After years of growing blueberries, owner Joe Keel wanted to do something with the leftover blueberries from his harvest. They still were quality berries, and he didn’t want them to go to waste.
So, Keel cooked up an idea for the excess crop in 2003. But, he didn’t want to make jellies, jams or preserves.
He wanted to make wine.
Keel started experimenting in the family farmhouse kitchen, with 10 gallons of blueberry wine. From that 10 gallons, he expanded, growing it into a full-fledged winery that, today, produces more than 20,000 cases of wines annually.
With a tasting room and gift shop open seven days a week, you can taste and shop in one place. Every Friday, the winery offers a happy hour, and Saturday, glasses of wine are only $2. Bands and musicians perform until 10:30 p.m. every weekend, on the porch.
The winery’s property is home to about 25 acres of blueberries, and with its second property, the business grows a total of 35 acres. Last year, the winery produced more than 300,000 bottles of wine. Blueberry wine constitutes about 30% of its production.
Keel and Curley produces three types of 100% blueberry wines — sweet, semi-dry and dry.
In July 2011, Keel and Curley debuted two new wines, dry blackberry and sweet blackberry. Both are made with 100% blackberries.
In addition to those wines, Keel and Curley also has seven fusion wines. Fusion wines are blended with part grape-based wines, such as merlots or chardonnays, and fruit juices, such as strawberry. Keel and Curley’s fusion wines include strawberry riesling, wild berry pinot noir, tangerine zinfandel, Key West key lime, blackberry raspberry merlot and peach chardonnay.
The winery has been working to get its wines into grocery stores throughout Tampa Bay. It recently expanded into Georgia and has a contract to distribute in 10 Walmart stores. Now, it is working to expand that agreement to 60 stores. It also recently closed a deal with Empire Distributing.
“We’re definitely excited about that,” Clay Keel, events and marketing manager for the winery, says. “It’s hard to get in with a big-time distributor like that.”
About two months ago, Keel and Curley released a collection of more traditional wines, including a cabernet and chardonnay. The grapes are grown in different locations and imported to the winery to be made into wine.
“These wines are for those who don’t want a fruit-infused blend,” Keel says.
The winery is considering making beer under the brand, Two Henrys Brewing Co.
The inspiration comes from Henry Flagler and Henry Plant. Both men played a part in developing Florida with the railroad.
“It’s Florida history,” Keel says. “It relates to the entire state. They made Florida into what it is today.”
Keel hopes to add another bar to the winery that would sell the beer, as well as another bar outside on the deck.
At first, the company will make well-known brews, such as a lager, ale and IPA. It hopes to release them this fall.
“It is an easy transition, because we already have a lot of the infrastructure,” Keel says.
KEEL AND CURLEY WINERY
ADDRESS: 5210 W. Thonotosassa Road, Plant City
PHONE: (813) 752-9100