By Grecia Gonzales
Vineyards and wineries are magical destinations for oenophiles. From the grounds of Napa Valley in California to Bordeaux in France, it is all about the experience between the quality of the grapes and the connection to the consumer. Here in South Florida we do things a little differently. According to the Florida Grape Growers Association, there are 27 wineries in the state, and Schnebly Winery & Brewery in Redland just might be the most unique.
Schnebly Winery is not your average grape-stomping winery. Florida’s mostly humid conditions aren’t conducive to maintaining healthy grapes, which thrive in more temperate weather. So founders Peter and Denisse Schnebly took to re-defining the word “winery,” one tropical fruit at a time.
Before Schnebly Winery added a brewery and a restaurant to its empire, creating a South Florida winery was all a crazy idea in Peter Schnebly’s head. Native New Yorkers, the Schneblys moved to South Florida in 1989 with prospects of growing his own crops and building a business. The business plan came across roadblocks when Peter realized that because of the climate, growing different varieties of grapes was nearly impossible. Muscadine grapes are the only type that grow in Florida, but even those grow best in the northern part of the state. Peter moved forward and starting using Redland’s fertile resources to his advantage by growing tropical fruits. He saw that the secret weapon was its location: because of Miami’s steady weather, Schnebly has the ability to grow different fruits that simply do not grow anywhere else in the United States.
All of Schnebly’s wines are made from tropical fruits, such as carambola and lychee. The discovery was made when one of Peter’s friends told him he could make wine from exotic fruits by using sugar and acidity. They proceeded to make a testing batch and started out tasting different fruits, formulas and recipes. Fast-forward to today, Schnebly Winery produces more than 20 different wines, from table to sparkling to dessert wines.
The winery has expanded its brand in the last 10 years. Not only is there wine, but Peter also founded Miami Brewing Company and is currently serving four different types of beer, including Shark Bait and customer favorite, Big Rod Coconut Ale. The 30-acre property also hosts events from corporate outings to weddings. It recently opened a pop-up, weekends-only restaurant, which is overseen by Chef Dewey LoSasso, former executive chef at The Forge Restaurant.
“The beauty of it is that we can expand,” says Julio Amado, Peter Schnebly’s assistant. “We have a big area that allows us to expand in the winery, the brewery, event spaces and the restaurant, so there’s a lo tof promise.”
As Amado says, Redland gives Schnebly a great location to experience a relaxing day. “You barely get cell phone reception here, you feel like you’re driving to the edge of civilization and then you come across the winery,” Amado says. “I think it’s perfect because it’s not the hustle and bustle; it is very relaxed. You’re in farmland, you’re out in the country.”
Originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue.