For some, it may be hard to imagine for anyone who enjoys the occasional glass of wine that any fruit other than the grape could be used to produce a high-quality bottle of wine.
However, if you pay a visit to one of Sanibel’s newest retailers — Sanibel Tropical Wines — it seems that almost any fruit can be harvested, pressed, aged and bottled as a fine fermented beverage.
The store, located at 2340 Periwinkle Way, Suite C-1 in The Village Shops, offers an assortment of 36 different wines created from a wide variety of common fruits, including blackberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, peaches and — of course — grapes.
They also carry wines fermented from exotic and Florida native fruits, some of which may sound to bizarre to be believed: orange, grapefruit, banana, mango, pineapple, tangerine, tangelo, watermelon and coconut.
But, as they say, the truth is in the taste. And at Sanibel Tropical Wines, owners Ben and Vicki Miles encourage their customers to come in and sample every wine that they sell.
“We’ve loved meeting lots of new people,” said Ben Miles, a former director of engineering at a caster company. “I enjoy watching them try our wines for the first time, seeing them have this ‘Florida experience’ of something different and unique.”
The Miles’ moved from their home in Marshall, Michigan to Sanibel just six weeks ago, and opened their business last Friday. In the first few days they’ve been open, they have won over several “first-time” wine buyers with their special vintages.
“We call them ‘un-serious’ wines because they’re made to be fun,” added Vicki Miles, who has previously worked at a health food store and has more than 20 years of retail experience. “They’re great conversation starters, too.”
Among the featured wines they carry is Midnight Sun, an orange/coffee bean flavored blend which won a silver medal at the Indiana International Wine Competition; Millennium Gold, a strawberry cream sherry that is oak aged for more than four years; Hurricane Class 5, a white sangria which won a gold medal at the 2008 Florida State Fair; Coco Polada, which combines the flavors of oranges, coconuts and pineapple; 40 Karat, a semi-dry white wine similar to a Chardonnay made from carrots; Mango Mamma, a four-time Florida State Fair gold medalist; and Hot Sun, a smooth white wine with a slight tomato taste and a hint of peppers.
“They’re a great alternative to traditional wines,” said Ben, who noted that all of their products are made in Florida by a vintner headquartered in St. Petersburg. Each bottle is priced between $17.99 to $25.99, with the exception of Millennium Gold, priced at $34.99.
In addition to their wines, Sanibel Tropical Wines carries an assortment of bottle stoppers, glass danglers, wine chillers, decanters and related accessories. In the next week or so, they will also carry a line of Chocolate Garden Truffles, which Vicki boasts as “the most decadent thing ever!”
“They’ve been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show,” she explained, adding that a pair of truffles sell for about $9. “They’re not sold through stores anywhere, so we’ll be their exclusive Florida retailer.”
Sanibel Tropical Wines is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 472-3398, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Web site at www.sanibeltropicalwines.com.