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Lake Erie is for Wine Lovers

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!

Firelands Winery Facebook

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.

Heineman’s Winery Facebook

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.

Quarry Hill Winery Facebook Page

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.

Wine Vault Facebook Page

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!

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These 8 Pizza Places in Ohio Will Melt Your Buds

These circular, sometimes square or rectangular cheesy pies from heaven are what we imagine the ancient Greek gods would eat.  Or wait, maybe Italian gods.  You understand what we’re getting at.  Pizza is life, which is why we’re here to give you our suggestions when it comes to finding this wonderful sustenance in the state of Ohio.

Cameo PizzaSandusky – Family owned and operated since 1936, this iconic Sandusky, Ohio establishment has been making pizza their way for a long, long time.  Talk to anyone from this boating town about pizza and you’ll immediately be inundated about why pizza should be cut in strips and not triangles — That’s Cameo’s doing.  Recently updated with an outdoor patio, new front facade and upstairs area called TopSide, Cameo is truly a staple on the north coast. Whether you’re riding rollercoasters at Cedar Point, island hopping or just cruising around Sandusky, it’s a must-visit. Need a place to stay? Check out one of our favorites, the rooftop-bar-equipped Hotel Kilbourne.

Cameo Pizza Facebook

Avalanche PizzaAthens – Turn around and head far south to the home of Ohio University and you’ll find Avalanche Pizza, which is home to some phenomenal creations like the Veggie Garden and the K-2.  Really want to go big? Try the pizza that won “Best Pizza in the USA” at the World Pizza Championship in Saggiamore, Italy — The Godzilla.

Avalanche Pizza Facebook

Harvest PizzariaColumbus – While this operation has three spots all around Columbus, we’ve only tried Harvest right next to Curio, a high-end cocktail bar we also thoroughly enjoyed. Striving to use only the finest, locally sourced ingredients, Harvest puts out some unbelievably tasty pies.  Somehow both crispy and chewy, yet thin enough to hold all of the toppings, their crust is the real deal — Almost positive you could eat it with zero toppings.  Please however, add toppings.  Three words: Ohio Double Bacon.

Harvest Pizzeria Facebook

Coccia HouseWooster – Upon first glance, the Coccia House looks like a personal residence masquerading as a restaurant and that’s because, well, it is. Back in 1958, Domenica “Minnie” Coccia did just that, turned her home into an Italian restaurant. This old school gem, aside from a few additions, hasn’t changed much and that’s a great thing. Truth be told, this place is so cool that the pizza tasting fantastic was just a bonus — And if you don’t believe us, this stuff is so good, they have shipped it all over the world to places like Papa New Guinea and Iraq.  Want to look like a Wooster local?  Order the Pepperoni Bread that’s not on the menu.

Coccia House Facebook

A TavolaCincinnati – This innovative, communal gathering spot meant to replicate an Italian Trattoria started in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and has since then expanded to the suburbs in Madeira, and that’s for good reason: This place is just cool.  From the atmosphere and vibe to the thing that we’re here to talk about, pizza.  I mean, the pizza oven apparently came from Naples, Italy, so there’s that.  Do we even need to say more? Seriously though, it’s quite possible the best Neapolitan Thin Crust Pizza we’ve ever had, and that’s something.

A Tavola Pizza Facebook

Frosty BarPut-in-Bay – There’s something about pizza on an island, we’ll admit that.  Simply, yet delicious, the pizza at Frosty Bar isn’t going to knock your socks off the first time you have it, but we’ll guarantee you’ll want more.  Perhaps that’s partly because of our affinity for this island, but it’s mostly about the sweet, tomatoey goodness that’s stealthily hidden underneath a thick of layer of melty cheese. Is there better pizza around? Maybe. Is any of that pizza on Put-in-Bay? Probably not. Need to get over to the island on a budget? Check out the Miller Ferry where the R/T tickets are a mere $14.

Frosty Bar Facebook

Scotti’s Italian EateryCleveland – We’re going to keep this short, mainly because we’re still out of breath from attacking the Meat Lover’s pizza here.  Ready for this?  A huge piece of pie with pepperoni, ham, salami, bacon, chicken sausage, meatballs, house Italian sausage and ridiculously thin sheets of prosciutto. Game. Set. Match. Scotti’s – 1. It’s Always Ohio – 0.

