Women talking at Lincoln Way Vineyards in Wooster (photo by Stephanie Park)
Food + Drink | Wineries

Ohio Wine Month: Celebrating Our State’s Winemakers

The start of summer means exploring the winemakers across our state. Here are four spots that offer a flavor of our state’s offerings and a guide to help you plan your travels.

June is Ohio Wine Month, a perfect time to explore the wealth of wineries that stretch from the shores of Lake Erie in the Grand River Valley to the Ohio River valley. Browse the SIP! publication here. To get your explorations started, check out these four wineries that offer a snapshot of what Ohio’s winemakers are doing across the state. For more information about Ohio wines, visit findohiowines.com.

Read about other wineries featured in previous Ohio Wine Month articles


Lincoln Way Vineyards | Wooster

Lincoln Way Vineyards’ slogan, “Find Your Wine Time,” is a phrase that partly draws on the sentiment of “it’s five o’clock somewhere,” but it also has a more literal meaning for owners Sherri and Jim Borton.

“Analog clocks were always sold [in stores] set at 10:10 because it looks like a smile,” says Sherri. “We combined the ‘L’ in our name with that idea, and our wine names are all times [when] the hands make an ‘L.’”

Each “time” is offered in a red, rose, and white, with 12:45 being the sparkling varieties, since it’s the closest “L” to midnight.

Lincoln Way grows its grapes at a 10-acre vineyard, and everything else used in making the wine is sourced from within the state, from the blackberries used in the blackberry wine to the apples used in the dry-hopped hard cider (a kind of beer-cider hybrid).

Jim and Sherri’s children, daughter Ari and son Alex, work at the vineyard now, which is a big part of Lincoln Way’s mission. Alex recently constructed a shuttle wagon to give visitors the option to tour the property on nice days.

During the day, the atmosphere of the tasting room is laid-back, with people talking and playing games, while Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings in the summer incorporate food trucks and live music. The family-friendly environment is suitable for kids, which the Bortons made a priority.

“As we planned our vineyards, we went to a lot of [wineries] and brought our kids,” Jim says. “We appreciated the places that welcomed us with open arms.” 9050 W. Old Lincoln Way, Wooster 44691, 330/804-9463, lincolnwayvineyards.com

Women around a table at Dutch Creek Winery in Athens (photo by Matthew Allen)
Dutch Creek Winery | Athens

Cynthia and Paul Freedman, founders and owners of Dutch Creek Winery, are beekeepers first and foremost. After finding success keeping bees and making products from their honey like baked goods and ice cream, the couple moved into the realm of fruit wine and honey wine, also known as mead.

Fruit wines are sometimes referred to as country wines, and this 27-acre farm located about 8 miles from Ohio University embraces that idea with its beekeeping operation, fruit orchard, tasting room, covered porch and picnic grove.

“We’re a little nontraditional, and I relish that,” Paul says. “Our goal is to change the accepted definition of wine by changing people’s minds about meads and country wines.”

One of the winery’s most popular offerings is its strawberry-Cayuga grape hybrid, which Paul describes as “sweet but with a bit of a tang.” Another bestseller is the bourbon-barrel honey wine made from homemade honey. It contains hints of the local florals that bees visit on the farm and is aged with wood from Kentucky bourbon barrels.

“It’s bourbon without the burn,” Paul says, “great for low-proof cocktails and as a substitute for bourbon.”

In the tasting room, there are four sweet ciders on tap (including a mint julep house cider) and one dry, New England-style cider. There are local beers available too, including two served on tap that are made exclusively for Dutch Creek using the winery’s own honey and hops.

An Airbnb owned by the Freedmans is located nearby. House in a renovated train caboose, it makes a great place for vineyard visitors to retreat to after an evening at the winery. 12157 St. Rte. 690, Athens 45701, 740/818-4699, dutchcreekwinery.com

Exterior of Caesar Creek Vineyards in Xenia, Ohio (photo courtesy of Caesar Creek Vineyards)
Caesar Creek Vineyards | Xenia

A visit to Caesar Creek Vineyards can feel a little like hanging out in your own property, if your property is a 200-acre farm growing 6 acres of grapes.

Although visitors are welcome to explore much of the vineyard’s outdoor space, the primary setting is a covered patio attached to the winery and tasting room. People can take their wine anywhere on the farm to enjoy it, however, including on the front porch of an old house on the property.

“You could even pretend you’re sitting on your own front porch,” says Charles Edwards, Caesar Creek’s manager and principal winemaker.

He began working part-time at the vineyard in 2012 before Walter Borda, the winery’s owner, offered him the opportunity to take online classes through Kent State University to learn about winemaking,

Edwards has run with the position, creating a variety of wines made from the Minnesota grapes grown on the property, and he takes pride in being able to craft wines using Ohio-grown grapes.

“I like making something that comes from the ground and represents our part of Ohio,” Edwards adds.

Caesar Creek Vineyards invites guests to bring their own food such as a picnic or pizza, and there’s even a grill on the property they can use during their visit. The communal feel is an aspect of the winery that Edwards truly appreciates.

“People interact with each other here, and it’s like an escape from the city or from work. You can hear the birds chirp, and it’s a great place to watch the sun set,” he says. “At the bar, everyone is talking and getting to know each other.” 962 Long Rd., Xenia 45385, 937/952-9388, caesarcreekvineyards.com

Exterior of Sandy Ridge Vineyards in Norwalk (photo courtesy of Sandy Ridge Vineyards)
Sandy Ridge Vineyards | Norwalk

Jamie McFadden is a chef by trade who has long been involved in the wine industry. As the owner of Sandy Ridge Vineyards, he is eager to offer guests specially curated food-and-wine pairings, which has been a driving force for the business since it opened.

“I want to help people make decisions and not feel intimidated …” McFadden says. “For me personally, it’s [sharing the fact that] wine can bring out the best of certain dishes.”

When asked about the vineyards’ bestseller, the cabernet Franc, McFadden is quick to pair it with a dish at the restaurant.

“It’s a classic old-world style with soft, dark fruit, not tannic,” he says. “It pairs well with short rib tacos and is soft enough that it can be enjoyed with a charcuterie platter.”

Sandy Ridge Vineyards is situated on a 30-acre property and features a barn that was built in the late 1800s and has room for about 100 guests inside and on the terrace. In the 1960s, a family planted apple trees and other produce on the property. McFadden himself recalls picking strawberries there in the early 1980s, eventually moving up to picking apples and pressing them for cider. The building was empty for two decades before McFadden bought it and opened Sandy Ridge.

“I wanted people to experience what I experienced as a child” he says. “When I walk by tables, people share their memories of the place with me. It’s a much more impactful experience than I ever thought it would be.” 180 St. Rte. 61 E., Norwalk 44857, 419/504-8884, sandyridgevineyards.com