Award-Winning Wine in the Short North

Written by on May 10, 2011 in Wine - 19 Comments

When you think of award-winning wine, you probably picture Napa Valley or the French countryside, but High Street probably doesn’t come to mind. And that’s where you’d be missing out on Camelot Cellars, the boutique winery and wine bar located in the heart of the Short North that is attracting national attention and awards.

Camelot crafts over 70 wines on-site, and four of those have already brought medals back to central Ohio in 2011:

Florida State International Wine Competition

  • Silver Medal: Luna Rossa
  • Bordeaux blend, big, bold and bountiful with loads of rich black fruits and oak.

  • Bronze Medal: Italian Dolcetto
  • Black wine grape grown in Piedmont region of Italy. Black cherry and
    licorice taste with some prunes. Lots of fruit accompanies very soft tannins making this a
    very smooth wine.

  • Bronze Medal: Sonoma Pinot Noir
  • Silky tannins carrying notes of truffle, toast, herbs, gorgeous cassis,
    black cherry and raspberry flavors and black spice. Food-friendly, it shows restrained
    toasty oak and well balanced acidity.

Fingerlakes International Wine Competition

  • Silver Medal: Luna Rossa
  • Silver Medal: Sonoma Pinot Noir
  • Silver Medal: Cabernet Franc Ice Wine
  • Sweet and rich in texture, with rose and salmon tints of
    color, this wine entices with irresistible aromas and flavors of honey, strawberry and
    cranberry that persist to a smooth, elegant finish with hints of spice on the palate.

  • Bronze Medal: Italian Dolcetto

San Diego International Wine Competition

  • Silver Medal: Italian Dolcetto

In the previous year, Camelot won a medal for their Estate Barolo at the Indy International Wine Competition.

“We are the only Winery in Central Ohio that sources the pressed juices and grape skins from vineyards internationally assuring the wines we produce are of the highest quality,” said Camelot owner Janine Aquino. “Most Wineries source Ohio or California grapes. We have the ability to age some of our wines when most wineries don’t.”

Aquino purchased the winery in early 2011. “I personally am a 4th generation wine professional,” said Aquino. “I grew up on a vineyard, grew grapes, have made wine and have worked at half a dozen wineries. I know the Winery business inside and out.”

Camelot Cellars is located at 958 North High Street.

About the Author

Cheryl Harrison. Editor of Drink Up Columbus. Geek of the craft beer/board game/sci-fi varieties. Fan of patios.

19 Comments on "Award-Winning Wine in the Short North"

  1. Jonathan May 10, 2011 at 6:48 PM · Reply

    I thought this site was supposed to be about ‘finer inebriation.’ If that is true, you guys really need to find someone who actually knows something about wine. The first post you had was about how wine ‘won’t win’ in bars (which isn’t true) and then you feature Camelot Cellars over MUCH higher quality wine on lists at Basi Italia, Rigsby’s, and the Burgundy Room.

    Last year, CC had a Wine Margarita machine where they were making ‘Strawberry Merlot’ coming out in a slushie similar to snowcones. I’m not sure if the new owner is continuing, but I did see there recently a ‘Strawberry Margarita’ wine and something with Chocolate in it. If this is your definition of finer inebriation, lets meet up at Applebee’s for the finest in steak and appetizers. You guys obviously don’t know wine above a sorority girl ‘This is so yummy and sweet – OMFG I LOVE IT!’ mentality.

    Why are you importing grapes and skins from other countries? I thought every was about local, local, local. I would rather have my Ohio wine made with Ohio grapes and my Italian wine made in Italy.

    Hopefully your next wine post should come from knowledge of wine versus your twitter BFF list.

    • Cheryl Harrison May 10, 2011 at 7:15 PM · Reply

      Hi Jonathan,
      First, the point of this post is about specific wines made in Columbus that have won awards and is not claiming that Camelot is the best wine bar by any means, if you read it. The site has only been up for 5 weeks, so undoubtedly we will write stories about places around town with extensive wine menus at some point, so it’s not really fair to judge this post in the context that we don’t have articles about other places yet. This post was timely, as Camelot just won those awards in 2011. If you would like to contribute content to the site you can email guest posts to press@drinkupcolumbus.com. Otherwise, we’ll get to the content you want when we get there. We’re all just doing this for fun.
      Thanks for the comment,
      Cheryl

  2. Jonathan May 10, 2011 at 7:35 PM · Reply

    Cheryl-

    Sorry. Thanks for the reply – I realize it’s for fun and takes a lot of work. Just had a shitty day myself. Sorry to CC as well. Might take you up on your offer.

