Make us your home page
Instagram

Keel and Curley Winery plants peach trees

PLANT CITY — The Keel and Curley Winery, long-known for producing blueberry- and blackberry wines, is now looking to the peach for inspiration.

The winery, with about 40 acres of blueberry and blackberry shrubs, planted 10 acres of peach trees off Interstate 4 last week with the aim of making peach-infused chardonnay and other wines for release in early 2014.

The winery already makes peach chardonnay but depends on out-of-state peach suppliers. It will still sell blueberry and blackberry wines, the company's staple.

The move is unusual in what has been described as the "winter strawberry capital of the world" and in a state where only a handful of farmers grow peaches.

"We talked to a grower north of Lakeland and he told us about the trials and tribulations," said Ryan Keel, director of farming operations. "We also did a lot of online research. We're seeing a lot more peaches growing in Florida."

Marketing director Clay Keel said the winery has experimented with fruit-infused wines for about six years, and in October received high marks for its peach chardonnay at a tasting festival on Amelia Island, northeast of Jacksonville.

"It was our most popular wine," he said.

The company bought the property off Hawk Griffin Road along I-4 this past summer and last week started planting 3- to 5-foot peach saplings. So far, it has invested $120,000 in the venture, including costs for a well and fence around the property.

For the chardonnay and other grape-based wines, the company will buy out-of-state pressed grapes to mix with peach juice. Florida's climate is inhospitable to most grape varietals. It expects to harvest the peaches in March or April 2014, depending when the crop becomes available.

"We're looking at a 20 percent peach and 80 percent chardonnay combination," Ryan Keel said.

California and Georgia are the nation's top peach producers but the stone fruit is springing up in North Florida and, in recent years, along the I-4 corridor as researchers introduce strains better adapted to Florida's warm winters.

The difference was an early season peach that didn't require long, cold winters to become dormant — an essential part of their growing cycle, said University of Florida horticultural sciences professor Jose Chaparro.

While California and Georgia farmers typically harvest in June or July, Florida's peach farmers can aim for April or May, and in some cases March, beating competitors to the market.

"What has happened is we've been able to breed trees that require very little cold to flower," Chaparro said.

So far, the science is paying off. Eight years ago, Florida peach growers had about 200 acres planted; this past year about 1,000 acres were in the ground, though that's still a fraction of Georgia's overall peach production.

Keel and Curley is banking on flavored wines taking off in coming years as spritzers and other infused drinks gain popularity, especially among young consumers.

A study last year by the Napa, Calif., Wine Market Council showed that U.S. wine drinkers consumed 291 million cases of wine in 2011, up from 278 million in 2010.

Of those who drink wine weekly, 36 percent consume champagne or sparkling wine, dessert wines, fruit-flavored wines, wine coolers or flavored malt beverages along with traditional wines. Younger consumers, ages 21 to 34, are more likely to experiment with wine varieties, the study said.

"What we're trying to do is to drive the market," Keel and Curley winemaker Jared Gilbert said. "We always like to experiment with different flavor combinations."

Blueberry grower and winery founder Joe Keel started making wine 10 years ago to dispose of a crop that didn't sell.

The operation has since expanded to blackberry wines and grape wines infused with blackberries, blueberries, key limes and strawberries, in addition to peaches. The company has a tasting room and retail store at 5210 Thonotosassa Road.

Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2454.

Keel and Curley Winery plants peach trees 12/27/12 [Last modified: Thursday, December 27, 2012 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  2. New York town approves Legoland proposal

    News

    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  3. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate

    By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Coming soon at two Tampa Bay area hospitals: a cancer treatment that could replace chemo

    Health

    A new cancer treatment that could eventually replace chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants — along with their debilitating side effects — soon will be offered at two of Tampa Bay's top-tier hospitals.

    Dr. Frederick Locke at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa is a principal investigator for an experimental therapy that retrains white blood cells in the body's immune system to fight cancer cells. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved these so-called "CAR-T" treatments for adults this month. In trials, 82 percent of cases responded well to the treatment, and 44 percent are still in remission at least eight months later, Locke said. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Regulator blasts Wells Fargo for deceptive auto insurance program

    Banking

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images, 2017]