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Florida Estates Winery Celebrates 10 Years of Local Winemaking

Not even rain could interfere with the wine festival celebrating the best drinks fruit has to offer.

The Strawberry Port has been a staple of Florida Estates Winery for years. But it's creation wasn't exactly planned.

Ron Hunt, who runs the winery with his wife, Kathy, worked to create a light strawberry wine and use specially designed bottles from Italy. But fate is not something even a winemaker can keep bottled up.

"Italians never do anything right away," Kathy Hunt said. "By the time the bottles got here, the wine had fermented."

That meant the line was out, and Ron would have to try something different. He chose the port style, which allowed him to create a dessert wine that has a smooth, lingering finish, according to the winery's website. It's that kind of thinking that has allowed the winery to thrive into its tenth anniversary.

To celebrate a decade of winemaking, Florida Estates hosted a wine festival Dec. 10 at its small store located off State Road 52, east of Land O'Lakes. Rain in other parts of Pasco County probably kept many people away, but the small crowd that did make the trip had a chance to taste some of Florida Estate's best concoctions—and enjoy some music and stories as well.

Ron Hunt entertained groups of people bunched around the front counter with stories of different wines, and a small taste of each. Outside the shop, various vendors showed up offering wares that might make a good supplement to a glass of wine. One vendor, Don Lovering, showed an inventive way to recycle old wine bottles.

"I had seen someone selling old wine bottles that had been turned into a table light, and my wife convinced me that I could create something more than that," Lovering said.

And he did. His hanging wine bottle lanterns are hand-cut and hand-designed, and use as much of the original wine bottle as possible, including the cork. The only piece missing left to waste is the bottom of the bottle, but Lovering insists he's working on a product that will include them.

"I keep saving them," he said.

Florida Estates has suffered a bit through a bad economy like many businesses, but the Hunts insist on creating new products and continuing to perfect the existing lines.

And they find ways to give back.

All tips collected at the winery are donated each month to various charities. This month, the recipient is St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

"A good business finds a way to support the community, even in tough times, and we're helping one dollar at a time through our tip jar," Kathy Hunt said.

Florida Estates Winery, 25241 S.R. 52, is open daily until 6 p.m.

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