Scotti’s Italian Eatery Facebook

Marion’s PizzaDayton – For 52 years, Marion’s has been firing out delicious, handmade pizza.  With nine locations, this Dayton staple has expanded, yet stayed true to its values by serving the same “Dayton-style” thin crust pizza that’s cut into squares, instead of slices. Lightly cheesed, heavy on the toppings and just the perfect sized square so that you can just keep popping them in your mouth. Feeling a bit wild? Try their Super Cheese…it’s exactly what you’re imagining.

Marion’s Pizza Facebook

As we say, listing our favorites is always tough because there are so many choices out there. We could’ve easily thrown Bar Cento in Cleveland on there or even thrown a shout out to the legendary Myle’s Pizza in Bowling Green — R.I.P.

Have a favorite pizza place in Ohio that you think is the best? Let us know!

 

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Put-in-Bay’s First Music Festival Looks Awesome and You Should Go

Once in a while you’ll find two things that go together to form a perfect, harmonious balance otherwise unseen in ordinary combinations.  Ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, Jordan and Pippen…we all know the classics.  One such marriage, one we consider to be among the classics, is Put-in-Bay, Ohio and music.  The two have always worked together, delighting locals and visitors alike with tunes from fantastic bands hailing from all across the country.  This is why when we found out that the already live music-laden island will be putting on the inaugural Put-in-Bay Music Festival, we were stoked.

Some of the best parts about the festival?  Just a $7 ticket on the Miller Ferry to Put-in-Bay gets you in and once you’re in, the fest takes place in front of one of the most picturesque backdrops on all of South Bass Island — Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial.

In true Perry’s Victory style, the Put-in-Bay Music Festival is all about two other things that go very well together, peace and music.

Seven stellar bands will perform including the Flyin’ Jays, Emily Keener from The Voice, MC Bob Gatewood, JP and the Chatfield Boys, Mo ‘Mojo, Strung Like a Horse and the Floorwalkers. Legendary performer Pat Dailey just recently agreed to perform his new song during the day-long festival.

The music line up is tentatively set (times are approximate and subject to change):

11:15am – Flyin’ Jays

12:15pm – Emily Keener

1:15pm – Bob Gatewood

2:00pm – JP and the Chatfield Boys

3:15pm – Mo ‘Mojo

4:15pm – Pat Dailey

5:00pm – Strung Like a Horse

6:45pm – Floorwalkers

Free music workshops will be given during the day. Mo ‘Mojo will give a workshop on zydeco dance, and a second on drumming. Islander Dick McCarthy will also give two workshops on playing the ukulele, one for beginners and a second for those with some experience. There will also be a “Guitar Hero” competition in the workshop tent.  There will also be two cornhole tournaments, so bring your “A” game.

To plan your island visit to the June 10 Put-in-Bay Music Festival check out the following websites; pibmusicfest.com, millerferry.com, & visitputinbay.com.

Want more music? Toby Keith is performing at Put-in-Bay on Thursday, August 31.  Thats right, Toby Keith. Well played PIB, well played.  More details soon…

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5 Things in Ohio She’ll Love on Mother’s Day

It’s pretty simple, you owe a lot to your mother.  It’s not really up for debate, she was the one who created you — Literally.  And that’s no offense to dad, because clearly he played a very important role, but let’s be honest…she had it a little bit tougher don’t you think?  It’s for this reason among a litany of others that you should probably think about doing something special this Sunday.  Luckily for all us Ohio residents, there’s no shortage of fun and unique things to do.  While there’s way, way more than five, we’re going to give you just a few of the activities we like best.

Annual Mother’s Day Tea at The Culinary Vegetable Institute — If you haven’t already been, Mother’s Day is the perfect excuse to visit this Ohio gem.  Highly renowned chef’s from all over the world gather here to focus on how they can benefit from the unique, sustainable vegetables grown right here in Ohio.  What’s that mean?  Super tasty food is what we’re guessing and that’s awesome because mom loves food and when you take her to the serene setting of the Chef’s Garden, she’ll love you forever (Even though she already does).  At the Mother’s Day Tea event you’ll sip on sumptuous tea while enjoying a lavish spread of decadent sweets and savory offering with a contemporary twist amidst a rustic, springtime decor.  Enjoy!

