Destination Drinking: Lake Erie Wines

Written by on March 29, 2018 in Wine - 2 Comments

Ohio was the number one state for grape growing in the country before prohibition, which virtually wiped out the industry for several decades. But today, Ohio’s wine culture is once again thriving: the Buckeye State is the sixth largest wine producer in the United States, with more than 280 wineries, 950 acres of vineyards and over a million gallons of wine produced here each year.

Ohio is home to five recognized viticultural appellations — a fancy word that refers to the region where the grapes are grown. I recently ventured to the Sandusky area to visit a few of the wineries in the Lake Erie and Isle St. George appellations.

Paper Moon Vineyards

Paper Moon Vineyards
2008 State Rd, Vermilion, OH

Paper Moon Vineyards was opened in 2009 by father/son team Richard and Adam Cawrse on a 50 acre property just west of the Vermilion River in the historic harbour town of Vermilion. The vineyard grows many of its own hybrid grapes, though also imports some drier varietals (which are harder to grow in Ohio’s frigid climate) from California. Paper Moon produces 10,000 gallons of wine annually, in addition to a mead (honey wine) and a delightfully dry cider. The Paper Moon tasting room is much more welcoming than the bland tractor barn appears from the outside, inviting guests to enjoy a glass or two by the cozy fireplace or on the massive enclosed patio. Paper Moon serves a simple menu of sandwiches and salads, and regularly features live music in their taproom.

Vermilion Valley Vineyards

Vermilion Winery
11005 Gore Orphanage Road, Wakeman, OH

Deceptively located neither in the city of Vermilion nor in a valley (the winery’s name pays homage to the Vermilion River Watershed in which the winery resides), Vermilion Valley Vineyards opened in Wakeman in 2009, at which time owner Joe Juniper became the youngest winery owner in east coast history at age 22. Now 26, he and his wife produce 100% estate grown wine with an emphasis on environmental sustainability. Vermillion Valley grows 16 acres of old-word European vinefra grapes which, through merging with another winery and utilizing other planting sites, they plan to increase to 120 acres by 2020. Their taproom is a small but inviting farmhouse overlooking a scenic pond which the winery uses to geothermally heat the winery, part of their commitment to sustainability.

Quarry Hill Winery

Quarry Hill Winery
8403 Mason Rd #2, Berlin Heights, OH

Family-owned farm Quarry Hill Orchards has been harvesting tree fruits in Berlin Heights since 1931, adding a winery to the operation in 2005. Though 140 acres of the farm is devoted to apples, peaches, cherries and pears, 4 acres are dedicated to growing grapes for Quarry Hill’s estate-grown wines. The tasting room is situated in a cozy house and offers panoramic views of the picturesque property, or visitors can take a wagon ride — on which adorable doggos Walter and Hudson are likely to join you — around the orchards, meadows and nature preserve at Edison Woods MetroParks.

Firelands Winery

Firelands Winery
917 Bardshar Rd, Sandusky, OH

Situated in Sandusky, Firelands Winery was established in 1880 (originally as the Mantey Family Vineyard) and is one of the state’s oldest wineries. Present-day owner and vintner Claudio Salvador is an Italian winemaker who has been with Firelands since 1984. In addition to producing their own catalog of award-winning wines, Salvador began an import portfolio of Italian wines about 14 years ago, offering over 200 wines from 35 Italian winemakers in their large retail shop. In 2017, Firelands added Osteria Gusto, an exposition kitchen where guests can watch chefs prepare their meal.

full disclosure: Ohio Grape Industries covered expenses for this trip

About the Author

Cheryl Harrison. Editor of Drink Up Columbus. Co-Founder of the Columbus Ale Trail.

2 Comments on "Destination Drinking: Lake Erie Wines"

  1. Keith Pritchard March 30, 2018 at 2:33 PM · Reply

    Wine kills human pathogens and has no history of food safety issues, and since licensing passed in a 2009 budget bill (by surprise) we have been subject to food processing licensing and regulation by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. This is duplicate of licensing and regulation as provided in Ohio liquor codes. Many other states exempt from this sort of duplicate licensing and regulation. Ohio’s regulation is superfluous, unnecessary, duplicate and also discriminates against Ohio wineries by wineries from out of state that are not subject to the same food processing licensing and regulatory costs that sell wholesale in Ohio. As a traditional artisan winemaker that values microbial diversity in the winery environment I also find the regulation is in direct opposition to my winemaking principles. or

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