Friday, November 9, 2012

Upcoming Book Signings

Coming up on Winter again, the harvest over, we hope this winter will be kinder to our grapes than last winter was. An early spring followed by a frost hurt last year's crop, but the warm summer created some really great juice for next year's wines.

I'm going to make the most of winter by planning a wineries tour for mid-January. This should stave off the winter blues. Until then, find me and my books (which make great Christmas gifts) at Laurello Vineyards in the Geneva area on November 17 from 12-5PM; at Markko Winery in Conneaut from 11AM-6PM on December 1; and at Quarry Hill in Berlin Heights from 2:30-6:30PM on December 8.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Silver Lining Riesling

Silver Lining Dry Riesling was released at Paper Moon Winery on Thursday, March 8th. Last summer, Adam Cawrse (winemaker), visited Canada to attend a Reisling conference, and he was inspired to try some new techniques. Only 139 cases of their Silver Lining wine was made available, and we were able to try some during the September wine tasting. The Riesling grapes in this wine were hand-picked from Ohio vineyards in the Lake Erie appellation. The grapes were crushed, lightly pressed, and juice was pumped to a tank for cold settling where it fermented for 3-1/2 weeks. The wine is exceptional with pear, melon, and citrus flavors. It is a great wine, and if you get there soon, you can try it! Paper Moon is on Route 60 in Vermilion.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

No One But Hermes Would Dare . . .

To grow 25 varieties of grapes on land near Lake Erie in Sandusky.  The first vineyards were planted at Hermes Vineyards & Winery in 2002, ten years ago.  A country drive south on Route 4 in Sandusky travels through lush farm country not far from Lake Erie’s shores.   Hermes Vineyards, surrounded by wild flowers, hosts wine tastings in an old threshing barn with a dilapidated silo.  But don’t be fooled by its rustic interior—the barn has been restored into an intimate spot in which to enjoy Ohio wines from European-style vinifera grapes. 
The wine list contains no grapes native to Ohio, no Catawbas or Concords or anything other varieties enjoyed in the area during Ohio’s early winemaking days before the Prohibition. The super-peppery Grenache and the award-winning 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon can make this wine maker proud.  As can the amazing variety of wines. White wines include the well-made Semillon and true German Gewurztraminer and Reisling. Unlike most white wines, the Sauvignon Blanc is semi-sweet.  The red wines include grapes originating in Spain, like the Tempranillo, some from France--French Petit Verdot and Merlot--and Italian vines including Sangiovese and Nebbiolo.  The Sandusky vineyards contain only vinifera grapes--Italian, Spanish, Rhone, and Burgundy grapes are brought in from nurseries after the owner studies the clones. The grapes include Vignior, Alianco, Sangiovese, Nebiola, Cabernet, Tarilea, and Reisling. 

Owner Dr. David Kraus's mother’s family grew grapes in Germany’s Moselle Valley where the Hermes family still grows grapes today.Formerly known as Sand Hill Winery, its name was changed to Hermes Winery to solve the confusion raised by the name of the vineyards, which has always been Hermes. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Purist in Wine and Food - Ken Tarsitano

Ken Tarsitano, owner and wine maker at Tarsitano Winery & CafĂ© in Conneaut, encouraged me to focus on current wineries along the lakeshore.  Ken takes growing grapes and making estate-bottled wines a step further:  he takes the extra steps to be an organic wine maker.  When one opens a bottle of Tarsitano wine, which must be tasted with bread warm from the oven and made behind the tasting counter, one tastes the Earth along the lake shore. On dairy land originally owned by the Finnish Ahos and Italian Tarsitanos in Conneaut, Tarsitano Winery perches on a ridge in a cedar-sided barn. The winery, certified organic in 1998, grows grapes more naturally by recognizing the negative charges of the vines. Wine production occurs year round with the introduction of new bottlings at Christmas to replace those brought out in the summer. The Lemberger wine is fruity and full-bodied and worth the trip. The smell of baking bread entices visitors to linger over a dish of pasta while admiring the rows of vineyards outside the window. All four Conneaut Creek wineries equal one Ferrante in production, so they collaborate with events like progressive dinners.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ohio - Premier Wine Producing State

The lure of a romantic lifestyle and self-sufficiency leads new vintners to follow their dreams every year.  Most people don’t know that Ohio once produced more wine than any other state during the mid-1800s, primarily due to the efforts of real estate tycoon Nicholas Longworth of Cincinnati, who cultivated 1200 acres of Catawba grapes on his Ohio River Valley land by 1840. Longworth became wealthy by planting and harvesting grapes, pressing them to extract the juice, and fermenting the juice into wine. When southern Ohio grapes started to rot on the vine, the Lake Erie wine industry flourished. Ohio’s wine industry languished as California’s star rose at the turn of the 20th century. Many wineries continued to produce wine for local consumption, and nearby farms and vineyards supplied the grapes until industrialization from Cleveland to Toledo swallowed up prime growing property along the lakeshore. Prohibition destroyed the wine industry in Ohio, but a small number of farms along Lake Erie’s shore continued to grow grapes.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