Culinary Vegetable Institute Facebook

Take the Miller Ferry to Put-in-Bay for a Day — Our affinity for Put-in-Bay has already been well documented, which is precisely why we think you should take your mother there.  She’ll not only appreciate a tasty lunch at the Reel Bar or maybe even a quick adult beverage at the Round House, but really enjoy the zen-like ride aboard the Miller Ferry on the way over.  At about 20 minutes long, it’s the perfect time to chart your own course for the day and chat about how much you appreciate everything she does.  Pro Mom Tip: Grab a golf cart from E’s after sauntering up the hill and head out out Scheef Park for some alternate island perspective.

Explore the New Hiking Trails at Hocking Hills State Park — From up north at Put-in-Bay to down south at Hocking Hills, we’re all over the place and we know it.  It’s fine though, just hop in the car and drive…nowhere in Ohio is that far.  Especially when we’re talking about this place because it’s 100% worth this trip.  They’ve also just opened a two new beautiful trail systems, something they haven’t done in 50 years.  One of which will take you to the second-largest cave in Ohio.  So you can help navigate your way to the freshly cut trails when you arrive, look for the names Whispering Cave and Hemlock — the two new monikers for the bridge trails connecting to the Old Man Trail System. Since we let you in on this cool news, all we ask is that you take pictures and share with us.  Sound good?  Perfect.

Unplug and Create Scented Soy Candles at Manitou Candle Co. — So, this place is seriously cool and your mom will not just like it, she’ll love it.  This mellow, yet somehow vibrant space in the Columbia Tusculum neighborhood of Cincinnati is the perfect spot to shut off your phone and just do something different.  Not only will your learn the art of making scented soy candles at Manitou, but leave with some really unique tangible memories.  Learn well and smell good my friends.

Manitou Candles Facebook

Explore a Small Town — Honestly, this one is tough because Ohio is chock full of really unique small towns.  So instead of focusing on just one, we’ll rattle off a few.  Yellow Springs is easily one of our favorites and it’s not just because Dave Chapelle lives there.  This cute town has a super mellow, almost hippy vibe that we really dig.  Stroll downtown and visit Dark Star Books, Dino’s Coffee Shop or the Yellow Springs Brewery.  Next up, Wooster.  We’ve talked about this one before, but it’s definitely worth a revisit.  Bustling with energy and what seems like a new restaurant opening every few months, this charming town is perfect for a day visit with mom.  Our recommendations?  Lunch at the newly renovated Spoon Market & Deli followed up by coffee and Hungarian pastries at Tulipan.  If you feel like you need more time, stay in lavish quarters of the St. Paul Hotel, which just added new four new rooms for added vacancy.  And last but not least, Oberlin.  Of course you kind of have to hit up the Frank Lloyd House, because it’s the Frank Lloyd House.  You’re going to want to grab your bike as well — Oberlin’s numerous bike trails lend perfectly to this mode of transportation. Where to eat?  Try the Italian Hash N’ Eggs for brunch or The Feve Burger with pickled jalapeno at The Feve.  Anything that’s pickled is fantastic.  You can take that to the bank.

Spoon Market and Deli Facebook

Have something you’d like to add to this list?  Let us know!

PS. We love you mom.

Sandusky, Ohio Has a Boutique Hotel? 

We’re just as surprised as you.  If you had the chance to read our “Sandusky is Shedding the Rust and Quietly Becoming Awesome” post, you’d have seen that we technically knew it was coming, so I guess we can’t be all that surprised.  It’s just that seeing it in person and talking about it are two very different things. This is the kind of stuff you see in larger, hipper towns like Austin, Texas or Cleveland, not Sandusky, Ohio.  We’re not talking a Red Roof Inn right off the highway.  We’re talking about a legitimate local hotel opened by legitimate locals.  But then again, Sandusky really is becoming awesome.  Or better yet, it IS awesome.

