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East County Monday, Nov. 1, 2021 1 month ago

Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard under new ownership in eastern Bradenton

Kristin and John Hokanson take over East County's Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Growing up in the Lakewood Ranch area, Kristin Hokanson knew about Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard.

Her family lived about 10 minutes away, and it was a perfect place for a date night for her parents, Daniel and Melinda White. 

Now, sitting on the patio looking at the grape vines, Hokanson said it’s a dream come true being the owner of Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard. 

“My parents used to spend an afternoon here, so to be able to now call this home is surreal,” Hokanson said. “I came out here to a Ladies’ Night a few years ago, and who would have thought three years later that we would buy it and be able to live here and call this home.”

Hokanson and her husband, John Hokanson, purchased the winery in April. 

The winery and vineyard has been open since 1998 when Antonio and Rosa Fiorelli, who were from Casteldaccia, Sicily in Italy, began using their 10 acres of grape vines for their new business. 

“Antonio and Rosa built this winery out of love, and they had a love and a passion for wine, the community and having a place for people and families to come and spend an afternoon,” Kristin Hokanson said. “We look forward to continuing that tradition and turning this into a great place for people to come and bring their families. We want to create a fun environment.”

Although the Hokansons have 50 years in the hospitality industry between them, Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard is the couple’s first time working at a winery. They’ve worked as event planners and restaurant owners. 

Lisa Gaines, a bartender at Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard, serves a guest a glass of wine.

“We have a passion for serving others and for customer service,” Kristin Hokanson said. “This was a great fit for us to be able to meet our community and create an environment for them to come out and have a great experience.”

While looking for their next venture, they wanted to find a property that could be perfect for events such as weddings, but more importantly, they wanted to find a place they could call home and raise their 1-year-old daughter Madison. 

“We wanted a place that we could see ourselves growing old and raising our daughter as well as a great place that we could run a small business and be a staple in the community,” Kristin Hokanson said. “We were thinking of what we wanted long term and where we wanted to be 20 years from now, and 20 years from now, I can see ourselves sitting out here looking at our grapevines and just growing out out there.”

On top of working on the business aspects of the vineyard, the Hokansons also are repairing the house on property for them to be able to move in. 

It wasn’t long after taking ownership of the winery that they saw how much work was necessary to produce wine.

John and Kristin Hokanson hope to build on the legacy of Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard for their daughter, Madison.

In June and July, the Hokansons harvested the grapes, which led to nearly 600 gallons of grape juice ready to be fermented. 

“You get up at 6 in the morning and it’s hot,” John Hokanson said. “By noon, it’s really, really hot. Then you bring the grapes into the winery and clean them off and you begin the crushing. It’s a lot of work. After you pick up 60 pounds of grapes and dump them in the crusher, it’s a long day. That’s the first day of a four-week process to get it filtered and start fermenting.” 

When the Hokansons took over in April, the winery only was offering four wines. The couple decided to bring back a few favorites while also experimenting with some new flavors. They created sweet wines that infused blueberries, strawberries and peaches. 

The Hokansons have worked on improving the patio and are in the process of developing an indoor tasting room on site. 

They said owning the winery and vineyard has been gratifying. 

“We have worked nonstop since we took over,” Kristin Hokanson said. “To see each thing that we’re envisioning finished and hearing the great feedback from people who come in, that’s what makes it so rewarding. Knowing we’re building a future for ourselves, for our community and for our daughter is what keeps us going.”

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