Food + Drink

Grape Expectations

If you’re looking to sip the bounty of Ohio’s wineries, these four festivals are a great place to begin.

As Ohioans, we’ve never been afraid to get our hands dirty. Today, one of every six Buckeye State residents earns their living by way of agriculture. For the past 20 years, the Ohio Grape Industry has seen an enormous increase in grape growing here, leading to nearly 200 licensed wineries that now do business in the state. “The strength of the Ohio wine industry is its incredible diversity,” says Donniella Winchell, executive director of Ohio Wine Producers and chair of the Vintage Ohio Wine Festival. “Each winery in the state takes on the personality of the owners.” These four upcoming wine festivals will introduce you to a variety of Ohio winemakers and allow you to learn more about what they’re bringing to the table.

Granville Art Affair & Rotary Wine Festival | June 13–14

Prepare to spend a full day at this festival, where more than 80 artists from throughout Ohio and the surrounding states gather on the expansive 32-acre front lawn of the Bryn Du Mansion for the area’s largest juried art show.

“Everything is handmade or one-of-a-kind original artwork,” explains co-founder Sandy Libertini. She has curated artists whose works range from acrylic and oil paintings to glassware to jewelry. “We feel like our niche is the wine and art venue mix, because there really isn’t any other Columbus-area show that does what we do.”

Interspersed between artists are wine-tasting booths that carry products from central Ohio wineries such as Buckeye Lake Winery and Veriano Fine Foods & Spirits.

This year also marks the first time the Rotary Club will be taking over the halls of the property’s 1905 sandstone mansion, as well as its adjoining 7,200-square-foot field house, which will serve as a backdrop for the festival’s new and exclusive culinary-and-wine event.

“The move allows us to create some more intimate spaces or different types of experiences,” says Granville Rotarian Donald Jones, who expects to sell more than 500 tickets to the VIP portion of the event. For $50, participants will be able to take part in a silent auction and mingle with some of central Ohio’s top chefs on Saturday evening while indulging in unlimited wine and beer tastings, unlimited food samplings and cocktail demonstrations from area mixologists. Bryn Du Mansion, 537 Jones Rd., Granville 43203, 614/579-5743,

North Market Ohio Wine Festival
North Market Ohio Wine Festival | July 11–13

The North Market is the only public market in the city of Columbus to survive fire, floods and renovation. It’s been thriving since 1876 as the destination for organic growers, producers and specialized merchants. More than 30 vendors, ranging from fishmongers and florists to butchers and bakers occupy the market year-round, and the capital-city landmark hosts one of the largest Saturday farmers markets in the state.

This summer, it’ll also celebrate its 13th annual Ohio Wine Festival. “[It] started as a small little offering, and now we block off the entire street on the side of the market,” says executive director Rick Harrison Wolfe.

More than 7,000 visitors are expected to attend the three-day festival, where they will be able to shop, sip and savor samples from the 20 Ohio wineries in attendance.

With wineries such as Ferrante from Geneva, Firelands from Sandusky, and Henke from Cincinnati, guests will be exposed to a wide range of Ohio grapes before taking their glasses with them inside to shop.

“It’s a great fit to showcase both the Ohio growers and the Ohio wineries,” says Wolfe, who’s offering $5 vouchers to spend anywhere inside the market for those visiting the wine festival. “You get to learn from the folks who actually grow it and produce it. It’s all about tasting and education.” North Market, 59 Spruce St., Columbus 43215, 614/463-9664,

Ohio State Fair | July 23–Aug. 3

Carnival rides and old-time fair food are what often come to mind when one thinks of the Ohio State Fair. But before you settle for that ultra-sweet lemonade, consider sampling the variety of wines supplied by the more than two-dozen Ohio wineries at this year’s event.

Each winery represented at the Ohio State Fair falls into one of two categories: It has either won the Ohio Quality Wine Designation within the past year for being manufactured with a minimum of 90 percent Ohio-grown grapes; or it has won a gold medal from the annual Ohio Wine Competition — a 40-year-old tradition in which the Ohio Grape Industry chooses winners in 64 categories based on extensive sensory analysis.

“Growing grapes and making wine is an agricultural enterprise. It is farming and it is production at its finest,” says Christy Eckstein, executive director of Ohio Grape Industry. “We even work with the vendors to figure out which fair food goes well with the Ohio wines that we’re serving.”

At the Taste of Ohio Café, guests will be able to pair corn dogs with a glass of pinot grigio or beefed-up baked potatoes with a glass of dry riesling while interacting with featured Ohio winemakers to get a behind-the-scenes look at their process and take part in cooking demonstrations.

The same wine selections will also be available at the Ohio Wine Garden in the fair’s multipurpose building, where guests can peruse the work of local craftsmen, artisans and artists. Ohio Expo Center, 717 E. 17th Ave., Columbus 43211, 614/644-3247,

Vintage Ohio Wine Festival
Vintage Ohio Wine Festival | Aug. 1–2

The Vintage Ohio Wine Festival stretches back to the early days of the Ohio wine industry itself, and the Lake County event has grown into the longest-running showcase of our state’s diverse offerings.

“We have about 3.5 million visitors a year to our wineries, and 20 years ago there was only one Ohio wine event of this kind in the state,” says Donniella Winchell, Vintage Ohio Wine Festival chair and executive director of Ohio Wine Producers. “[It’s] been a tool to open the door, and it’s become more of a destination to celebrate the fun of Ohio wines.”

Three stages of music will be spread out across Lake Metroparks Farmpark, where five 30-by-60-foot wine tents will carry both new and old favorites from Ohio winemakers and locally sourced food. In addition, volunteers from the American Wines Society will lead up to a total of six seminars during both days of the festival, detailing the different wines made throughout Ohio, the various kinds of grapes used and the process through which the wine is made.

This year, Rootstown’s Barrel Run Crossing will be a new addition to the festival as it debuts a new family of cold-climate varietal wines, such as the fruit-up-front pink noiret or the sweet raspberry red marquette.

“One of the hottest national trends, in terms of wine, are sweet fruit wines,” says Winchell. “We’ll have several wineries bringing apple, cherry and strawberry wines that are fun to drink, especially in the summer.” Lake Metroparks Farmpark, 8800 Euclid Chardon Rd., Kirtland 44094, 800/227-6972,