August 2010 Issue
Find winery adventure in unexpected places.
Mark Fisher and Jenny Pavlasek
As Ohio’s wine industry continues to grow, so do the adventurous traveler’s options for discovering tasting room experiences that go beyond the standard picnic tables and cheese plates. We have wineries set in urban warehouses, on historic family-owned fruit farms, in a restored century-old church and in a renovated one-room schoolhouse — in the country, in the city and everywhere in between. Here, we profile four wineries, two urban dwellers and two along the roads less traveled, that give country and city mice alike reason to hit the road. And since you’re already out, we’ve included nearby wineries and farmers markets to help you build your trip. For more information about Ohio wines, visit tasteohiowines.com
MARKKO VINEYARD, Conneaut
With his trademark cap and soft-spoken nature, you would never guess that Markko owner Arnie Esterer is the true powerhouse of the Ohio wine industry. Until you taste his wines, that is. Esterer, who founded Markko in 1968, is celebrated for his pioneering efforts in growing vinifera grapes — a species that includes chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and other grapes that are considered to be the most prestigious varieties for making wine — in Ohio’s challenging climate. Forty-two years later, Markko is one of the only Ohio wineries growing exclusively vinifera varietals (specifically riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon) and bottling them on site. The hard work and dedication it takes to pull this off is beyond impressive, though you won’t find a hint of swagger in Esterer or his modest tasting room. Nor will you find live music, snack plates or other amenities typical of most nearby wineries. But to focus on that would be missing the true reason to travel to this northeastern corner of the state — the rare opportunity to taste consecutive vintages of Ohio-grown wines at their finest. — JP
4500 S. Ridge Rd., Conneaut 44030, 800/252-3197. markko.com
The acres of vines lining the roadsides in this part of the state are your first tip that this is fertile farm country. Naturally, here you’re more likely to find roadside stands and family-run markets than farmers markets. One you won’t want to bypass is Robinson’s Apple Barn in Geneva, located at the intersection of St. Rtes. 307 and 534. At this family-owned fruit operation, you’ll also find jams, jellies and fresh produce, plus some of the best apple fritters around. robinsons applebarn.com
Area Wines and Vines
Tarsitano Winery & Cafe, Conneaut
From Markko: 2 miles
The Lakehouse Inn Winery, Geneva-on-the-Lake
From Markko: 25 miles
Harpersfield Vineyard, Geneva
From Markko: 30 miles
HENKE WINERY, Cincinnati
Joe Henke launched an urban winery before it was fashionable — and before most of us had even heard the term. Now that urban wineries have become all the rage, Henke figures that time just caught up with him.
Henke started his namesake winery in 1996, when a day job made it impossible to even think of growing his own grapes while also making wines. Besides, there weren’t exactly acres of cheap vineyard land surrounding his Westwood winery. So Henke let others do the grape growing. Today, he makes wine from grapes grown in southern Ohio, northern Ohio and upstate New York, with a bit of California thrown in for good measure.
Henke’s 2009 Vin de Rouge — a blend of red grapes Chambourcin, Chancellor and Chelois, all grown in southern Ohio — was named “Best of Show for Red Wines” at the 2010 Ohio Wine Competition, and retails for under $10. His 2009 Riesling ($14.50), made from New York state grapes, received a gold medal in the same competition; the previous vintage of riesling won overall best of show in the ’09 Ohio wine competition.
Yet the focus at Henke isn’t entirely on wines. The winery is also home to a restaurant that offers everything from casual (pizzas) to gourmet (steamed mussels, filet mignon). And Henke books live music every Friday and Saturday night. — MF
3077 Harrison Ave., Cincinnati 45211, 513/662-9463. henkewine.com. Closed Sunday.
The venerable Findlay Market at 1801 Race St. in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood near downtown Cincinnati is an urban market that offers urban-farmed fruits and vegetables along with produce from more traditional rural farms. A $217,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Foods Program is allowing for a greatly expanded urban-farming program that helps local residents cultivate crops on empty and revitalized lots throughout the city. While the “traditional” farmers have Saturday’s market to themselves, look for the urban-farmed fruits and vegetables alongside their rural peers’ produce on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and during Tuesday’s “drive-time” market from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. findlaymarket.org
Area Wines and Vines
Woodstone Creek Winery & Distillery, Cincinnati
From Henke: 9 miles
Vinoklet Winery, Cincinnati
From Henke: 15 miles
Meier’s Wine Cellars, Cincinnati
From Henke: 15 miles
BRANDEBERRY WINERY, Enon
Jim Brandeberry has a bit of a “mad scientist” aura about him, but he comes by it naturally: He is, after all, an engineer by training. But after his retirement as the dean of Wright State University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science a few years ago, Brandeberry utilized every bit of his engineering skills to turn what was already an ambitious passion for home winemaking into an even more ambitious commercial winemaking venture. The “retired” engineering dean’s 2,400-square-foot Brandeberry Winery and Tasting Room opened in June 2009 near Enon in southern Clark County. It is the only licensed winery in the Dayton-Springfield area.
