When Michelle Boudreau returned from New Orleans last summer after taking her husband on a birthday trip she could barely wait to tell her long-time friend and co-worker Tracey Alexander about the wine she had picked up.
"We had these really great wines at a tasting, I just assumed the wines were native to Louisiana but when I was buying the bottles I noticed they were all made in Florida," said Boudreau of the mainly citrus-based wine.
"She wanted me to be as excited as she was, but I lived in Tampa for around seven years, which is near the winery, so it wasn't news to me," said Alexander.
However, the ladies were both excited with the idea of going into business together and sharing the unique Florida wines with both residents and tourists of Okaloosa County.
Flamingo's Tropical Wines & Gifts was born on March 10, 2012 in Destin.
The winery behind Flamingo's and other retail locations is Florida Orange Groves Winery in St. Petersburg. The winery uses the slogan - "Finally! Wines That Taste Good!"
In early 2000, the Florida Citrus Commission granted the winery the right to use its "Florida Sunshine Tree" logo on all of their 100 percent pure Florida citrus wines. Other than Florida orange juice and grapefruit juice, the winery is the only beverage in the 65-year history of the commission that boasts the right to use the licensing marks.
“The winery took 10 years of research and development to get the flavors where they wanted everything, but once you taste the wines you'll realize it was worth the time they put in,” said Boudreau.
“Clearly our wines won't appeal to everyone, just like a dry red wine won't appeal to everyone,” she added.
Flamingo's actually only carries one wine that is grape-based — “Sinfully Noble” is made with the noble Florida muscadine grape. All of the other wines are made from various ingredients like citrus fruits, honey, key lime, carrot, cherry, chocolate and even tomato. Flamingo’s is the only local dealer to sell the wines, which carry an average cost of about $20 each.
The Tomato (Hot Sun) wine is compromised of a dry, smooth white wine made with tomatoes and a kick of peppers.
"It’s a lot like a Bloody Mary without vodka in it," said Alexander.
The store also offers "wine smoothie mixes," non-alcoholic versions of some of the wines that you can match up with the more spirited variety for a nice blend.
"1/2 cup of Banana (Florida Banana) wine, 1/2 cup of strawberry smoothie mix and 2 1/2 cups of ice," Boudreau said, suggesting this recipe for a hot Florida summer day.
The best-selling wine is their White Sangria (Hurricane Class 5), which is a blend of several of their most popular tropical wines.
“Florida was being threatened by two different hurricanes while the white sangria was in production so that’s how the wine got its name and its labeling,” Boudreau told The Log of the wine bottles’ signature Doppler radar label.
If the extensive collection that Flamingo's has to offer isn't enough to strike your fancy, they also offer a large selection of gifts — candles, jewelry, hot sauce, glasses and more — all made by Northwest Florida locals.
"Our wines are really just an all around good product. They don't cause migraines because (most) of them are made in steel barrels, while most wines are made in oak barrels," said Alexander.
The ladies of Flamingo's not only support their local community and Florida, they also support their country and the military — offering a 10 percent discount on all bottled wine purchases with proof of military I.D.
The duo welcomes guests for free wine tastings during all business hours. Hours of operation are Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and they are closed on Sundays.
Flamingo's Tropical Wines & Gifts is located at 34904 Emerald Coast Pkwy. Suite 140, in the Barnes & Noble shopping center, next door to Outback Steakhouse. You can reach them at 424-7035 or visit them at Flamingoswineandgifts.com.