The Hotel Kilbourne is the product of two local visionaries by the name of Ryan Whaley and Nikki Lloyd.  The couple’s ideas first came together in the form of a 1930’s themed speakeasy just down the street from the hotel dubbed Volstead Bar.  Specializing in booze forward old school cocktails, the joint is definitely something usually reserved for larger cities, much like the aforementioned hotel.

front-of-hotel-kilbourne

So, first things first.  You’re probably wondering where the name came from and the answer is quite interesting.  Hector Kilbourne, a Freemason and the surveyor who created the original plat of Sandusky in 1816 back when the town was called Portland, laid out the streets to form the Masonic emblem.  If you’ve ever spent much time driving around Sandusky, he’s the one to blame for all the weird angles.  Thanks Hector.  Onto the hotel itself.

Located in the center of Sandusky’s entertainment district, The Hotel Kilbourne is ideally situated just steps away from the city’s best amenities.  See a show at the beautiful Sandusky State Theatre, pop into Small City Taphouse for some sushi and craft beer or slide into hearth tavern for a wood fired pizza.  Or you could just walk around and take let your eyeballs feast on stuff like this…

freighter-sandusky-ohio

The hotel itself is comprised of nine modern, deluxe rooms.  Visitors staying the night will have their choice of a luxury city view, luxury lake view or penthouse suite.  Along with boasting a spacious living area, the penthouse suite has a nifty Murphy bed that folds up into the wall, making it a unique room perfect for hosting small events as well.

room-poster-hotel-kilbourne

This place is seriously cool and you get that sense when you walk into he lobby.  Simple with clean lines everywhere, yet elegant enough to know you’re in for a luxurious stay.  The cucumber infused water is a nice touch as well.

A lot of the facets built into the hotel rooms were meant not only to create a unique space, but preserve the historic integrity that’s so important to many of those who grew up around the area.  Like these beams for example, which have been kept during the gutting process and repurposed inside a few of the rooms.

beam-hotel-kilbourne-ohio

Now to the bathrooms, which if you’re like me, have to be solid.  You’ll first notice the size, which is more than ample.  Beautiful tiled floors lead into showers that are big enough to fit a party of 10.  Quit snickering, we’re not insinuating anything.  They’re just very spacious.  The showers also come equipped with rain style shower heads, which unfortunately, is going to run you about $150 and a trip to Home Depot when you immediately realize it’s missing from your personal bathroom.

bathroom-hotel-kilbourne

rain-shower-head-kilbourneMore bathroom stuff, because we like bathroom stuff — This place has Molton Brown soaps.  If you’ve never heard of them, it’s pretty much body cleansing heaven.  Blended in England, it’s clear these folks like smelling good and lucky for visitor’s of the Hotel Kilbourne, you’ll come out smelling like Tom Brady.

Oh yes, did we mention this place had two bars?  One of them being a rooftop scenario?  On the lobby floor through one set of glass doors you’ll find Moseley’s Public House.  A great spot with and small patio and glass doors that supply patrons with a panoramic view of Jackson Street Pier on Sandusky Bay.  We dig the vibe in there as well —  Upscale enough that you feel like you’re fairly important, but just mellow enough so you watch an Indians game and not feel like you need turn up your nose.  A carefully thought out selection of wines fits perfectly next to a few select cocktails and of course all of the assumed accoutrements of a nicely stocked lounge.

moseleys-public-house

While the lobby bar is open seven days of a week, Moseley’s Rooftop Bar is only Friday – Sunday, weather dependent and usually closes around ten to not wake the tenants, so be swift on your fourth floor voyage.  Once you’re up there however, the place offers up a spectacular view of Sandusky Bay and the surrounding Lake Erie region.  Be sure to grab yourself a Modelo Especial on draught, as they’re only $3.00.

rooftop

So if you need a good night’s sleep before hitting Put-in-Bay, staying for a Cedar Point weekend or just simply just in town for a drink, check this place out.  You’ll see just exactly why we’re so stoked on Sandusky, Ohio.

Hey Fellas, Here’s a Few Last Minute Valentine’s Day Ideas

No doubt you’ve seen a few Valentines’s Day posts pop up in your FaceBook feed a month or two ago, yet dismissed them with a procrastination that’s unfortunately present in most of us.  This is precisely why I decided to come up with a few ideas four measly days before because let’s face it, we’ve all waited until now anyway.

Fly by the seat of your pants and road trip to an event

Chocolate Daze 2016 — Wooster, Ohio

Celebrate your last minute creativity and pop on down to Wooster, Ohio for their 10th annual Chocolate Daze.  Since this event runs from Friday, February 12 to Saturday, February 13, you’ll really have to beat feet.  The event showcases 25+ merchants offering up confectionary specials during their regular business hours.  And as a bonus you get to explore the streets of Wooster, which are undeniably sweet.

