Terry and Janis McKnight were content to spend retirement growing grapes and making wines others could enjoy.
Their Strong Tower Vineyard and Winery in the Pasco section of Spring Hill soon became a favorite among u-pickers and wine tasters. Now the couple can add award winning to their label.
Strong Tower Vineyard & Winery won a double gold medal for its slightly sweeter Select Blanc du Bois and a gold for the slightly drier Blanc du Bois at this year's Florida State Fair International Wine Competition. A double gold is awarded when all judges concur that the wine deserves a gold medal, said wine contest coordinator Bonniejean Paulish.
This is intoxicating territory for Strong Tower, one of the newest wineries in the state. The McKnights planted the vineyards on pasture just east of the Suncoast Parkway seven years ago. The vineyard now spreads over 10 acres, while the 2-year-old winery produces about 1,000 gallons of wine each year.
In 2007, the couple entered the hobbyist wine competition at the State Fair but qualified for the more competitive commercial division since they had opened a wine store at their home last September. Their wines won from among 1,628 entries from 36 states and 11 foreign countries. Judges also awarded 154 gold, 548 silver, 515 bronze and 44 double gold medals.
Terry McKnight, who operates the winery, said he was just hoping that the judges would provide some positive feedback on the taste and aroma of his wines.
"It's not that we didn't expect to win at that level, but it was a little more than we anticipated," said the 53-year-old retired chiropractor.
Andrew Skerritt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4602 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4602.