Not Your Uncle's Home Brew
Wine tasting is a treat in the Napa Valley, Virginia, Southern France and Northern Ohio?! I have been wine tasting at all these locations and I must say I was pleasantly surprised to find a delightful day of wine tasting right in Northeastern Ohio only a one or two hour drive from Cleveland or Erie. If you find yourself hesitant to try the wines in Ohio thinking they may resemble you uncle’s home brew, you are not alone. You may be saying to yourself, “yea right, certainly they can’t be that good”, but I must tell you …they are.
On a warm, humid afternoon, with thunderstorms threatening, my sister and I began our adventure. The first stop along my tour was the offices of the Ohio Wine Producers Association (OWPA) located at 1 South Broadway in Geneva, Ohio. They have a great deal of information about the wineries in the area and I wanted to stop and see what is new. It’s not necessary to stop here before you begin your tour, but meeting Donniella Winchell, the executive director of the OWPA, who is a fireball of enthusiasm and has a wealth of knowledge about the wineries in Ohio, is a real treat. Donniella has worked with the association since 1978 and is as passionate about wines in Ohio today as she was in 1978. Donniella explained that the association sponsors many “Trail” events throughout the year and the state. One of those trails is the Tannebaum Trail a self-driving tour along the Vines & Wines Trail in Northeast Ohio. It begins December 2 and runs for three weekends from noon to 6pm each day. At each participating winery, you receive samples of wines complimentary appetizers and an ornament.
The Chocolate and Cheese Trail, Fall Frolic, Night on the Vine and the Taste of Legacy are just a few of the events on the different trails. Check out the www.Ohiowines.org web site for more events and dates.
After talking with Donniella we choose four wineries to visit on that day along the Vines and Wines Trail: Harpersfield Winery, Hundley Winery, St. Joseph’s Vineyards and Laurentia Vineyard and Winery.
First stop is Harpersfield Winery. This is one of the oldest wineries in the area, first opening in 1979. It is a family owned farm and winery and to quote owner Patty Ribic, “everybody likes what they like for the reason they like it.” They have a small list of wines because they only bottle what they grow…a true estate winery. The winery offers “light fare” for food that pairs well with the wines, Patty explains they aren’t a restaurant with wines, they are a winery with food. Their Chardonnays are excellent. I recommend the “Fut de Chene” and “Cuvee sans Chene.” The “Fut de Chene” is aged in American oak and has a creamier taste. The “Cuvee sans Chene” is unoaked so it has a brighter, fruitier and vivacious flavor. The winery offers a patio for the summer months and a wonderful fireplace for the cooler months. They have live music on Friday and Saturday all year and on Sundays during the summer months.
The storm clouds are beginning to build in the distance as we work our way to our next stop, Hundley Cellars Winery owned by the Hundley family. This winery opened in September 2014. Their vines are 5 years old so they buy many of their white grape juices from other growers in the area. Meeting Gerri Hundley, one of the owners was a pleasure. She made us feel right at home happily sharing all the details about the wines. She proudly introduced us to her daughter, Tracy, the wine maker. We sampled the whites, the chardonnay which is dry, slightly oaked and delicious. Since it was a warm summer afternoon, the Gruner Veltiner was especially delightful as a light summer, sipping wine. They produce a fun white wine called “Pink Camo”, it is a semi-sweet blush and $1.00 for each bottle sold goes to ZONTA, an organization to help victims of domestic abuse. The winery is an L-shaped home that has been converted to a winery. They have a lovely garden and pond in the back yard and a welcoming stone fireplace for the colder months. They have live music on Saturdays and Sunday from 2-5pm.
A short drive down highway 307 we arrive a St. Joseph’s Vineyards. The winery owned by the Pietrzyk family has been opened since 2010 but has been making wine with vines that are 30 years old. This winery is proud of their Pinot Noir and was the first Pinot Noir produced in Ohio. In the Finger Lake International competition they won a Gold for their Shiraz and Dry Riesling, and a Silver for the Pinot Noirin the San Francisco International competition. All their grapes are grown on their estate and Art Pietrzyk is proud to tell me all about the history. I asked about the name St. Joseph’s and he explained it came from a time when he got a wine making kit for as a gift and thought it would be a fun thing to do with his family. His father was ill at the time and his mother told them all to say prayers to St. Joseph. When his father recovered he wanted to surprise Art by picking all the grapes growing around the house, he mistakenly put all the grapes together, not knowing to separate the different varietals. Art made wine anyway and named it St. Joseph’s 12+1 for all the grapes that were combined and the St. Joseph name came from the prayers that helped his father.
With storm clouds looming, we made our way to the Laurentia Vineyard and Winery. This winery is the newest in the area and one that is reminiscent of the palatial California or Virginia wineries I have visited. Owned by Gary and Leonard Blackie the winery opened July 1, 2015. We visited with Chelsea at the wine bar. She explained they have 27 acres of vines planted in 2011 and 10 more planted in 2013. We tasted the Beton Riesling and Beton Chardonnay both of which are aged in concrete and are delightfully fruity and refreshing summer wines. The 2014 American and 2014 Lake Erie Chardonnays are aged in oak and come across with fruit forward flavor but with a buttery ending. We tasted the 2013 Cabernet Franc which we found to be lively and bright. Their wine cellar can be rented for parties of up to 50 people. The deck is beautiful and inviting for the summer afternoon/evening. They have live music on Saturdays 5-8 and in the colder months there is beautiful indoor seating area and huge stone fireplace just asking you to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon there.
The rain was moving in quickly so we scurried home having had a delightful afternoon exploring the wonderful wineries of Northeastern Ohio.