If you thought the only reason to go to Orlando was to visit Disney World, you would be wrong. I’ll give you two NON-Disney places to go (although of course, Disney is great and I’m making no claims otherwise). We were in Orlando because my husband Alex has been planning a surprise trip for me for the last 8 months (which you will hear all about in my next post). Our flights to the surprise destination were out of Orlando so we flew down there and spent an afternoon and evening in the city. It had been a few years since I’ve spent any time there so I was excited for an Orlando adventure!
Our first stop was to Lakeridge Winery, Florida’s largest winery, which is a short 25 mile drive from Orlando to Clermont, Florida. A few years back, Alex and I were driving back from a trip, saw the sign for Lakeridge, and pulled off to check it out. Unfortunately it was closed at the time, but little did I know, Alex never forgot about it and had planned to bring me back! The staff at Lakeridge are kind and welcoming; upon our arrival, we were immediately escorted to a tour. The tour began in a movie room, where we watched a short 15 minute video on the history of Lakeridge, the wine-making process, and the bottling and labeling process. Our ebullient guide then brought us through the production area to a balcony overlooking the vineyards. Lucky for us, we happened to be visiting on Harvest Day so we saw thousands of grapes being removed from the vines!
After the tour ended, we were led back into the Tasting Room, where our guide conducted a 30 minute tasting of about eight of the ten wines (the other two were sold out). The tasting began with a short explanation of how to properly taste wine (The 5 S’s: see, swirl, smell, sip, savor). Our guide was informative and gave us pairing and recipe suggestions throughout the tasting. When the tour completed, we had time to browse the gift shop and make some purchases. We bought a bottle of the Cuvee Noir Reserve, a full-bodied red blend, to enjoy that evening. If we weren’t flying somewhere else the next day, I would have definitely bought more. The shop also features gourmet foods, wine accessories, picnic sets, table wares, and many gift items. Fortunately for those of us that don’t live in Orlando, many of the items are available in their online shop and some of their wines can be purchased in a store near you. Also, if you’re closer to St. Augustine, Florida (or if you are a wine enthusiast like me), check out Lakeridge’s sister winery, San Sebastian Winery.
For dinner, we decided to try out Yellow Dog Eats based on some seriously adoring reviews on Trip Advisor. Thank goodness we listened, because it was one of the most delicious and eclectic dining experiences that I have ever had. The restaurant is located in an unassuming neighborhood in Gotha, Florida, about 30 minutes from the airport and 15 minutes from downtown Orlando. I think you can usually tell if a restaurant is going to be great based on the parking lot, and this was no exception. It was packed. When you walk into the restaurant, you order your meal at the counter and then find a seat while you wait for your meal to be prepared and brought to you. Alex and I sat in the lush garden to listen to the live band that was playing and enjoy the evening. The YDE menu consists of unique creations in the form of sandwiches, salads, and barbecue meals. All are made using the highest quality ingredients and distinct flavor combinations. I had the Smokey’s Smoked Salmon Salad, which was incredible. The sun-dried fruit and nuts really added to the salad and were the perfect complement to the smoked salmon. The wine and beer selection are extensive, the live music was excellent, and the staff was friendly and courteous. We even saw a Yellow Dog Eats celebrity, the “house” cat, Montel! My only regret about Yellow Dog Eats was not ordering a dessert. We were planning to find some ice cream later (and never did), but the YDE desserts looked downright sinful. Next time!
Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards, 19239 U.S. 27 North, Clermont, Florida 34715
Yellow Dog Eats, 1236 Hempel Avenue, Gotha, Florida 34786