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First Coast was first in the U.S. for making wine

5:53 PM, Nov 1, 2012   |    comments
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CHIEFLAND, Fla. -- Everyone loves a glass of wine every now and again. Did you know the very first glass of wine in the U.S. was made in Jacksonville? Carrying on that tradition just an hour outside of Gainesville is the Dakaotah Winery.

Max Rittgers created the everything in onsite winery nestled on the side of Highway 19 nearly 30 years ago.

"To the right of the building entrance, you see an arbor and that's a typical arbor that you'd see in Europe and especially Italy ... You still get the warmth of the sun, in the summer you get the shade so you have the benefit year round of the grapes," Rittgers said.

The picturesque winery has also caught the selective eye of Southern Living magazine. The laid back atmosphere is cultivated by swaying grape vines, humming bird feeders and the beautiful wildlife that call Dakotah home.

Inside the winery is a fireplace surrounded by artifacts from the Midwest going back to the days of General Custer. It's hard to believe you're in the heart of Florida, let alone inside a functioning winery.

"This is the fermentation area and the bottling area where we produce a case of wine every 45 seconds," Rittgers said.

Rittgers also users French barrels for making port. They're tucked away behind all the polished stainless steel.

"They're grown in France, they're made in France and they're shipped from France to California. We buy them from California and we put our port in it and let the port sleep in there five or six or seven years."

All these grapes come from just down the road from Dakotah from their charming vineyard with 60 neatly arranged acres of grapes.

"These are 100% muscadine, now muscadine have 100 varieties."

But when it comes to wine making in America, Rittgers wants to make one thing clear.

Here's the message: 100 years before wine was made in California, it was made in Florida, not by the Hispanics, but it was made by the Huguenots over at Fort Caroline up off the south bank of the St. Johns River.

And now it's settled. Florida was first.

So they've been making wine in Florida since the 1600s.

First Coast News

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