A brief sampling of Northeastern Ohio Wineries-July 4th weekend.
On my recent visit back to my hometown of Cleveland, I spent a day with some old friends from the Mentor area. Kate Harrison, widow of my old friend and fellow musician Rick Harrison, led the ten of us on a ride through some of her favorite wineries in north-eastern Ohio.
The day was breezy, cloudy and unseasonably cool for early July (my birthday, in fact), but it didn’t matter. We drank, laughed loudly and enjoyed great food as well as each other’s company.
-South River Vineyard, Geneva, Ohio – Our first stop was possibly one of the most interesting buildings housing a winery I’ve ever been in. A 115 year old small wooden church sits on a 45 acre vineyard estate and acts as the tasting room. The old wooden pews are used facing each other with small tables in between to create an intimate atmosphere. We sat on the huge outdoor cement patio enjoying the view and sadly a heavy wind. Our gabbing was occasionally interrupted by the sound of a concrete cutting machine plus some other loud equipment as the winery was in the process of building a brand new above ground cave.
I sampled a very nice Cabernet/Merlot blend named Karma that was very surprising. Dry with a pleasant nose, the wine did not make me think of the old days of Lake Erie country wines. In fact for the reasonable price of $17, I would gladly purchase it again.
The Pinot Grigio was fair but lacked the true fruit finish of even a cheaper priced bottle found in an average wine shop-. But I admit, it was the more popular one wine in the group of mostly white wine drinkers….so what do I know?
A generous complimentary wine and fruit plate added to the overall excellent experience.
If making your way through Ohio wine country, this is a must see stop.
-Ferrante Winery, Harpersfield Township, Ohio – A relatively new building replaces the one that burned down several years ago, this ‘winery’ is a restaurant without any disguise. Packed with as many wine related goodies as any ‘corporate’ winery in Napa Valley, this place takes the intimate away but keeps the hospitality huge.
In need of a food break (before heading to our friend Fred’s cottage on the Grand River for a cook out!), we ordered appetizers galore. Cheese garlic bread, Bruschetta, Margarita Pizza, Calamari and more filled us up and kept the crowd happy.
The Gewürztraminer (or as my pal Kate insisted on pronouncing it Gevertz-Heimer) was met with mixed reviews from the ‘white’ drinking folks.
I enjoyed the Cab Franc and would argue it was a fair as any low end, simple California version. Not a bad choice with my pizza.
-Harpersfield Vineyard, Harpersfield Township, Ohio – After an excellent cookout at Fred’s (and games around the fire pit), we found our way to this cozy and versatile winery. The main tasting room is where you order your wine by the glass or bottle as well as the indoor option of sitting by the gigantic fireplace. The tasting room can fit a fair amount of folks but it’s the outdoor area that has all the charm.
Both under the sky and under a tent, the table area outdoor section is one of the nicest I’ve seen. With two crazy Jack Russell terriers (terrors?) holding court on the property, the space is large enough to get away from the live entertainment, which is indeed worth staying close to, soooo why would you want to?
The food is delivered by number to your table and is again a major surprise.
I sampled the cheese plate and ordered for myself the Pesto Pizza. With fresh tomatoes and pesto, the pizza alone was worth the trip.
Kate introduced me to the owner but we had no chance to talk business, as the place was busy with many visitors.
So at the end of the day I was asked how I would compare this trip to a day in Napa or Sonoma.
My answer is, if you are with good friends drinking good wine (or even grape juice), even the Ohio weather can’t bring you down.
My (Napa Valley) hats off the Ohio grape growers and wine makers….well done!