August 2012 Issue
Escape to the Grapes
Ohio winemakers are expanding their offerings to include microbrews, spirits and honey wines. Some have opened B&Bs, making it easy for visitors to turn a wine country visit into a mini-vacation.
Wine isn’t the only thing fermenting in and around Ohio wine country this year. A lot of great ideas are, too — both inside and outside of Ohio’s wineries.
A new wave of adventurous entrepreneurs is launching micro-distilleries, craft breweries and meaderies in small towns and big cities throughout the Buckeye State. Some Ohio wineries are seizing a similar opportunity to branch out and begin producing their own beer, spirits and honey wines. And more Ohio wineries are making it easier to enjoy a leisurely visit to their vineyards by offering overnight accommodations.
There’s never been a better time to explore what Ohio’s newest vintners, distillers and brewers are producing from fresh, local ingredients, whether those ingredients are grapes grown in Ohio vineyards, honey from local bees or grains produced by Ohio farmers.
A change in state law that took effect in March 2012 helped trigger the increasingly enticing array of beers and spirits. The law reduced costs and relaxed regulations on microbreweries, brew pubs and craft distilleries, allowing them to more easily offer samples to customers and to sell directly to tasting-room visitors.
Valley Vineyards (valleyvineyards.com
) in Warren County northeast of Cincinnati took notice, and earlier this year the winery unveiled its own full lineup of craft beers brewed in its wine cellars and dubbed “Cellar Dwellers.” The venture is similar to the “Cellar Rats” brewery of Debonné Vineyards (debonne.com
) in Madison, east of Cleveland, which was the first Ohio winery to add a microbrewery in 2008. Valley Vineyards’ customers responded enthusiastically to the inaugural release of Cellar Dwellers in early 2012, consuming 275 gallons of the new brews on the first day the beers were offered. Beer sales in the first two months tripled projections, the winery’s owners say.
Valley Vineyards is now adding another offering to its lineup — spirits — early next year. Plans call for a small distillery to produce grappa, vodka and a bourbon-style whiskey, utilizing some of the grape skins and seeds left over from the winemaking process for the base of the grappa, and grains from beer making to make the other spirits.
Other budding Ohio distillers are much smaller in scale — but rich in history. Consider the brand new Indian Creek Distillery (staleymillfarmanddistillery.com
) in Miami County’s Bethel Township north of Dayton, where Melissa Duer and husband Joe Duer are distilling rye whiskey in the same stills her great-great-great-grandfather Elias Staley used on the same plot of land in the early part of the 19th century. Melissa’s great-grandfather George Washington Staley successfully hid the copper stills from federal agents during Prohibition, and now the Duers are making both an aged Staley Rye Whiskey and unaged Revolution Rye in small batches to be bottled at cask-strength alcohol levels. The intent, Melissa Duer says, is to capture “the frontier spirit in a bottle.”
Meanwhile, the Ernest Scarano Distillery in Fremont, south of Sandusky, has a “Liquor Ticker” countdown clock on its website (esdistillery.com
) to the June 1, 2014, date of release of its “Old Homicide” aged rye whiskey (slogan: “It’s To Die For”), while an unaged version will be released earlier.
Busy as Bees
On the sweeter, gentler side of Ohio’s fermenting trends: Honey wines are hot, and Ohio wineries and meaderies are discovering renewed interest in one of the oldest fermented beverages in the world.
Kent and Kristy Waldeck are the proud owners of one of Ohio’s newest meaderies, Crafted Artisans (craftedmead.com
) in Mogadore, southeast of Akron. The meadery was two-and-a-half years in the making before it opened its doors June 2. Kent Waldeck was an avid home brewer and dreamed of opening his own craft brewery, but eventually started dabbling in honey-based wines, and is now as enthusiastic about mead as bees are about pollen.
“I know that people are seeking out unique, local, hand-crafted products, and that’s exactly what we do,” Waldeck says. “We use mostly unfiltered, unpasteurized honey from Ohio.”
His honey wines are made in multiple styles to cater to an array of tastes, from dry to sweet, with some detours in between. His lineup includes a Hop Nectar that is dry-hopped with Cascade Hops prior to bottling; Blue Honey Melomel that blends honey with blueberries and is aged with a touch of French oak; and Spiced Apple Cyser, crafted from honey, apple cider, cinnamon and other spices.
The Meniru Meadery (menirumeadery.com
) in Canton is preparing to open this fall. It’s the brainchild of Godwin I. Meniru and his wife Maryann O. Meniru and will serve a varied selection of mead, wine and hard cider, including Apricot Pyment, made from apricots, Riesling grape juice and wildflower honey, and Cherry Honey Wine, made from both sweet dark cherries and tart cherries, and honey. Meniru recently won the Winemaker of the Year award at the WineMaker Magazine International Amateur Winemaking Contest, where he also picked up the trophy for “Best Mead.”
In addition, Jilbert Winery (ohiohoneywine.com
) in Medina County’s Valley City produces Summer Solstice Honey Wine and Midsummer Moon Mead from wildflower honey gathered on or around the Jilbert family’s land.
In a decidedly more urban vein, mead has taken the state’s capital by storm via the Brothers Drake Meadery & Bar (brothersdrake.com
), with offerings such as Honey Oak Dry Traditional, Apple Pie Mead and Scarlet Solstice, which blends honey with red raspberries, marionberries and cherries.
