When thinking about wine in all it’s grapey magnificence, you can’t help but think about legendary regions of the country like Napa Valley or Sonoma, California…maybe even all the way across the pond in Bordeaux, France. And that’s all well and good, but Ohio in it’s own right, has some really good wine, too.
The weather, mostly due to the fresh waters of Lake Erie, make this unique area of the country ideal for growing grapes. While we’ve found that the sweeter wines tend to take precedence in the Heart of it All, the range of wines available is still quite impressive. In turn, places like the Firelands Winery have been around for almost 140 years. Did you see how we snuck that old Ohio tourism slogan in there? Course you did.
Since the first cellar of this historic winery was built in 1880, Firelands Winery has been taking advantage of this unique environment and harvesting their fruit from a place that enjoys a 200 day frost-free growing season, the Isle of St. George on the western basin of Lake Erie. Our favorite? The Gewurztraminer — A sweet white with a passion fruit flavor and rose petal aroma. Wow, we remembered how to spell it and took notes. Look at us!
And it’s not just Firelands that has been benefitting from this latitude and longitude. In 1888 a man from Baden-Baden Germany (Say that three times fast), an area of that country known for it’s rich viticultural history, founded Heinemans Winery. Located in the village of Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island, it has been producing fine wines for over 100 years.
As a bonus, especially if you go this weekend before it closes for the year, you can take a look at the Crystal Cave, the world’s largest geode. Random we know, but awesome nonetheless. I mean where else are you going to see a three foot crystal?
Tasting tip: Go for the Lake Erie Pink Catawba pictured below. It’s sweet, light pink in color as the name suggests and very easy to drink. Just be careful, a bottle between two people goes down very quickly. And by be careful, we mean order two bottles.
Since we’re focusing on wine, we’d be remiss not to mention one of our favorite island events, the Put-in-Bay Island Wine Festival. Hop on the Miller Ferry on Saturday, October 7 and for just $6 you will get into the festival with a souvenir wine glass. Combine that with a $14/RT ferry ticket and you’re looking at a meager $20 total — Budget travel day! Of course to sample the more than 200 wines that are there, you’ll have to cough up $1 per ticket…how much is completely up to you, ya boozehound.
You can tell wine connoisseurs are starting to take notice of the region as well. In the last decade newer wineries have been popping up like, well, grapes. Quarry Hill Winery sits perched 834 feet above Berlin Heights, Ohio while the Paper Moon Vineyards nests in the historic harbor town of Vermillion, Ohio.
While in Vermillion, be sure to visit the ludicrously delicious Wine Vault. With a newly renovated menu that’s focused more on a tapas style, it’s a refreshing style of nourishment. Try the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, lobster bisque and delicious cheese plates. Not sure while we’re giving you ideas of what to order, all of it is tremendous. You’ll see.
So next time you’d like to hit the wine trail, skip the expensive plane tickets and head north. France and California will always be there.
Have some other recommendations regarding wineries around Lake Erie? Let us know in the comment section or by tweeting @itsalwaysohio!