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 two versions of blueberry wine—one sweet, one dry—as well as wines derived from fruits such as peaches, mandarin oranges, or snozberries. 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.
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.
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.
One could travel across the world and still not taste as many wines as Corner Bistro has. Sourced from France, Italy, Portugal, and across the United States, the list of more than 100 wines pairs equally with light lunch cuisine such as vegetarian Corner sandwiches or dinner offerings that include braised short ribs and scallops Victoria with truffle-lobster mac 'n' cheese. On Sunday, the bistro unveils a brunch menu populated by an enormous spread of crab cakes benedict, omelets stuffed with bacon and brie, and belgian waffles topped with berries, maple syrup, and Grand Marnier cream. On Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday at 9 p.m., guests can join Matt "Piano Man" Hall as he croons about rieslings and recounts the time he thumb-wrestled Billy Joel for his nickname.
For three days, the Jacksonville International Car & Truck Show turns the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center into the nation’s most exciting parking lot. Deluxe rides from the likes of Lotus, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche dazzle attendees with sleek lines and plush interiors, and innovative autos such as the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt show off their efficient electric engines. The newest models from more than 25 other manufacturers line the floor, doors open for guests to lean back in the seats or measure how large a ham can fit in the glove compartment. During daylight hours, a lineup of drivable cars idle outside to give curious patrons the chance to try their dream rides.