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Turning Clearwater into a Wine Region

By David Boegaard

Based in beautiful Clearwater Florida, and named after owner Michael Biglin's beloved mother, Murielle Winery creates a diverse bouquet of wines, from classics to fruit infusions. Michael's first taste of the wine business began in his youth, but it was only after he started making wine at home that he decided he had the skills to make his vision reality. Murielle now sells around 3,500 cases of wine each year.

Murielle Winery owner Michael Biglin first started toward becoming a wine maker by watching a television program about breweries. He became excited by the idea of making his own beer, and decided to give it a try. "Well, as it turns out I was terrible at making beer," says Biglin, "but very good at making wine. So after 5 years of making wine at home, we decided to open a winery."

But Murielle Winery wasn't Biglin's first experience with wine. As a young man, Biglin had spent time working with fine, imported cheeses at a grocery. Since nothing pairs with good cheese as well as good wine, the owner of the grocery encouraged Biglin to study wine. "I was introduced to wine and taught how to appreciate wine by some very knowledgeable people," notes Biglin.

And that experience would not be the end of Biglin's infatuation with wine. "My desire to learn more about wine grew and before too long I had a wine cellar and 100's of bottles in storage." More than 35 years later, Biglin's wine collection has grown to more than 700 bottles, not to mention his own winery!

Although Murielle Winery does not grow its own grapes, it does everything else involved in the wine-making process. Florida does not have a strong infrastructure of vineyards, due to the humid conditions and inappropriate soil. Instead, they get the juice from their vineyards in Lodi, CA. It is at that point that Murielle's works its magic. "We then ferment the juice in 43 stainless steel tanks," says Biglin. "We have 6,250 gallons of storage tanks."

Choosing a favorite from among Murielle's wide selection can be difficult. Fortunately, the Winery has free tastings on most Saturday's from 11 to 4. Visitors can drink liberally from every bottle currently available, as well as tour the facility.

For those who are too busy for a delightful afternoon tour of a winery, Biglin mentions customer favorites. "Our most popular wines are all fruit infused wines. The best selling wines are 3 Berry Shiraz, Dragon Fruit White Shiraz and Peach Apricot Chardonnay."

As Americans take on old traditions, they apply novel approaches. Murielle Winery is a perfect example of that kind of experimentation. Whether you walk away with a more traditional wine or a newer, fruity wine with a sweet freshness, you'll quickly know what the buzz is all about.

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