DTWoo
Credit Main Street Wooster

Columbus Symphony — Columbus, Ohio

Valentine’s Day doesn’t always have to involve chocolate and wine.  How about the tasty tunes of a Los Angeles-based Journey tribute band collaborating with the Columbus Symphony?  Time-defying power ballads are always romantic, especially “Faithfully.”  Showtime is 8:00 pm on Saturday and tickets range from $25 – $68.

 

Dinner with a twist or just a very good dinner

Punch Bowl Social Club — Cleveland, Ohio

Playing games together can be really romantic.  Leaning over your loved one while you gently direct the pool cue in the right direction or taking ahold of a bowling ball at the same time during a moment on the lanes — yikes, it’s getting hot in here.  The Punch Bowl offers billiards, bowling, ping pong, old school arcade games, board games, darts and shuffleboard.  Combine that with a locally sourced, organic ingredient driven menu at the GastroDiner and you’re looking at a date night hit.

B & B Riverboat Cruise — Cincinnati, Ohio

It’s tough to find something more romantic than a Valentine’s Day riverboat cruise on the Ohio River.  Like the folks at B & B say, let the captain be your cupid.  While I don’t usually condone buffets, the menu includes chocolate short ribs, which I’m thinking can’t be bad.  Act quickly though as Sunday is the last weekend boat available.  Total price for two is around $110.

Riverboat
Credit B&B Riverboat FaceBook

The Orchard — Port Clinton, Ohio

Much fresher than your old pickup lines, one thing will stand out here: ingredients.  One of the best new restaurants in the area, The Orchard creatively prepares phenomenal dishes that are focused on natural and locally grown ingredients.  Visit their FaceBook page to check out their long list of Valentine’s Day specials, which span the length of the entire weekend.  I’ll put my money on the lobster-stuffed portabella mushrooms.  Make sure to check out there tremendous specialty cocktails as well.

Orchard
Credit The Orchard FaceBook Page

The Rail — North Olmsted, Fairlawn & Canton, Ohio

A burger and a beer may not seem like the most romantic thing ever, but c’mon, their burger of the month is called The Heartbreaker — A blend of Ohio beef & Ohio andouille sausage topped with sweet roasted red pepper cream cheese spread, lettuce and tomato.  Then of course you must wash it down with a rare Cincinnati beer, which are cameoed on tap for the special month-long FeBREWary event.  Painstakingly focused on all things Ohio, it makes perfect sense to celebrate Valentine’s Day Ohio-style here.  Plus, who want’s to dress up anyway?  Just one more suggestion, try the Truth IPA from Rhinegeist.

Burgers W:BackgroundLogo
Credit The Rail

Go outside-of-the-box

Chocolate & Beer Valentine’s Day 5K & 10K — Dayton, Ohio

Now this one could go one of two ways.  It’s either “Wow, that’s such an ridiculously unique and fun idea,” or “Wow, you’re dumb.  Let’s go eat somewhere and get chocolate afterward.”  But of course you know whether or not your significant other is a beer drinker/runner, so it’ll most likely be a fairly educated decision.  The race does come with a box of locally made Kilwin’s chocolates and a cold beer, so that makes it quite a bit more enticing.  The 10K starts at 3:00 pm and the 5K starts at 3:15 pm.  There’s also a costume contest so be sure to dress up and then head over to Brixx Ice Company for the afterparty.

 

The old standby

Tre Sorelle Cioccolato — Sandusky, Ohio

There’s a reason chocolate is the unrivaled Valentine’s Day king and Tre Sorelle is the perfect example why.  Consistently ranked very high among the Ohio confectioner elite, these ladies really turn out the tasty truffles.  Alliteration aside, I’m serious, these things are unbelievable.  Merlot.  Apple Pie.  Raspberry Champagne.  Ice Wine.  Take your pick, you will not be disappointed.  Or just go for the chocolate-dipped strawberries, because those always work.

Tres

Is there a place in Ohio that just has be on this list?  Please share below, on Twitter @ItsAlwaysOhio or on FaceBook!

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