    • Cheryl Harrison May 10, 2011 at 8:38 PM · Reply

      No worries, we all have cranky days :) We have a post on Wyandotte winery in the works, BTW, check back soon!

  3. Janine Aquino May 11, 2011 at 9:31 AM · Reply

    Thank you Jonathan for your recent Post. I am the current owner of Camelot Cellars and yes whenever you take over an exisiting biz there are many areas to cover, one being what was done in the past may not be appropriate for the current and future. We are a Winery and not a restaurant. Wineries develop a wine list and serve based on what they craft versus a typical wine bar and restaurant that sources from distributors for the most part. You are correct, last year many things were done that I don’t intend to continue with. You inherit good and bad anytime you take over. We do appeal to all audiences from people who have never tried wine to people who really enjoy a very good glass of wine. Columbus is not NYC or Chicago and it’s vital for business survival to appeal to all. We craft locally. Many other wineries in Central Ohio get grapes from other parts of the country too. This is our choice and we stand behind it. Most wineres all over the world source grapes from all over, that is typical. The Pinot Grigio grape which is from Italy can be made here, CA and other places around the world. It does not have to be made in Italy for it to be good. I appreciate all what you had to say and we all have a choice in what we drink. Camelot Cellars is going back to its true roots, which is a working Winery producing top quality wines. Come in some time and try our newest award winners!

  4. Jan May 12, 2011 at 3:56 PM · Reply

    The references to Camelot Cellars using pressed juice, grape skins, and grapes to make wine is confusing at best and a gross misrepresentation at worst. Camelot Cellars is not crushing and pressing grapes, they are not even making wine from pure, unconcentrated juice. Instead, Camelot Cellars makes its wine using the same wine kits home winemakers use. These kits contain concentrated juice. Making wine from kits simply requires dumping the juice concentrate in a bucket and adding 6 gallons of water and the yeast packet included in the kit. Making wine this way only requires the ability to follow directions for adding the components of the kit. This is far different from a winery that makes its wine from grapes and pure, unconcentrated grape juice.

    Janine Aquino’s quote that Camelot Cellars has the space to age wine when most wineries do not is also a misrepresentation of the facts. Camelot Cellars has many of 6 gallon glass carboys (as home winemaking kits are designed to produce 6 gallons of wine) and a few very small stainless steel tanks. Other wineries have significantly more storage capacity for aging their wines than Camelot has. Most wineries have tanks that hold hundreds of gallons of wine during fermentation and aging.

    By their nature, kit wines are meant to be bottled 6-12 weeks after reconstituting the juice concentrate and fermenting it. Whereas wineries making wine from grapes and unconcentrated juice typically allow their wines to age at least 6 months (even this is a very young wine) to years before the wine is ready to be bottled.

    Sure Camelot Cellars is a winery because it produces wine. But, just as McDonald’s would not try to pass itself off as a 4 star restaurant, Camelot Cellars should not claim to be something it is clearly not.

    • Austin May 12, 2011 at 7:50 PM · Reply

      Jan,

      So what’s your point Jan? Camelot is what it is and why do you feel the need to denegrade them and the fact that they have submitted their wines to competitions and won awards for their wines? If you don’t like their wines or their way of producing their wines, fine. There is no misrepresentation of facts and your comments are uncalled for.

      They are an urban botique winery Jan….say it with me….they are not growing grapes in the back parking lot and crushing them on the second floor and they don’t purport to do that. When Janine says they have room to age the wine they make, she is obviously talking about a comparison with other similar style wineries in this area. She is not comparing her urban botique winery to vineyard wineries in California and elsewhere. You my dear have done that yourself. Therein lies the misrepresentation.

      Just because the wines of Camelot Cellars are younger than some does not mean that they are not worthy of winning awards for what they are. They are not in business to produce mature wines that when ready will sell for $100 or more per bottle and they don’t try to represent that.

      Camelot fills a niche for urbans and suburbans who want to experience making their own wine, bottling it and creating their own private label, whether it be for a special occasion or just to say they made their own wine. It’s a fun, vibrant, exciting place to visit and the experience of making your own wine is satisfying and fulfilling. And it gives them a chance to make wines from grape juice sourced from all over the world instead of just here locally.

      If you choose to enjoy wines that are more aged and more costly, good for you, you do that. In the meantime, don’t degrade the market that they are targeting just because it’s not your cup of tea so to speak.

      Their wines have won awards. They have the medals to prove it. There is no misrepresentation of facts. Camelot Cellars is an award winning botique winery. Just because you don’t like the fact that they have won awards (based on the fact that they are not pressing their own grape juice) does not make it a misrepresentation of facts.

