Bradenton winery offers visitors a unique dining experience
BRADENTON - If you’re looking for something special to do for Mother’s Day — or any special occasion for that matter — perhaps a short trip to a vineyard is in order. And while not many in these parts may know of it, Rosa Fiorelli Winery in eastern Manatee County is the closest thing to Italy they’ll find short of hopping a plane to Rome. “Right now, there’s plenty of foliage and grapes growing on the vines,” said sales associate Heather McElwain. “The weather is still pleasant, not too hot or humid, so it’s a nice time to visit.” The family-owned and operated business was built by Antonio Fiorelli and his wife, Rosa, after the couple moved to the United States from Casteldaccia, Sicily. Their original destination was New York, but when they couldn’t find work they headed to Florida.Fiorelli used his experience of working in Italian vineyards to open the winery in 1998, starting with five rows of bunch grapes in the backyard and a closed-off corner for making wine. As more grapes became available, the couple expanded the operation to include a standalone building for fermenting and bottling and another for wine tasting and sales. Today they grow five main varieties of grapes on 10 acres. These include white and red Muscadine, a native to Florida and the Southeast; white blanc du bois; red Conquistador; red FAMU 99; and red Liberty. Free tastings are available any time the winery is open, which is Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The operation closes for all major holidays. Daily tours are available, as well. The cost is $10 to tour the vineyard and winery and $18.95 for the tour, lunch and a souvenir wine glass. All tours are guided by McElwain and include a walk through the vineyard, information on the growing season, pruning, harvest times and grape varietals. She also provides a simple explanation about the art of wine-making, including how grapes are crushed, pressed, fermented and bottled. Now through May 25, Fiorelli Winery is hosting Wine & Dine in the Vines every Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. The event includes live music, Italian cuisine prepared by Seven Continents Catering and an open wine bar. The cost is $45 per person or $80 per couple. Fiorelli promises folks a great time. “It’s very unique; there’s nothing else like it in the area,” he said of the winery. “I want to share my love of the grape and the outdoors with everyone. As far as I’m concerned, my wine is as good as any you’ll find across the world.” Fiorelli Winery & Vineyard, a member of the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce, is located at 4250 C.R. 675, Bradenton. For information or to make reservations, visit www.fiorelliwinery.com or call (941) 322-0976.