For 35 years, downtown Gainesville's Wine and Cheese Gallery has held court in a quaint white wood house that INsite Gainesville writer Jennifer Coleman calls "reminiscent of a classic French bistro.? Owners Bunky Mastin and Wade Tyler curate a larder with more than 3,000 varieties of wine, an international selection of cheeses, rich chocolates, and gourmet lunch items served on the charming patio bistro or inside at Panache, the shop?s restaurant.
Panache's chefs pull from the Gallery?s stock to harmoniously blend flavors in sandwiches such as The Normandy, which combines brie, apples, and cinnamon on french bread and is garnished with a miniature beret, and the turkey and havarti, which is balanced by an Adriatic fig spread. Patrons can also nibble on the quiche du jour or hide their faces from exes in soups that vary depending on the whims of the chef, with one recent creation involving sage matzo balls in the affairs of a ginger-chicken broth.
For Bradley and Jennifer Ferguson, winemaking was initially just a hobby. They fermented their first wine in their kitchen using blueberries plucked from bushes on the grounds of their family's farm. Proud of their creation, they shared the wine with friends and continued to make a new batch each year during blueberry season. Years of practice made the wine tastier and tastier. They decided to make their hobby into a profession, naming their company Bluefield Estate Winery.
Today, they brew three versions of blueberry wine?sweet, semi-sweet, and dry?as well as wines derived from other berries including blackberries and raspberries, and fruits such as peaches. Visitors to the vineyard can sample the libations, staining their fingers indigo as a reminder of a day spent picking blueberries and grapes straight from vines and bushes.
When Island Grove Ag Products found that they had blueberries that weren't able to be used for fresh produce, winemaker Chase Marden stepped in and, to the delight of all, started turning the berries into "Kinda Dry", "Sorta Sweet" and a Blueberry Moscato wine. Now, he runs the Island Grove Wine Company at its 10,000-square-foot winery, pressing the fruit of his labor into a lineup of vinos made from blueberries, strawberries, apples, raspberries, blackberries, and peach. While visiting the winery, guests can participate in free tastings held throughout the week, tour the facility, and stock up on bottles filled with wine from tanks just steps from the fields from which they were harvested.
It’s common for people to explain that one has to crack some eggs to make an omelet, but less so to say that one has to stomp some grapes to make wine. Though unrecognized as an aphorism, the process is celebrated at 2013 Grape Stompin' Wine Festival, where attendees get the chance to unleash their wrath on the unfortunate fruit, all between tastings and activities. Throughout the day, guests embark on tours of downtown restaurants and bistros to sample pairings of wines, craft beers, and food. A silent auction encourages clandestine bidding wars, while local vendors peddle arts, crafts, food, and oversized novelty foam feet.
Taps Bar & Grill calms rambunctious appetites with an expansive menu of freshly made American pub fare backed by potent potables including 24 beers on tap. The rotating draft brews ($3.50+), including Stone IPA and Stella Artois, flow obligingly from taps to lend hoppy flair to fried pickle chips ($6.99), while piquant buffalo wings ($8.99 for 10) dress up maroon-colored glasses of pinot noir ($6). Andouille spicy sausages, gouda, and cheddar cheese are layered over grits with pan-seared shrimp ($10.99), as cutlery trained in conflict resolution unites surf with turf on plates of new york strip steak and fresh Mayport shrimp ($17.99). Preteen sidekicks can fuel growth spurts with inoculations of mac 'n' cheese ($3.95), while age barriers crumble decisively in the face of ice-cream-laced brownie sundaes ($4.99).
As one of the world’s largest beer brewers, this Jacksonville outpost of Anheuser Busch is surprisingly open about its process. The looming facility offers free tours on how they brew and package Budweiser, with guests catching glimpses of the state-of-the-art technology, giant tanks, carefully controlled temperature rooms and bottling and packaging facilities, all of which can be seen through glass viewing windows. There’s also information on the recycling program, energy recovery and conservation of wildlife in the surrounding Jacksonville wetlands. After the tour, stop in the hospitality room and sample some beer. For the truly curious, the more in-depth Beermaster Tour is for true connoisseurs and a one-off Beer School class introduces patrons to different beer styles, proper pouring and a variety of craft beer and food pairings. There’s also a gift shop on hand, and occasional events take place on the property.