Summertime breezes wander from the shores of Lake Erie to whistle through clinking glasses at the Lake Erie Winefest, where casual and seasoned sippers alike gather annually to discuss, learn about, and taste-test different wines from regional winemakers. Throughout the weekend, participating wineries showcase products to festival attendees, who can take their grape-fueled zest to the next level by absorbing viticulture lectures or promising to name their next child after a favorite sample. Food and wine demonstrations dish out tips for palatable pairing, and bands and craft stands amplify festive airs with live tunes and wine-related wares.
During the spring and summer, laughter fills the air at Adventure Zone, where rollicking rides and challenging outdoor games keep spirits high from April to September. Visitors bond over friendly races at the go-kart track, compete for the ownership of plush toys at the center’s arcade, or hone their sporting skills on the miniature-golf course or within the batting cages. The park’s concession stand stocks a range of salty and sweet snacks, which help quell cravings or prevent midrace pizza runs.
A savory scent and alluring sizzle waft through the air at The Wine & Walleye Festival, an annual event founded in 2008; it comes from the vendors frying filets of perch and walleye from Lake Erie. Representatives from local wineries pour samples of their reds and whites, and a roster of local artists and musicians showcase the culture of Ashtabula County. Festival-goers can also participate in a 5K road race, cast their lines for a fishing tournament, or take in the sights of a classic car show and a boat parade on the Ashtabula River.
Old Firehouse Winery ferments more than 20 full-flavored vinos along the glistening shores of Lake Erie. Diners can admire the dining room with its shelves of glossy wine bottles to the gently lapping lake. Visitors can opt to purchase sweet and dry wine tastings ($1 for two tasting trays), which each include 10 samples of single-grape and blended varietals. After sampling the full range of sweet and juicy concords to dry and full-bodied chambourcins, duos can imagine how each exquisite vintage would look inside their souvenir wine glasses and how advantageous the imprinted corkscrews would be during a close-range jousting match. In the warmer months, patrons can swill, sniff, and sip from a romantic lakeside overlook on the outdoor tasting patio and supplement the winery outing with a ride on a historic ferris wheel.
Matt Meineke was at an impasse. After crafting many batches of wine in his own home, Matt was running low on ways to improve the product's quality, save for one: growing the fruit himself. He and his family eventually settled on a 12.6-acre lot that was already planted with Niagara grapes. But that was barely the end of his trials. The old vines would need to be removed, the land would need to be adjusted for pH and nutrients, and the entire plot would need to be left fallow for a whole year. It would be 2011 before the first batch of wine could be bottled.
But it was worth the wait. That lovingly nurtured wine now fills the racks inside M Cellars' rustic tasting room, waiting to sigh "about time" with each popped cork. Shoes clapping on the hardwood, visitors can swirl pours of Matt's pinot noir, cabernet, and riesling into their glasses, furthering their enjoyment by snapping up bottles to take home or by expanding their wine knowledge with friends in one of the shop's Wine 101 classes.
C Tavern Smokehouse Grille, a restaurant nestled in Ohio wine country, serves up large portions of homestyle comfort food in an inviting space with polished wood floors and a stone wall serving as the backdrop. Beer-battered Great Lakes fish, 8-ounce steak burgers, and garlicky shepherd's pies stuffed with smoked meats and smashed potatoes are among its specialties. Diners can pair main courses with pours of wine, beer, and mixed drinks, such as the pumpkin martini.