IF SOMEONE TELLS YOU they are planning a trip to “wine country,” your mind likely conjures up images of the French countryside or Napa Valley. But there is an option a little closer to home— Alachua County. Unlike California and Europe, the key crop for Florida’s wine country is not grapes, but blueberries.
Island Grove Wine Company started as an offshoot of Island Grove Ag Products, a nursery, and supplier of blueberry growing paraphernalia with 200 acres of blueberry plants in Island Grove, a small community near Hawthorne, in the southeastern area of Alachua county. The farm also extends across the county line into neighboring Putnam and Marion counties.
In 2010, Island Grove Ag Products was looking for a way to make use of berries grown but not otherwise sold, which led to an out-of-the-box solution. Or perhaps an into-the-bottle solution.
“It’s been a value-added product from the blueberry operation,” says Sarah Aschliman, general manager for Island Grove Wine Company.
The wine operations have grown into a 10,000-square-foot facility, where machines can fill up to 900 bottles per hour with any of their 16plus varieties of wine. “We have more varieties in development, and some of the existing ones may be retired,” Aschliman explains, “but not all of them are available at once.
And of those varieties, half or more will include juice from berries grown on Island Grove’s bushes.
“Our wines are blueberry driven—these are our most popular varieties, our top sellers,” Aschliman says.
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