A Sleepover in the Vineyards
Some Ohio wineries are taking hospitality to a new level by asking visitors to spend a night or two.
Ohio’s most ambitious — and recently opened — overnight accommodations can be found at The Villas at Gervasi Vineyard (gervasivineyard.com
) near Canton. The venture is the brainchild of Ted Swaldo, who retired as CEO of an auto-parts manufacturing company in North Canton in early 2009, spent a month or so in Florida, got bored and returned to Canton to launch a family business. The 55-acre property includes vineyards, a bistro-style restaurant, a 6,000-square-foot outdoor pavilion and a wine-tasting bar, as well as The Marketplace, which offers Italian pottery, pastas, sauces and, of course, Gervasi Vineyard wines.
The Italian-style Villas at Gervasi opened in November 2011, and includes 24 suites tucked into six villas. Guests can rent a single suite or an entire four-suite villa, according to Gervasi spokeswoman Cynthia Johnson, and can use their suite as home base to explore nearby wineries — there are 18 in and around Stark County — and to sample cheeses in nearby Amish country.
“We’ve had guests tell us this place makes them feel as if they’re in the hills of Tuscany,” Johnson says. “They feel as if they need to bring a passport to come here.”
But don’t take Johnson’s word for it: American Historic Inns and iLoveInns.com announced earlier this year that The Villas at Gervasi Vineyard made its list of the 2012 Top 10 Romantic Inns.
A wee bit smaller in scope, The Inn at Rainbow Hills at Rainbow Hills Vineyards (740/535-9305) in Newcomerstown in Coshocton County is owned by Lee and Joy Wise, who opened the B&B seven years ago, 17 years after the winery was founded.
“We had an 1831 log home on the premises, and we got it all cleaned up and it was just sitting there,” Wise says. “We had to do something with it.” So the couple built a guest house around the log cabin.
The Rainbow Hills B&B has four rooms, each with a full bath and private deck, and is open year-round. Wise serves up a Champagne breakfast every morning — “and it’s a full breakfast, not a continental breakfast,” he says.
Randy and Tina Endsley, owners of Heritage Vineyards & Guest House (heritagevineyardwinery.com
) in Warsaw north of Coshocton, did things a little differently.
“In our case, the guest house came before the winery,” Tina Endsley says. “We opened the guest house in 1999, and the winery in 2009. We have seen quite an increase in business since opening the winery, because more people are becoming interested in Ohio wines.” And it doesn’t hurt that Heritage has four other wineries, Historic Roscoe Village and Amish Country nearby.
The Heritage Vineyards Guest House has two bedrooms and one and half baths and overlooks both the winery and the vineyard.
Guests of the Lakehouse Inn & Winery (thelakehouseinn.com
), located at the western end of Geneva-on-the-Lake northeast of Cleveland, can enjoy Lake Erie and easy access to the 20 wineries that are part of the Lake Erie Wines & Vines Trail. The inn, situated on two acres of lakefront property, includes eight guest rooms and four cottages, and now offers a day spa in addition to a restaurant.
Overnight accommodations also can be found at Buccia Vineyard (440/593-5976) in Conneaut, at the northeastern edge of the state. Buccia’s B&B has four rooms, each with a private bathroom.
Whether it’s crafting new spirits and beers utilizing the Buckeye State’s abundant raw materials, creating a buzz around a historical beverage made from honey, or taking hospitality to new levels in their vineyards, Ohio winery owners and their “kindred spirits” are finding new ways to roll out the welcome mat for thirsty and adventurous visitors.
TASTING OHIO'S BEST
Start your Ohio wine tasting adventure with these award-winning vintages.
These wines — all made from at least 90 percent Ohio-grown grapes and part of the
Ohio Quality Wine program — were chosen by Ohio Agriculture Director David T. Daniels as “Director’s Choice” recipients for 2012:
Best White Wine: Vinoklet Traminette
from Vinoklet Winery
Best Red Wine
(tie): 2010 Valley Vineyards Syrah
, and 2010 Valley Vineyards
Best Specialty Wine: 2010 Ferrante Vidal Blanc Ice Wine
from Ferrante Winery
Ohio Wine Competition
The following wines were named winners of the 2012 Ohio Wine Competition,
which was open to all wines produced in Ohio, whether the grapes came from
Ohio vineyards or elsewhere:
“Best of Show”
award: Raven’s Glenn 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Best White: 2011 Ferrante Riesling
Best Rose: 2011 Henke Cellars Blush
Best Red: Raven’s Glenn 2009 Rosso Grande
Best Fruit Wine: Ferrante Raspberry Blanc
Best Dessert Wine: Breitenbach Wine Cellars Solara Cream Sherry
Best Sparkling Wine: Meier’s Wine Cellars Reiem Spumante
Sample a wide variety of wines and enjoy jazz, reggae and light rock music at Vintage Ohio, Aug. 3–4, in the pastoral setting of Lake Farmpark in Kirtland. Some 20 wineries offer tastings, which can be accompanied by cheese and crackers, salads, sandwiches and more from food vendors. Get cooking tips from chefs and browse booths with crafts and gourmet foods. Fri. and Sat, 1–10 p.m.; tickets $25 in advance, $30 at the gate; designated driver $12; children under 18 $3; under 3 free. For more information, call 800/227-6972 or visit ohiowines.org