Why Ohio is The Midwest’s Next Wine Destination

Right in the global "Pinot Belt," Ohio has the potential to produce some serious attention-grabbing wines. While many of its bottles often stay within the state, here are the regions and wineries you'll want to keep an eye out for.
Illustration by Kavel Rafferty

In the mid-1800s, eccentric millionaire Nicholas Longworth pioneered U.S. wine production when he began growing Catawba grapes along the Ohio River to make sparkling wine. The wine became sought after both across America and abroad, and it put Ohio at the center of the country’s wine industry. The vines ultimately fell victim to disease, which ground wine production to a halt that same century. But over the last few decades, it’s begun to flourish again.

Ohio has 280 wineries

Sixth-largest wine producer in the U.S

Wineries to Know
Ferrante Winery, Firelands Winery, Gervasi Vineyard
Meranda-Nixon Winery, Valley Vineyards

While most of the bottlings crafted by Ohio’s 280 wineries stay within the state, their quality reaches beyond borders. Several have been entered in—and won—national and international competitions. The global “Pinot belt,” which runs through Burgundy and the Willamette Valley, lands on the south shore of Lake Erie, which means the Buckeye State has innate potential for attention-worthy wines.

How New Jersey is Producing Some of the Best Wines in the East

“This region is booming with new vineyards and wineries, and we’re getting some recognition,” says Art Pietrzyk, owner/winemaker at St. Joseph Vineyard, who started growing his Pinot Noir in 1986.

Top grapes
Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling
Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Sauvignon, Marquette, Catawba
Concord, Niagara

5 American Viticultural Areas
Lake Erie, Isle St. George,
Grand River Valley, Ohio River Valley, Loramie Creek

Longer growing seasons in the Grand River Valley and Lake Erie appellations allow the finicky Pinot Noir to flourish, as does Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling.

“We can produce nationally acclaimed vinifera, award-winning sweet wines and wines from grapes that have difficulty surviving in inclement climates,” says Doniella Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association. “And the winemakers are passionate about what they do, and that passion is palpable.”

6 Wine Trails
Lake Erie Shores and Islands Trail
Lake Erie Vines and Wines Trail
Canal Country Trail
Appalachian Wine Trail (Southeast Ohio bordering West Virginia)
Ohio River Valley Wine Trail (along the Ohio River in Cincinnati to Dayton)
Capital City Trail (Columbus region)

Some wines, such as those from Firelands Winery, are available in markets like Chicago, but Ohio’s wine industry remains largely a well-kept secret. That may not last long.

“We’re on the cusp of something huge,” says Andrew Codispoti, head winemaker at Gervasi Vineyard in Canton, which also offers several popular Italian dining options and lodging. “It’s like California before its wine country had prestige. The whole state of Ohio has a robust winery landscape.”

Published on May 24, 2018
Topics: Wine and Ratings



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