Florida, however, has not earned a reputation as a "Premier" Wine producing State, even though Florida is the "Third" largest Wine Consuming State in the nation! Floridians should ask the question...WHY? Currently, Florida is suffering from one of the highest unemployment rates in the country...12% unemployment. A thriving wine industry in Florida could help put many Floridians back to work!
A cursory comparison between the two states, California and Florida, might be helpful. Both California and Florida grow many of the same crops, due to similar growing conditions. Just consider..."Oranges, Tomatoes, many Truck Crops, etc.". Grapes, however, are not even on the scope of most people. Does this mean that Florida doesn't have the ability to produce "World Class" wines?...Absolutely...NOT!
The Florida Legislature has been collecting taxes from wine sales for decades. Most of these taxes have been directed towards grape research and development at our major Florida universities. Some wonderful research has been done and our grape knowledge has been greatly enhanced. The fact still remains, however, that Florida is "NOT" recognized as a "Premier" Wine producing State! So, where do we go from here?
First, let's take a look at the rule book titled the..."Certified Florida Farm Winery" written, years ago, by the Florida Legislature.
For your convenience, I've copied it, below:
Please note that I've highlighted #2 in red. This is the single rule that has done the most to prevent the growth of the Farm Wineries in Florida!
Florida wineries can come in all kinds of shapes (check out our own "Bunker Hill Vineyard & Winery" ). Under the current rules, only grape wineries are recognized as Florida Farm Wineries and only those grape wineries with neatly plowed and cultivated rows. Any winery that produces wines from "fruits & vegetables" is discriminated against, as are those wineries that produce wines from their wild and freely growing grapes, old growth citrus and/or elderberries.
Here's the real killer. There is "NO" requirement that the current Florida Farm Wineries grow their own grapes or even produce their wines from "Only" Florida grown grapes. Many are "importing" juices from California and other places. This has nothing to do with promoting Florida grapes, Florida grape growing or growing the Florida wine industry. Their only requirement is that they plow up 10 acres and plant some grapes. Those "Other" wineries (check out our "Bunker Hill Vineyard & Winery" ) are producing their grape wines "Only" from Florida grapes that they grow or harvest from their entire 23 acres. Yet, they cannot even apply for certification as a Florida Farm Winery. In the case of "Bunker Hill Vineyard & Winery", we are a 'Green' environmentally responsible winery. We recycle 100% of our wine bottles, promote Florida wines, provide wine education and produce all of our wines in harmony with the Earth and Mother Nature. The backs of all our wine labels proudly display the "From Florida Logo"! Even the U.S.D.A. has recognized our uniqueness by including us in their 2011 Spring Soil & Conservation tours.
Yet, today, the old and obsolete rules still prevail.
To enable Florida to become a "Premier" wine producing State, every antiquated obstacle must be removed. The Florida Legislature must update the rule book to reflect the changes that have occurred in wine production in Florida. Producing Florida wines in a "Green" and sustainable way should not only be recognized, but encouraged! Those Florida wineries that produce wines from Florida grown Fruits and Vegetables should be welcomed into the Certified Florida Farm Wineries program with opened arms. Arbitrary rules regarding planted acreage should no longer be used to exclude any Florida winery.
Everything that we do should be about transforming Florida into a "Premier" wine producing State and putting our fellow Floridians back to work!
Salute & Happy Days!