      Now quit being silly, bitter and hateful and have a glass of whatever wine YOU enjoy and leave the rest of us alone!

    • Rick M May 12, 2011 at 8:11 PM · Reply

      Hello Jan,

      Let me first clarify, Camelot Cellars used to operate in a manner that was only “some” of what you are referring to. Again, our new local owner just took over this past February and is making many changes. She was consulting with us for at least 3-4 months prior to taking over and is in the process of making many needed changes. Since you are not here with our Winemaker, you truly don’t know how we make our wine. We do work with juice brokers in sourcing fresh juice. Yes, fresh juice and skins and there are the so-called kits too, but we do not follow a recipe. We appreciate you commenting on what you think you know. This may have been before, but that is not the case today. We are working hand in hand with our Winemaker to ensure the best quality of wines. We have a very large basement where wines are stored and yes, aged. If our wines are not what you prefer, you certainly are not required to purchase them.

  5. Julie May 12, 2011 at 7:32 PM · Reply

    So what, exactly, is wrong with Camelot Cellars offering a selection of wine that is more accessible? In the several visits I have made there, I have been able to try a large variety of wines and I have always been very pleased. It’s great that we can get locally produced wines in Columbus. If it’s not your cup of tea, that is fine. The medals, though, speak for themselves.

  6. Tyler May 12, 2011 at 7:37 PM · Reply

    Wow some harsh comments. Personally I like Camelot. I may be an inexperienced wine drinker compared to the other posters on this site but Camelot had friendly, knowledgeable staff that assisted me with a wine selection that went over very well with friends of mine. They were also able to customize a wine label for me that turned a standard bottle of wine into a very personal gift for a loved one.

    Being an inexperienced wine drinker that was turned on to the finer arts of wine by Camelot, I would say they are doing the wine community a tremendous service and bringing a new crowd to the market. I tried the other wine shops along high st and Camelot was the one that made me feel the most comfortable and welcome. My humble knowledge of wine was embraced rather then snubbed and I ended up with a tasty selection.

    As for the wine specialists out there, Camelot has to be doing something right to win these awards. Might want to taste the wine they offer before you judge their methods. As for me, I will keep buying from Camelot.

  7. Janine Aquino May 12, 2011 at 8:34 PM · Reply

    Hi “Jan”,

    My Father made wine in many different ways as I grew up watching him. While at his wine importing company in Manhattan, I learned that side of the business as well. I have a rich family history in winemaking and the importing business. I know how wines can be made. Many many wineries all over the country source juices and skins from other vineyards. Some vineyards in France go so far as to just simply buy bottled wine and slap their label on it. Do you know which ones do that? I do. They don’t even craft their own wine. Did you know our Cabernet Franc wine was made using fresh juice and skins brought to us by refrigerated truck from Chile? Did you know we have many other pressed juices/skins coming to us from other parts of the world by refrigerated truck? Yes, we do use some concentrates and yes, we also use fresh juices/skins. Did you know some top wineries in the country use concentrated juice to enhance flavor in the blending process? In order to produce wines that taste similar year to year, a winery must take measures to ensure similar taste quality. At the end of the day, a consumer bases their decision on taste and price point.

  8. Marsha May 12, 2011 at 9:50 PM · Reply

    Wow, is this how people treat small businesses that are succeeding in such a difficult economy, especially in the Short North?

    It’s obvious the pompous email above is from someone from other local wine and liquor makers in the SN. An expensive PR campaign would work better for you guys, really. We all know you want to be the only ones out there so you are asking people to smear Camelot.

    Are we in the fourth grade?

    I like Camelot Wines. It could be made in a shoe box and I would still drink it. Apparently, lots of other people do, too. And, so do judges.

  9. Greg May 12, 2011 at 11:25 PM · Reply

    So, the best unknown place in the Short North meets with success.
    Camelot Cellars, for me, has always been a great place to stop in in the evening after work and enjoy a glass of wine or two. It has also been the ‘go to’ place for me as I bring friend to the Short North for Gallery Hop each month and we have a large wait at a restaurant. I love taking my friends there to enjoy some wine while waiting for dinner.
    I guess now that they’ve started winning awards, more people will start hearing about them, and the quiet sleepy little winery will become a popular, hip joint and ‘the place to be’.
    To those that are the naysayers here, I would have given them their medals years ago.
    What took the judges so long?
    Having read Cheryl’s initial post, if you check out the competitions Camelot has received awards from, they’re not anything to sneeze at. Sure, they’re not the fancyschmanzy competitions you’d see in Europe that have hundreds of years of tradition and heritage, but for the first year of winning awards for their wines, I’d say Camelot has collected a pretty good stash of bling for themselves.
    Besides, awards or not, I like their wines and will keep going back no matter if someone looks down their haughty nose at how they wines are made. (it tastes good and fits my wallet, so I like how its made. Period)
    Keep up the award winning work, Camelot.
    Greg

