Traveling south on Florida Highway 79, going toward Panama City Beach, an unexpected surprise awaits you in Washington County. As you fight your way through the road construction, it’s worth making a stop just south of the tiny town of Vernon (pop. 743). Here you’ll find an eclectic gift shop called The Grapevine that offers candles, glassware, handmade clothing, books, baskets, antiques, a large selection of Willow Tree Angels, and some award winning Florida wine.
For over 25 years, Byron and Lucretia Biddle, along with their children and grandchildren, have created a solid family business from growing grapes and making wine. They began by growing grapes in 1989 and Three Oaks Winery became a bonded winery in 1995. The operation grew and they opened The Grapevine gift shop in 1996.
As the wine maker, Byron oversees the growing, harvest, and production of the wine grapes that he turns into award winning wines. Lucretia has amassed a vibrant collection of gift items in the gift shop that brings a steady stream of friends and neighbors looking for unique gifts and home décor. Together they have made Three Oaks Winery a “Certified Florida Farm Winery” under the Florida Department of Agriculture.
The Biddles produce fine wines from the grapes they grow in their own vineyard as well as from wine grapes that do not grow in Florida, such as Chardonnay and Merlot. Since they are in a “dry county,” the alcohol content in Three Oaks wines is less than in many wines, but Byron says that this is actually better for the grape, allowing more of the fruit flavor and less kick.
The red wines are light and fruity and generally sweeter than European style wines. They range from a sweet dessert wine to a dry red and are made from the Florida hybrid bunch grape “Conquistador,” developed by the University of Florida in 1983. Byron believes he is the only commercial winery in Florida growing and using the Conquistador grape.
Three Oaks white wines include a semi-dry Chardonnay and a light, sweet wine made from the Carlos grape, a white variety of Muscadine grape that is similar to a Scuppernong. Also available is a non-alcoholic Muscadine grape juice. Clustered around the bottles of wine in the gift shop are the bronze, silver and gold medals these wines have won for excellence over the years.
Three Oaks Winery produces about 3000 gallons of wine annually and is open year round for free wine tastings and tours. Three Oaks Winery and The Grapevine are located at 3348 Highway 79, Vernon, Florida 32462. Call 850-535-9563 for more information about their award winning Florida wine and gift items.
Read more about Three Oaks Winery in the new travel guide book Florida Wine Country Guide to North Florida Wineries coming soon.