Wine & Dine

Plan a stop at these fine-dining spots on your tour of Ohio’s vineyards.

In every corner of the Buckeye state, Ohio wineries are upping their game when it comes to pairing their wines with food, figuring quite correctly that the right match with a delicious dish will enhance their wines’ best attributes — and boost sales, too.

We combed the state to introduce you to four on-site winery restaurants that are doing things right. To learn more, or to find an Ohio winery restaurant close to you, go to 

Ferrante Winery & Ristorante

Ferrante Winery & Ristorante — a third-generation, family-owned winery — traces its roots to 1937, when Nicholas and Anna Ferrante first started selling their fermented grape juice in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood. The founders’ sons, Anthony and Peter, built a winery in the family’s Harpersfield Twp. vineyards and opened their first restaurant in the 1980s, a casual eatery serving mostly pizza and appetizers.

Then disaster struck. In 1994, a fire destroyed the restaurant and part of the winery. Family members rolled up their sleeves, and out of the ashes grew an even larger winery, with expanded cellars, and a larger and more ambitious full-service restaurant.

Eighteen years later, Ferrante is a 100 percent estate-grown winery, producing more than two dozen wines from 65 acres of vineyards that surround the winery and restaurant.

The restaurant’s chef, Nina Salerno, has been with Ferrante for 14 years and has created an extensive menu that includes salads, appetizers, pizzas, pastas, steaks, seafood, chicken and desserts.

Best pairings include pizza alla Tuscany — with roasted red bell peppers, mushrooms, red onions, black olives, spinach leaves and provolone and gorgonzola cheeses — matched with Ferrante’s “Signature Series” Chardonnay, which is aged in French oak for three to six months. Or try the Casa Lasagna, truly an old family recipe, with Ferrante’s 2012 Pinot Noir, with its berry fruit and touch of tea leaf flavor. Or embrace the essence of Italian simplicity with the pizza alla Margherita, the classic made with olive oil, Roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, Romano cheese and fresh basil, with the winery’s Vidal Blanc, an off-dry wine with peachy aromas that captured the “Best White Wine” designation at the 2013 Ohio Wine Competition.

And don’t miss the opportunity to try one of Ferrante’s decadent ice wines — they make both a Vidal Blanc and a Cabernet Franc version of the deliciously sweet specialty wine — with tiramisu or cannolis.

Moyer Winery & Restaurant

At various times in its 87-year history, the building that houses Moyer Winery & Restaurant in Manchester, southeast of Cincinnati, served as a square-dancing hall, a drinking spot for bootleg beer during Prohibition, an amateur boxing ring that hosted an up-and-comer named Ezzard Charles (who went on to become world heavyweight champion) — a gambling club called The Top Hat, and a rest stop for truck drivers winding their way along the Ohio River on U.S. 52.

Oh, if only these walls could talk …

Ken Moyer and his wife Mary bought the building in 1972 and opened their namesake winery and restaurant the following year. Over the next 26 years, the Moyers expanded the restaurant and planted vineyards around it.

The Moyers sold the winery to friends in 1999, and today there are nine owners, including Cindy Gilkison, the restaurant’s current general manager, and Ben White, winemaker.

In the summer and fall, the restaurant’s covered deck — which seats 65 and overlooks the Ohio River — is the place to sit. Diners can view river traffic that might include barges, pleasure boats or even the occasional paddle wheeler.

Gilkison says most of her customers prefer sweet wines to dry, so while the winery offers Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay from grapes grown elsewhere, it also produces off-dry or moderately sweet wines such as Moyer River Valley Red (from estate-grown grapes) and Moyer River Valley White, as well as fruit wines such as Raspberry, Strawberry and Peach.

The restaurant’s signature dish is its cheese, bean & bacon soup, which pairs well with the slightly sweet River Valley Red or the River Valley White. The Buckeye burger is another favorite, topped with house-made barbecue sauce made with the winery’s peach wine. (Try it with Moyer’s Merlot.) The menu also includes a Top Hat filet mignon, pan-fried chicken livers and blackened salmon pasta. Diners can order a wine sampler platter served in tiny plastic cups before settling in for Moyer’s down-home cooking and the view of the mighty Ohio.

