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Food + Drink | Wineries

Sand Hollow Winery & Speakeasy

Jim Young turned his hobby into a Licking County winery. Then, he created a fun speakeasy in Newark. And, yes, you do need a password. 

When Jim Young purchased his 83 acres surrounded by farmland dotted with white and weathered barns, he didn’t have a winery in mind. He was thinking about a wooded property with a pond. Growing up, he helped build them for his dad’s Newark-based construction company and thought he’d like one for himself someday. 

Someday was 20 years ago when a real estate agent friend saw the “For Sale” sign near the Licking County community of Heath. These days, the pond of Young’s dreams is a destination. The property’s original three-season cabin has been expanded and updated to be Sand Hollow Winery — Young’s off-the-beaten-path home. 

Tiered wooden decks with picnic tables and Adirondack chairs, a fire pit and a gazebo line the pond where ducks float by a fountain at the center. Inside the tasting room, a sign on the wall proclaims, “Wineries are Magical.” 

Like a wizard with a sense of humor, Young creates 15 wines from Old World-style juices imported from Italy, Chile and other parts of the United States. Bad Day Gone Good, a medium-bodied blend of Montepulciano, sangiovese and petit verdot, and Girls Night Out, a cabernet sauvignon and merlot blend, are examples of Young’s wine artistry that began as a hobby. Chardonnay, pinot grigio and malbec are also on the menu and sold by the bottle or glass.

“A friend of mine, many years ago, talked me into making wine,” says Young. “We were having so much fun it seemed it shouldn’t be legal. We were making more wine than we could drink and thought, Do you think people would like our wine well enough to buy it?”

They did. Five years ago, Young opened Sand Hollow Winery, named for the road on which it’s located.

“One nice thing about wineries, there are no strangers,” he says. “Plus, people who visit wineries are pleasant. There’s no drama.” 

Minutes after he flips the winery sign from “closed” to “open,” friends arrive — a couple who help themselves to a bottle of wine, then settle in for a visit.  They are among the regulars that Young counts on to assist him with bottling and labeling when a new batch of wine is ready. 

Typically, guests are those who explore Ohio’s wineries as a leisurely pastime. Young plays host with a friendly, “What kind of wine do you like?” To those undecided, he suggests the $5, 10-taste option — a journey from dry to semisweet in reds and whites. 

Although Young has not ruled out cultivating grapes, the growing conditions aren’t the best in his patch of Ohio. Besides, his latest venture, Sand Hollow Speakeasy — a Prohibition-themed bar in downtown Newark across from Licking County’s historic jail — keeps him busy. It pulls together his passion for history, wine, whiskey and fun. The speakeasy is an ode to eight famous distilleries and a venue for Young's wines. 

After patrons knock, a small window in the speakeasy door opens and someone behind it asks for the password. (It was “Blind Pig” when we visited, but visitors can always find the current password on the winery’s website.) It’s a clever Prohibition-era touch, much like the rough plank cherry wood walls found inside that were milled from a fallen tree.

“I wanted them to look ratty and old [and] people to think they are coming into an old barn,” says Young, who has decorated the space with artifacts to match, such as the dressing room mirror rescued from a Newark theater before it met the wrecking ball. The mirror is a centerpiece for the gallery of historic photographs, propaganda and old newspaper clippings. 

Serving whiskey that ranges from George Dickel Tennessee Whisky to Jim Beam Black Label, along with Young’s own wine and Buckeye Lake Brewery beer, has been a winner. So have the Friday game nights where strangers become friends over Jenga and Yahtzee. 

“I had this building and I was involved with the preservation of the Licking County Jail,” says Young, who once published a newspaper from the space his bar now calls home. “The hook was a speakeasy to pull it all together.” 

Young has yet to enter his wine in competitions but is delighted with the outcome of what started out as a hobby. As he says, “My blue ribbon is when people come back.” Winery: Fri. 4–8 p.m., Sat. 2–8 p.m. (spring, summer and fall), Sat. noon–7 p.m. (winter); 12558 Sand Hollow Rd. SE, Heath 43056, 740/323-3959; Speakeasy: Mon.–Sat. 4:30–8:30 p.m.; 57 S. Third St., Newark 43055, 740/345-5542, sandhollowwine.com

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