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.