Henke Winery & Restaurant

Call Joe Henke a trailblazer: He was operating an “urban winery” before the term was even coined. But even when he started his namesake winery in 1996, Henke knew that his new venture couldn’t stand alone as just a winery. Food had to be part of the equation.

“I felt it important to give people more than just wine and crackers,” Henke says.

He started small — cheese trays, salads and pizza. But a couple of years after opening, Henke’s customers started pestering him to do something special for Valentine’s Day. He decided to offer a four-course meal with wine accompanying each course.

“We served Cornish hens, and it was a hit,” Henke recalls. Weekly specials followed. Henke moved to his current Westwood location in 2001, and house-made entrees, pizzas, soups, salads and desserts were soon flowing out of the new winery’s restaurant kitchen.

Today, Henke brings in grapes from vineyards throughout Ohio and from other states, and serves his wines alongside an extensive menu of fresh-cut steaks, seafood, pasta and gourmet pizzas. (He recommends the baked portabella mushroom, topped with spinach, onions and fresh herbs, with the winery’s 2012 Vidal Blanc, sourced from North Bass Island.) Or tuck into the Awesome Pan-Seared Cheese, consisting of extra-sharp Vermont white cheddar coated with herbs and bread crumbs, seared and laid atop a red wine berry sauce and served with bread and crackers. Pair it with the winery’s Vin de Rouge, an easy-drinking, fruit-forward red blend.

Henke says he has never regretted adding a restaurant to his business venture. “If we had been just a winery only, I seriously believe we would have not survived.”

Gervasi Vineyard

As retirement projects go, Gervasi Vineyard is quite an ambitious one.

Ted Swaldo retired as CEO of an auto-parts manufacturing company in North Canton in early 2009, spent a month or so in Florida, quickly decided that he was not suited for Florida or retirement, and returned to Canton with an idea for a family business.

Less than five years later, Gervasi Vineyard has evolved into a 55-acre property that includes more than five acres of vineyards, a bistro-style restaurant, another outdoor patio restaurant, a 6,000-square-foot outdoor pavilion, a wine-tasting bar, a banquet facility and six four-suite villas for overnight stays.

Gervasi is serving more than 20 wines made from juice and fruit sourced from a variety of vineyards within Ohio, California and other states. But those five-plus acres of vineyards planted around the winery between 2009 and 2011 are poised to start producing wines for Gervasi: A limited-production release of red wine from the Marquette grape is scheduled for 2014, and Frontenac Gris will be harvestable from the 2014 vintage.

Both the Bistro and the Piazza boast extensive menus of entrees, pizzas and pasta dishes that provide plenty of pairing options with Gervasi’s 20-plus wines. The winery’s favorite pairing is Tuscan beef short ribs with Truscano “Italian Tribute” Sangiovese, which winemaker Andrew Codispoti describes as a tribute to the outstanding wines of Italy, with flavors of black currant, plum and subtle oak.

The beef ribs are seared, then braised in beef stock with celery, onion, carrot, rosemary and thyme. The dish is finished with a mushroom veal sauce and served with roasted baby carrots and Parmesan mashed potatoes. Or try the Gervasi Caesar salad — Romaine hearts with pecorino crackers and white anchovy — with “Ciao Bella,” a Chardonnay with ripe fruit and toasty oak notes.

Gervasi Vineyard’s Tuscan Beef Short Ribs

Serves 8–10


2 tablespoons canola oil
6 pounds beef short ribs
seasoned with salt and pepper
5 cups beef stock
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 cup onion, diced
2 bay leaves
3 black peppercorns


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large, ovenproof pan or Dutch oven, heat oil and sear short ribs on both sides. Pour in beef stock to cover, add all other ingredients and bring to a boil. Remove from stove, cover with foil, and place in oven. Cook for two hours until fork-tender. Remove and let rest
15 minutes before serving.