines] is about 10 or 11 percent," explains Crain, who got the idea to open his own citrus winery after seeing one in Panama City. "Strawberry blush is really popular, but piña colada's our best seller."
Bottles are priced between $14 and $30. Some wines, such as the carrot and tomato varieties, have stretched the boundaries of experimentation. But Crain's enthusiasm and the delicious limberness of some of these selections are worth a visit. In the case of this shop, tasting is believing.