His first year was a rousing success: “I sold out of everything,” Brandeberry says, including an all-estate-grown wine that he dubbed “Windy Ike,” whose birth and early development were complicated by the strong winds from Hurricane Ike.
Highlights of his current releases include two distinct styles of Vidal Blanc — one labeled “dry,” the other “semi-dry” — containing some of Brandeberry’s estate-grown grapes blended with Vidal from upstate New York (both $15.95), and a delicious, sweet-but-not-too-sweet Blackberry Wine ($16.95) that is vaguely reminiscent of super-ripe Australian Shiraz. Made from New York State berries, the blackberry wine has emerged as the winery’s top seller. Dry-red fans should check out the “Caberlot,” a 50-50 blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot from grapes grown near Sandusky ($18.95), while those who favor sweeter wines might opt for the “Pink Passion” ($15.95), Cayuga grape wine augmented by a splash or two of cherry juice (Brandeberry’s wife Sharon provided a bit of winemaking advice on that one).
Visitors can sample wines in the tasting room or at picnic tables outside. Food options include meat and cheese plates, spinach and artichoke dip, Tuscan bread with dipping oil, personal pizzas and even some luxury chocolates from Dayton-based Esther Price. — MF
5118 W. Jackson Rd., Enon 45323, 937/767-9103. brandeberrywinery.com. Closed Sunday and Monday.
For the best in locally produced foods in the Dayton-Springfield region, check out the small Yellow Springs Farmers Market from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday mornings at 228 Xenia Ave., just a few miles from Brandeberry Winery. Here, Peach Mountain Organics offers some of the same organic fruits and vegetables that you may find later that night on the menu at the acclaimed The Winds restaurant down the street. Or, drive to Dayton for the more diverse farmers market outside the 2nd Street Public Market at 600 E. Second St. on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. to select fresh, local fruits and vegetables from growers such as Michael Malone of Hungry Toad Farms just south of Dayton and Russell Garber, who farms 200 acres in Darke County. yellowspringsfarmersmarket.com
Area Wines and Vines
Valley Vineyards, Morrow
The Winery at Versailles, Greenville
From Brandeberry: 40 miles
Via Vecchia Winery, Columbus
Like most of wine’s success stories, the tale of Via Vecchia Winery begins humbly in a suburban basement with a few small barrels and one common vision. “We make wine the old way,” says Paolo Rosi, one of the business’ three managing partners. “We use a non-intervention process; our wine is not made in a lab.”
Five years later, Via Vecchia has traded in its modest suburban home for an urban identity. Last month, the winery opened the doors to its hip new location in a cavernous warehouse in downtown Columbus’ Brewery District.
The area’s beer heritage aside, the industrial setting serves wine lovers and city dwellers with a wine bar that hosts tastings on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as a retail shop and event space. A small kitchen that will serve small plates of wine-friendly antipasti and other food is also in the works.
The winery offers four signature blends ($24.99 each), all made from vinifera grapes hailing from California.
Rosi — who learned winemaking from his father in a small village near Tuscany — says the experience is designed to be both casual and educational, which is why the trio intends to keep their winemaking facilities visible. “I love talking face to face with people about our process and our wines,” he says. “We love the feedback.” — JP
485 S. Front St., Columbus 43215, 614/893-5455. viavecchiawinery.com.
Names such as Oakvale Farmstead Cheese, Blue Jacket Dairy and the Wayward Seed Farm are regulars on Ohio Magazine’s pages, and for good reason: These growers and producers are some of the state’s best. Find them all in one place at the North Market farmers market in downtown Columbus on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Once you’ve shopped, step inside and taste the magic that happens when Wayward Seed Farm’s produce finds its way into the hands of local ice cream entrepreneur Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. northmarket.com
Area Wines and Vines
Wyandotte Winery, Columbus
From Via Vecchia: 15 miles
Slate Run Vineyard, Canal Winchester
From Via Vecchia: 17 miles
Hidden Lakes Winery, Canal Winchester
From Via Vecchia: 16 miles
Not sure what's in season? Check out our Ohio Harvest Calendar, adapted from a chart
provided by The Ohio Vegetable and Potato Growers Association.
Taste the fruit of our state’s vines at Vintage Ohio, Aug. 6–7, 1–10
p.m. at Lake Farmpark in Kirtland. For details, call 800/227-6972 or log
on to visitvintageohio.com