Ohio Wine Month 2022: 6 Wineries to Try This Year
From the forests of the Hocking Hills to the shores of Lake Erie, visit these destinations that show the range of Ohio’s statewide winemaking industry.
Hocking Hills Winery: Tucked off the highway, surrounded by woods, you’ll find the 100 acres that make up Hocking Hills Winery. The former cattle ranch has been reimagined as a winery run by Blaine and Drew Davidson (grandsons of the property’s original owners) and their wives, Allison and Laura, respectively. Hocking Hills is a camping and outdoor hot spot, and many of the winery’s patrons are in the area for just that reason. “There’s a huge cabin industry here, and campgrounds aren’t far from us,” says Blaine Davidson, the winery’s CEO. “You can be off the hiking trail or canoeing or dressed up and coming back from a nice dinner. We’re very welcoming and friendly. Bring your dog.” Indeed, enjoying a glass of wine on the flagstone patio or at a picnic table on the edge of the woods, visitors may feel like they’re in a friend’s backyard. There is live music every Friday and Saturday year-round (and Sundays during warmer months), as well as food trucks and wood-fired pizzas to supplement the charcuterie boards and snack plates on the menu. “The wine slushies are our most popular [offering on-site],” says Davidson. “We’ve got peach, raspberry, sangria and pink lemonade flavors.” 30402 Freeman Rd., Logan 43138, 740/385-7117, hockinghillswinery.com
Buckeye Lake Winery: This spot outside Columbus bills itself as “Where Napa Valley Meets Buckeye Lake.” The Buckeye Lake aspect is obvious: tables and Adirondack chairs are positioned on the shore, and the winery’s long dock makes a visit after a day on the water an easy decision. As for Napa Valley, a few sips of wine will clarify that part of the slogan. “We work directly with growers in the Napa Valley, Russian River Valley, Sonoma and Lodi regions,” says Tracy Higginbotham, who owns the winery. “We travel to California each fall to evaluate the grapes and determine when to harvest, coordinate and participate in the harvest … to get the young raw wine back to our facilities for aging, blending and bottling.” He adds that this hands-on approach from start to finish is what ensures a Napa-quality wine. Try the winery’s signature white, the Sweet Lake View (soon to be known as Lake Water), which has hints of lemongrass, green apple, pineapple and papaya. Enjoy a glass while watching the boats go by or enjoying the regularly scheduled live music. “The experience might be different every visit,” Higginbotham says, “but there are consistencies of quality and service every time.” 13750 Rosewood Dr., Thornville 43076, 740/246-5665, buckeyelakewinery.com
Maize Valley Winery: Maize Valley is counted among Ohio’s estate wineries. This designation is given only to wineries who grow all the grapes they use in their wine (most others grow some of their grapes and source the rest from other vineyards). Maize Valley, which is located a few miles from downtown Hartville, makes all its own beer on-site, too. “We have gatherings and events, and there are couples where one may like beer and one may like wine,” explains co-owner Bill Bakan. Maize Valley hosts outdoor festivals and events through the summer as well as in the fall, including the annual harvest fest that features an 8-acre corn maze, lavender festival, sunflower field, car nights and regularly scheduled live music on the outdoor stage. “We like to have fun,” says Bakan. “People can get a great burger wherever. But between all of the car nights, music, families — we make great food, great beer and great wine fun. … We’re known as a fun place to go.” Maize Valley Winery is known for its Redneck Red, a sweet red wine that’s the winery’s most popular offering, and its Maize Valley Riesling, voted Best of Show overall at the 2021 Ohio Wine Competition. 6193 Edison St. NE, Hartville 44632, 330/877-8344, maizevalley.com
Vermilion Valley Vineyards: “As much as I like to call myself a winemaker, at the end of day I’m just a farmer,” says Joe Juniper, co-owner of this estate winery, where all the grapes used to make the wine are grown in the property’s more than 100-acre vineyard. “Our biggest claim to fame is our cabernet franc,” Juniper says. “It’s our number-one seller: herbal, savory and complex. This is the wine we’ve built our company on and our reputation for quality wine.” In addition to the wine, travelers find a welcoming and relaxing place to spend some time with family and friends. “Our focus is a casual, working farm in the countryside,” notes Juniper. “We bring people from all over and every walk of life. We’ve always been a dog winery. On any given Saturday you’ll see a half dozen dogs on the patio.” The vineyard has a small menu that includes cheese plates and hummus, but it welcomes customers who bring in outside food. “We very much welcome a blanket on the hillside overlooking the pond and a picnic with the family,” Juniper says. “We’re creating customers for generations to come, where young families can come out and relax.” 11005 Gore Orphanage Rd., Wakeman 44889, 440/965-5202, vermilion-valleyvineyards.com
M Cellars: This Ashtabula County destination is also counted among Ohio’s estate wineries, meaning all the grapes used to make its wines are grown in the vineyard on the property. Founded in 2012, M Cellars is all about the wine, according to Matt Meineke, winemaker and founder of the winery with his wife, Tara. “Our focus has always been the wine and service to match it. It’s about growing our wine from start to finish, vine to bottle, with 100% authenticity.” M Cellars’ most popular white is its Gewürztraminer, a sweetly spicy wine with flavors of melon, orange blossom and honey. Grab a seat on the top level of the two-tier patio for an outstanding view of the vineyard. Dogs and kids are welcome, too. “We’re laid-back, not a party atmosphere,” explains Meineke. “The bands we bring in aren’t usually rock ’n’ roll, but acoustic guitars and singer-songwriters. It fits our personality well.” The menu features high-end shareables like warm brie, fig jam, crackers and beautiful meat and cheese boards. M Cellars is an ideal place to relax with family and friends when you want to concentrate on conversation, beautiful views and, of course, fine wine. 6193 South River Rd. W., Geneva 44041, 440/361-4104, mcellars.com
Hanover Winery: This comfortable and park-like setting between Hamilton and Oxford offers picnic tables set up around a pond with a fountain. There are even dog-friendly Thursdays. Dogs are a theme here, with several of the wines named for canine pals, including the winery’s award-winning Dammit Annie! named for the owners’ chocolate lab. “It’s a sweet red wine, made with blackberry wine blended with haskap berries from the nearby Johnson Family Farm,” explains Eddie McDonald, who owns the winery with his wife Elizabeth. The couple got into the business after an unlikely inspiration. “Twenty-two years ago, we saw a program on TV. I wasn’t a winemaker at the time but was really interested in the process. Beth and I have always been self-starters, and we like the people in [the winemaking] world. We were interested in what we could do with wines and make a living.” Today, the couple is preparing to pour a larger patio and add more outdoor tables. Food is available along with occasional food trucks, and bourbon and beer are on the menu, too. Grab a blanket or chair and relax for an evening of live music. Get a sitter though: Hanover Winery is for those age 21 and older. 2165 Morman Rd., Hamilton 45013, 513/863-3119, hanoverwinery.com