With top beaches and dining options, as well as emerging sports and arts scenes, the Bradenton area is known for many things. But it often comes as a surprise to our visitors that the county is home to two wineries.
And though vastly different, the family-run businesses are both helping to put the area on the map, especially for those who seek unique opportunities to take part in eco and agritourism activities while exploring the state of Florida.
Believe it or not, the land and soil found in our own backyard is remarkably similar to what is found in Italy, where wineries are ingrained in the country's heritage. These similarities led to the opening of the area's first winery in 1998.
Rosa Fiorelli, located just minutes from Lake Manatee, was opened by Rosa Fiorelli and her husband Antonio, who moved to the Bradenton area from Casteldaccia, Sicily. Struck by the similarities between soil here and that of their native land, the family began planting grapes in their garden and eventually opened the Winery and Vineyard.
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Today, the 10-acre vineyard and 3,000-square-foot winery is still run by members of the Fiorelli family who ferment and bottle the winery's signature wines. The grounds also boast a separate area for tasting and sales. Its grapevines allow for u-pick fresh bronze or black Muscadine grapes in late summer, and the winery has earned more than 100 awards for its products, including six in the commercial international wine competition.
Located in Parrish and tucked into another corner of the Bradenton area is the greenest winery in the country: Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery. Opened in 2010 by Bradenton natives Larry and Lenora Woodham, Bunker Hill uses only Florida grapes, no juices, concentrates or imports, and composts 100 percent of sediments from the wine-making process. It also uses natural corks and 100 percent recycled wine bottles -- 26,000 annually, which are all recycled and provided by customers, including me. And that's just the start.
Both of our wineries offer walking tours, dur
ing which you can learn about growing season, harvesting time and the Florida fruits incorporated into each bottle. Bunker Hill also uses watermelon and peaches grown in the area, in addition to grape varietals. And of course, tastings are held at both for visitors to sample the fresh-from-Florida wines.
As agri and ecotourism grow in popularity and continue to represent important economic drivers for the Bradenton area, our wineries, though off the beaten path, are becoming two of our most valuable assets and are undoubtedly worth the drive from anywhere in the area.
For more information about our wineries, visit https://www.fiorelliwinery.com/ and
Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, can be reached at Elliott.Falcione@BACVB.com or 941-729-9177 ext. 222.