European Viniferas

Wine lovers are often surprised to see Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the Lake Erie Region.  Lake Erie moderates the lake temperatures, giving the islands and lakeshore a long growing season.  While other areas of the state have difficulty growing vinifera wines, the growers in the Lake Erie Appellation can take advantage of their unique climate and grow some of those "noble grapes."  Wine connoisseurs and European descendents knew the best wine came from European varietals. Ohio’s serious winemakers were influenced by the passionate efforts of Californians to cultivate hybrid and vinifera grapes and by Dr. Konstantin Frank of New York’s Finger Lakes region, who learned how to cultivate vinifera grapes in New York. In the 1960s and 1970s, Ohio’s family farms and wine-loving entrepreneurs turned towards planting vineyards to create high-quality European-style vinifera wines. Chardonnay and Cabernet grapes grew alongside native Concord and hybrid Catawba.  The first one to try grafting vinifera root stock on native stock was Arnie Esterer of Markko Vineyards. The tables on his deck are waiting for you. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

My First "Official" Wineries Tour

We had a great time on our wineries tour this past Saturday. Paul and I led fourteen people to four wineries in Lorain and Erie counties, starting with one of the wineries closest to our home: Klingshirn Winery in Avon Lake. When we arrived, third-generation winemaker Lee Klingshirn was waiting to take us on tour, starting with his vineyards. We learned everything we could possibly want to know about growing grapes and making wine from Lee, and the lesson continued. Adam Cawrse at Paper Moon and David Benzing at Vermilion Valley gave us tour-talks, and when we arrived at Matus, Bob Matus took us out back so we could watch them crush the grapes. We drank wines ranging in color from an almost clear Reflections of Lake Erie white blend to a neon-red dDornfelder. We enjoyed French hybrid wines at Klingshirn, discovered how a new winery makes great wine from California grapes in Ohio, experimented with European viniferas we never heard of, and sipped native labruscas like Niagara and Concord. The sun came out after a dreary start, which lifted our spirits. At the end of the tour, everyone said they were looking forward to the next one. Paul and I are too. We'll keep you posted.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Wine Country Adventures

Award-winning Pinot Noirs from St. Joseph share the stage with Emerine Estates, which produces fruit wines, like blueberry and country apple wines. Quarry Hill Winery used to sell its wines in an apple barn and Mon Ami serves its wine in elegant dining rooms. The Lake Erie Shores & Islands Wine Trail and the Lake Erie Vines & Wines Trail provide an afternoon or weekend adventure with sweeping views of Lake Erie along scenic byways. A great selection of wine can be enjoyed in cozy tasting rooms or fresh-air patios. Serenading accordion music and oven-fresh bread lull into Old World siestas. It's time to schedule your wine-country adventure!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Becoming an Expert, Year by Year

Winemaking began as a basement hobby for Bob Matus, owner of Matus Winery.  Before he opened the winery, he was beating seasoned winemakers in competitions.  In 1998, Bob started growing his own grapes, featuring hybrids such as Foche, Chambourcin, Traminette, and Vidal Blanc. In 2003, he was named Northern Ohio Winemaker of the Year. Matus Winery opened on June 17, 2006, on the 75-year-old Matus Farm in Wakeman, Ohio. The building was put together from remnants of an old tavern in Birmingham, wood from trees on the property, and local sandstone.   has been making wine for a while. In 2008, the barn was moved, an addition added, and renovations made. Placed above the mantel in the sandstone is a beautiful 5-foot sandstone wine bottle etched with the Matus Winery logo also made from local sandstone by marble and stone artist, Albert Gasparini. The winery contains many old treasures with stories all their own. The winery is a little further west of Vermilion Valley.  Their Riesling is the most popular.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

In the Midst of the Vermilion Valley

David Benzing and his partners at Vermilion Valley Vineyards opened their beautiful eco-friendly winery on Gore Orphanage Road several years ago.  The enviornmentally-friendly winery building is surrounded by vineyards. The winery seeks to educate its patrons on the different styles of wine--estate-bottled vinifera, labrusca, fruit--and has planted oer 5000 grape vines.  Music and food are offered on select weekends.  Also check their calendar for star gazing on scheduled evenings.  Meats and accompaniments are available to create your own picnic meal, including pick-it-yourself sweet corn, salad fixings, and blueberries and other fruits in season. Vermilion Valley Vineyards and Winery about two miles east of the village of Birmingham in northern Lorain County. It will be included on the September 8 wine tour.

