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Swamp Juice and Fruit-Infused Wines at Clearwater's Aspirations Winery

By S. Mathur

The Florida micro winery produces most traditional white and red varieties, and specializes in special blends, fruit-infused, and dessert wines. Owner Bill Linville says that he first learned to love wine during his stint in the navy.

"During my enlistment in the US Navy Presidential Honor Guard, I became curious about wine because it was most of what everyone drank at all the ceremonies I took part in. So, when in Rome ya know, I started trying some here and there and loved the happy little buzz you get. I started with the whites and sweeter wines at first and later on found that the big reds would give me a headache after so much. It took me a while to put together that the red wine was doing this, so once I found out I rarely drank any...until 2010!"

That was the year Linville and his wife bought Aspirations Winery: "It fit all the things my wife Robin and I wanted in a business and we could apply both our skill sets to it. Robin is an artist and graphic designer by trade." Once Linville figured out that the headaches he and other people associated with drinking big reds were caused by the sulfites used to preserve wine, the next step was to create wines with minimal sulfites.

"We only put enough to assure a 2-year shelf life. It makes sense to me since a lot of preservatives in our food aren't that good for us, why should the wine be any different."

He's learning that drinking the younger wines is better for you anyway, Linville adds. Most wines are meant to be consumed within a year of production, and nearly all within 5 years. The most popular Aspiration wines are Swamp Juice, which is a dry red, and sweeter wines including Category 5, infused with flavors of banana, pineapple, mango and guava; Poolside Red with blackberry notes; Poolside White with strawberry, and Poolside Blush with raspberry infusions.

Visitors can sample the wines any time during retail hours at no cost. The Tour and Tasting Experience on Fridays and Saturdays offers at least five wines with pairings of cheeses, fruits, baguettes, seasoned oil for dipping, and chocolates. Tours last 45 minutes to an hour. Aspirations Winery is ranked as #10 on Trip Advisor's list of best things to do in Clearwater. Aspirations wines are available at more than 15 retail outlets in Pinellas county. They can also come with customized labels, a popular idea for wedding favors.

The winery hosts private parties for groups of ten to 30 people. Parties can be tailored to meet specific needs. In general, they serve artisan cheeses, baguettes with seasoned oil, assorted nuts, and fruits, along with three wine samples, and two glasses of wine. A presentation and tour of the winery are also included. There is an add-on option that will appeal to wine aficionados: a slightly higher priced package gives every guest a bottle of wine to take home.

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