  10. Susan L. May 13, 2011 at 9:17 AM · Reply

    I have known Janine almost her entire life. I basically grew up with the Aquino family and helped them on their family vineyard. I would have dinner with them on Sunday and watch how her Father would teach her and her siblings how to taste wine, what to look for in a glass of wine and more. Wine was the Aquino blood. They lived it. As Janine grew up, she took to wine more than anyone in her family. She became her Father’s apprentice. Janine made wine and my Mother was always requesting it. She just developed a knack for it. After college, Janine was offered several positions with wineries in CA, but she declined them, because she wasn’t ready to move away from her family. The Aquino name is very prominent in NY and she felt the need to stay. When she told me about Camelot, I was absolutely thrilled! She finally is doing what she knows best…finally! You all have no idea what her capabilities are. She is very modest. If she is saying she is changing how things are, you could put money on it. I know what she is doing there…I know about concentrates, fresh juice/skins and more just from learning what her Father taught her. She has an incredible palate and knows how to taste wine and how to make wine. I find it pathetic to say the least, that there are people out there who have NO idea what they are talking about. I actually feel bad that Janine even has to defend herself. Janine, when you read this, don’t listen to these wannabes. You know your stuff and all of us back home love you dearly!

  11. Jonathan May 15, 2011 at 1:02 AM · Reply

    Personally, I find Janine’s comment that this isnt NY or Chicago very insulting. Many businesses around the short north succeed without ‘dumbing it down’ for the Columbus audience. Instead they try to bring a piece of larger cities to Columbus and trust the public will respond rather than saying – hey it’s Columbus, what do you expect?

  12. Janine Aquino May 16, 2011 at 8:54 AM · Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    Exactly, we are bringing a lot of new and exciting flavor to Camelot Cellars. Everything is in the works. We are sorry you are not a fan of Camelot. Not sure what more I can say or do to please you. If you’d rather not support Camelot, please continue to support other local business that is more to your liking. Thank you.

  13. maeve m May 27, 2011 at 9:55 PM · Reply

    My husband and I were in Columbus visiting friends and they took us to Camelot for a wonderful evening! We love wine and have been fortunate to visit vinyards from Cali to Italy (and even some in Southern Ohio where we currently live). Camelot’s is fun, informative and tasty. I hope to go back and take advantage of the fun Wine making that I learned about on our visit.

    Keep up the good times, Camelot! And congrats on your award winning wines!

  14. vince anastasi November 10, 2011 at 1:04 PM · Reply

    I note the medals are for 2011. The owner bought the place in 2011. The owner claims to age the wine. So, did the owner time-travel to the past to 2009 to make this wine to enter it this year as ageing is a 14 to 24 month process, depending on blend. Or, as I suspect, she fired up the juice and got a batch out or bought in shiners that she just put her label on. Has anyone seen her barrels for ageing? Did she crush the grapes in the shop – it is a shop, right?
    Also, my research in this area shows the only winery in columbus that actually has pictures of its process and has barrels is via vecchia winery where they crush the grapes once a year. When was camelot’s crush?

  15. Janine Aquino November 10, 2011 at 2:49 PM · Reply

    Vince,

    There are wines in the basement that have been aging since 2007. If you like, I can give you a personal tour. Wines can be aged in a variety of ways including bottle aging. All of the wines we submitted were our wines, period. There was no label slapping from someone else’s wines and I take personal offense to that comment and would be careful to not sound accusatory. With regard to aging, if you are so familiar with the process, you must know about how some wines age for 20 years, such as some Bordeaux and Burgundies. They are bottle aged, not barrel aged

    We bring in juices and skins when necessary. We have never claimed that we crush grapes. Most wineries today buy juice from other wineries to supplement. Since we are urban, this is what we do. More and more wineries are purchasing this way, hence the reason there are juice brokers. I’m sure you are familiar with this process of purchasing as well.

    By the way, Via Vecchia are not the only ones that process wines with crushing grapes. There are others too in Central Ohio. Via Vecchia crafts really good wines! Great guys over there. Happy to address your concerns and invite you to tour our basement! Also feel free to shop wherever you like. Love the fact Central Ohio has so many wineries to choose from.

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