Monday, September 6, 2010

A Bit of History - Lake Erie Wine Appellation

Grape growing on the Lake Erie Islands--Kelley’s Island, South Bass, Middle Bass, and North Bass--as well as in Danbury Township on Marblehead Peninsula and in Sandusky, was well established by German immigrants by the mid-1800s. The moderating climate along the Lake Erie shoreline and on the Lake Erie Islands creates a long growing season and the winds that discourage mildew. Prohibition destroyed the wine industry in Ohio, but some the farms and wineries along Lake Erie’s moderate shore continued to grow grapes for juice and jellies. South Bass’s Heineman, Middle Bass’s Lonz, and Port Clinton’s Mon Ami produced native wines after Prohibition and into the 1960s, and Heineman and Mon Ami are still in operation today and they're making European-style vinifera wines that are surprisingly good.

The first island I explored was Kelley's Island. Artist's Way friend Judy DuShane (pictured at left) grew up in the island winery tradition and her family grew grapes and made wine before development made the land too valuable for grape growing. Long-time friend Gayle Absi and I caught an early Saturday ferry over to Kelley's Island and rambled around winery ruins before having lunch.

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