The family behind Shamrock Vineyard in Waldo (photo by Wendy Pramik)

Family-Owned Ohio Wineries

PARTNER CONTENT WITH OHIO WINES LOVE AT FIRST SIP: Multigenerational Ohio wineries offer benefits for owners and customers alike.

Ohio is blessed with a rich assortment of wineries, from regional powerhouses to mom and pop shops. Whether they’re large or small, family-owned wineries tend to offer something special — a vested interest of sweat and grime that boasts a labor of love.

Life Lessons Passed On

“Growing up on the farm taught me the value of hard work, getting up early and staying until the job was done,” says Tony Kosicek of Kosicek Vineyards in Harpersfield.

Kosicek is a third-generation grape farmer. His grandfather, who immigrated from Slovenia, started growing grapes in northeast Ohio in 1929. The younger Kosicek and his wife, Mauri, established Kosicek Vineyards in 2012, where they produce more than 20 varieties of red and white wine sourced from the estate vineyards. A fourth generation, their children Emma and Anthony, are also involved in the family businesses.

“Some of the best memories are those of our friends and family planting our vineyards and working with us in the winery,” Kosicek says.

Hard work and camaraderie are common themes among other owners of family-owned wineries.

Marisa Sergi, co-owner of L’uva Bella Winery in Lowellville and founder of Red’s Wine, says family-run wineries also build a positive relationship with their associates.

“There’s a stronger sense of ownership from the executives and a stronger passion from the family members involved to continue with the heritage of the business that inevitably transcends into our employees’ dedication to the company,” Sergi says.

Sergi and her husband, Evan Schumann, purchased the family winery from Sergi’s parents, Frank and Ruth Sergi, in 2020. Frank started the business in 2006, selling home winemaking juices to local winemakers. Their wine made from California grapes is now found in major retailers across seven states.

This “vested interest” can spill over to customers who frequent family-owned wineries, says Matt Layton, of Indian Spring Winery in Sardinia.

“We can offer a more personal connection with our customers,” says Layton, who owns the winery with his wife, Sara Layton, his brother-in-law, Andy Creighton, his sister-in-law, Sara Creighton, and grandmother, Joy.

A Job For Every Family Member

Jobs around Indian Spring Winery are split among the family members, including wine production, grounds and maintenance, music and food preparation. The job of “Popsicle Man” belonged to Layton’s father-in-law, Vernon Creighton, who died in 2016. It entailed delivering frozen treats to children at the countryside winery in the heat of the summer.

“He lived up to the title. Nobody could really ever fill his shoes,” Layton says fondly.

The cozy feeling that family-owned businesses convey can be felt all the way in the tasting room, adds Thomas Van Creasap, who owns Shamrock Vineyard in Waldo, a winery established by his grandparents.

“In-depth tours and sit-down tastings give guests a pulse for what it’s like to own and operate a winery, all while they’re getting to know the actual winemaker and grower,” Van Creasap says.

The late Dr. Thomas Quilter, and his wife, Mary, established Shamrock in 1971 when Quilter began planting grapevines as a hobby at the former grain farm, replacing the roses he’d first planted in the 1950s. Their sweet table wines have been bottled under the name Chateau Shamrock since 1984.

“We’ve tried to stay true to my grandfather’s original plans for this business,” says Van Creasap, who took over the vineyard after their deaths. “The wine list is very similar.”

Yet change is always happening, and while the process for winemaking stays true to the family roots, other aspects of the business must evolve.

“If there’s anything that’s changed, it’s probably marketing. We do so much online now,” says Beau Guilliams, who owns Raven’s Glenn Winery & Restaurant in West Lafayette with wife, Tracy. His parents started the family business in 2003 with 2,500 gallons of wine. Today, the second generation of Guilliams produce over 215,000 bottles and more than 20 varietals from dry to sweet.

“In the end, business is business,” says Guilliams. “Tracy and I are both passionate about what we do. We try not to take everything personally. Our priorities are to make sure the customers are taken care of and the quality of wine is No. 1.