A towering wine rack spans an entire wall and glimmers with more than 1,000 bottles. Across the room, a lineup of nitrogen-regulated Enomatic machines dispenses samples from 80 wines to be sipped, swirled, and theatrically spit while reclining on a leather sofa, or while sitting at the long wooden bar. Small, shareable plates populate Sarasota Vineyard's menu in the forms of cheeses, roasted olives, and prosciutto-wrapped figs, ideal for pairing with wines or barley pops from a list of 20 beers.
Though the staff at The Brass Tap take beer very seriously, they've nevertheless turned drinking it into a game. Customers get a single point for each of the pub's 300 craft beers that they try. At certain milestones, they'll receive gift cards or a t-shirt with a new title, all the way from rookie to beer guru?and, if they conquer the challenge three times, they can win the coveted Repeat Offender 900 shirt.
Thankfully, the bar makes it easy to sort through its 300 beers. The menu is divided up into different beer types, which go deeper than the basic delineation of ale vs. lager vs. water that's been dyed amber. Guests can peruse listings of bottled barleywines and porters, or have a resident beer aficionado fill their mug with an imported brew on draft. Beer even permeates the food: the chipotle mustard on the house-baked pretzels is made with pale ale, just as the cheese dip is made with Samuel Adams. All of the burgers, sandwiches, and pretzel pizzas also have recommended drink pairings.
As for entertainment, each Brass Tap books a variety of local bands throughout the week. Trivia and happy hours find regular spots on the schedule, and some locations have outdoor patios and cigars for purchase.
For one weekend every April, Port Richey transforms into Pasco Paddlepalooza, a man-powered boat festival comprising three races. The festival's crown jewel is the Durney Key Challenge: a 2.3-mile race that challenges paddlers to slalom around turn-of-the-century stilt houses that stud the open water. The Salt Springs Alliance Classic and Battle in the Bayou focus on more straightforward feats: open-water kayaking and dragon boating, respectively. Though it sounds like a race between two beautiful dragons in boats, dragon boating is executed by humans rowing traditional Chinese boats, traveling in two side-by-side columns.
But there's plenty to do on land, too. The festival also encompasses a craft beer festival, and abuts well-maintained campgrounds, where visitors commune comfortably with the outdoors, much like homeowners who leave their windows open for the neighborhood squirrels.
Currents sweeps taste buds out to sea on a wave of tasty seafood and carefully crafted gourmet fare. Diners can search the menu to locate flavorful starters such as a plate of prosciutto-wrapped shrimp ($9.80), brie with pesto and almonds ($9.30), or the snails leslie served in brandy with toast points ($7.90). A bowl of lobster-and-crab bisque ($6) could inspire your mouth to throw itself hungrily at New York strip steak ($22.50) or meatloaf in hoisin barbecue sauce ($10.90), although it might prefer to stick with water-related edibles such as the seared salmon ($17.50). Currents boasts an array of red, white, and sparkling wines for cuisine coupling, and also treats diners to a full bar featuring fine brews, dessert drinks, cocktails, and specialty martinis such as the double bubble tini ($8), a mix of Three-O Bubble vodka and pink lemonade.
At Wentworth Golf Club, golfers are treated to two distinct modes of golf course design within one 18-hole layout. The front nine showcases a classic parkland setting, complete with towering forests of pine, oak, and cypress trees. Play opens up significantly as players make the turn, where they emerge from the woods and embark on a back nine that bears more resemblance to the traditional links courses found in Scotland. The course bunkering is another feature that resembles golf's birthplace, as more than 100 bunkers litter the course and give players plenty of opportunities to scrawl letters of encouragement for golfers behind them in the sand.
Course at a Glance * 18-hole, par 71 course * Total length of 6,459 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 71.4 from the back tees * Course slope of 144 from the back tees * Link to scorecard
The joint vision of husband and wife team Joseph and Diana Marks, Tarpon Springs Castle Winery transports visitors to Old-World Europe, where each bottle of wine is handcrafted, from the crush to the label. Modeled after an 1820 federal building, the winery's Italian style walled-in courtyard, fountains, and wrought-iron gazebo take visitors back in time, but then quickly send them forward again before they have time to un-invent electricity. Trips to the colorful tasting room give visitors a chance to sip wines that range from a clean, fruity blush to a dry, oaked cabernet sauvignon.