Monday, August 27, 2012

It's Only a Paper Moon . . .

I'm putting off selecting the menu for lunch on the September 8 wine tour, want to think through how I want the experience to be for the guests, and I'm still waiting for RSVPs.  I've enjoyed the Panini sandwiches in the past, and one of the best things at the winery is the ability to see the winemaking operations from the dining area.  The winery makes a number of good wines, but we should focus on the dry Riesling.  Last summer, Adam Cawrse (winemaker) visited Canada to attend a conference focused entirely on Riesling. He wanted to gain knknowledge and techniques to make Riesling for Paper Moon.  Adam oversees Lake Erie Appellation grapes as they are hand sorted, crushed, lightly pressed, and juiced. Cold fermentation takes 3-4 weeks.  Smel and taste the fruit the comes through in the Reisling--do you taste peach, pear, melon, apple? It may be too late to get the special Silver Lining Riesling, but it's not too late to taste Paper Moon's newest release of this "Noble Grape" wine.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The “Blitz” was a homemade tractor built in the early 1940s for use of the Klingshirn family, which began operating Klingshirn Winery in Avon Lake in 1935. The grapes originally produced wine for the family but large grape crops caused Albert R. Klingshirn to start selling his wine commercially. Lee Klingshirn, the third generation owner and operator of the winery, continues the family farm business today.  We'll meet Lee on September 8 during our wineries tour.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

An Old Wine Truck and a Ferris Wheel . . . On Lake Erie

I haven't been back to Old Firehouse Winery since before I finished the book, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they have in their casks this weekend. I'll be there with fellow writer Gina Geither, whose book, Island of Tory, will be on sale with the wineries book.  I hope Gina tastes some of the Old Firehouse's wines with me.  It should make the Celtic Festival more fun. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Firelands Postcard Society

When I researched my book I found postcards and wine labels, maps and pamphlets, old photos and advertising copy. Because the book is historical, any item that could be reproduced in a black-and-white TIFF or JPEG format at pre-ordained resolution settings was fair game.  The folks at the Firelands Postcard Society, which meets at the Sandusky Senior Center, know all about old stuff, and they'll be bringing their wine memorabilia with them to tomorrow night's meeting where I'll tell them all I know about the grape industry in Sandusky, especially around the turn of the century, when Sandusky was second in the nation in production.  The old-timers at the meeting will probably be able to tell me a thing or two about Dorn Winery, the Hommel family, and how Sweet Valley Wine Co. moved its offices from the islands to Sandusky.  

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Kelley's Island Wine Company


The story of Kirt and Robby Zettler starts with the history of wineries on Kelley’s Island. Vineyards were well established on Kelley’s Island by the 1840s. Datus Kelley planted Isabella grapes in Kelley’s Island limestone soil in 1842 and his son-in-law, Charles Carpenter, began operating the first commercial winery on the island in 1845. Kelley Island Wine Company was formed in 1865. Determined hikers can still find the impressive solid stone wall ruins of the building, built in 1878, with wine cellars and some equipment intact. The former vineyards around Kelley Island Wine Company are now covered in new growth trees. Kelley Island Wine Company, originally known as Island Number 6 and once one the largest producers of wine in the country, went out of business during Prohibition.

Island history and the prestige of the original winery operations motivated Kirt to seek naming rights to Kelley’s Island Wine Company when he and his family started growing grapes and making wine 30 years ago. “Kirt was studying agricultural engineering in Australia, and they started growing organic vegetables, which wasn’t a commercial success, so they started growing grapes,” Robby reports. Kelley’s Island Wine Company was reborn back in the early 1980s. The plaque behind the bar boasts that the winery makes “Pure Native Wines” from island grapes.

The winery has become a destination for vacationers because of the casual ambience of the modern “Australian Outback” building, outdoor seating, and fine chef-crafted food served in the evenings. The winery is a fun place where children can play and patrons can engage in volleyball and horseshoe. During the afternoons, pizza and cheese platters compliment the wine, but in the evening, the chef conjures up scallops and ribeye. The winery also bottles its own olive oil and has a full-service bar. The boats will start running in late March-early April, and the first big event is the Spring Wine Fling on April 22.

The Kelley's Island Wine Company shows off its wine at their new mainland home in the Cleveland area at Metropolitan Home Design, Lakewood’s newest lifestyle store specializing in global and local home design, food and wine. Author Claudia Taller will be there on February 10 from 7-9 PM to talk about how northern Ohio's wine industry started on the islands and sell copies of her book "Ohio's Lake Erie Wineries."