Sunday, February 27, 2011

Paper Moon - A Popular Spot in Vermilion

During that same wine exploration trip with Mom, we stopped at Paper Moon Vineyards, which is on Route 60 near my sister's house in Vermilion. We had visited the winery several times since its opening in 2008, but we had never met the owners.  On the afternoon we stopped by, we missed Sheryl Cawrse, but her husband Richard and son and winemaker Adam were great hosts for an hour. They told us everything we wanted to know about the winery, including the fact that the winery does not intend to harvest any of its estate-grown grapes until five years after planting.  After the hard work of clearing the land that was once covered in Concord grapes, they want to make sure they have a high yield of high-quality grapes. Marquette, Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc and Traminette will be ready next year, but in the meantime, Adam is learning how to make great wines from west coast grapes.  The winery keeps busy with customers who return for the cozy feel of Paper Moon where board games can be enjoyed by the fireplace in winter.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Johlin Century Winery - 140 Years of Winemaking

My mother went with me on a winery research trip last fall.  The wine owners and makers were hospitable, loved the attention, offered wine tastings, andposed for pictures.  One of the wineries we visited was little-known Johlin Century Winery in Oregon near Maumee Bay. The winery was established in 1870 and still exists on Johlin family farm and red brick home outside Toledo.  Brothers Bolan and Jarrod have revitalized the winery which now makes vitis labrusca wines in the family's German tradition.  They learned wine making from grandfather Richard. Concord is their driest wine, and they bottle mostly mead and fruit wines as well as a cream Niagra and a decent Catawba. Bolan takes a good picture for a guy who didn't want his picture taken, but I've instead posted a photo of bottles of wine against the wallpaper he hung with his grandmother.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Markko Vineyards - Ohio's First Vinifera Winery

I first met Arnie Esterer, winemaker and owner of Markko Vineyards in Conneaut, on our first Ohio wine country adventure. Arnie, with partner Tim Hubbard, started experimenting with European varietals and French-American hybrids in the late 1960s after purchasing one hundred acres of land, as instructed by Dr. Konstantin Frank of New York’s Finger Lakes. It’s easy to miss the stone gates on the edge of the woods on a dirt road. At the end of the drive is a dark weathered house with a non-descript entrance into a tasting room that opens onto a wooden deck. There are no pretences at Markko—it’s all about the wine. The chardonnays and cabernets at the boutique winery are the best in Ohio because they’re handcrafted and estate bottled, and Arnie admits that they are expensive. We always have some Markko wine in our wine cabinet, for special occasions.

When I gave Arnie an article I wrote about the winery, he gifted me a bottle of his Riesling, and when I told him I was writing a book about Ohio’s Lake Erie Wineries, he sat me down on his deck with a bottle of his Cabernet and shared his stories. Arnie’s the guru of winemakers in the Lake Erie Appellation, and other vintners like Ken Tarsitano will admit they learned how to trellis vines and craft a decent wine from Esterer. Arnie readily explains how the vines in our region must be kept three feet off the ground to prevent moisture that leads to rot. The dark cellar of stainless steel for his Rieslings and oak barrels for the Chardonnays and Cabernets remind me that the grapes become wine all on their own, and it’s the winemaker’s job to create an excellent, drinkable wine from the results. When we first stood at the counter in the tasting room and tasted dry wines with complimentary cheese, Markko became our favorite Ohio winery because Esterer wants to create the best wine possible from what the land offers, and he does. Read more in my Associated Content article published a few months ago.

Arnie's begun transitioning the winery operations to the next generation, but I have no fear  that Arnie's philosophy and high quality wines are in danger of being lost in the transition.  Arnie cares too much about leaving a trace to allow that to happen.