Tarsitano's Artisan Winery used to be a dairy farm. "But I would rather squeeze grapes than cows, so I started a winery," Ken Tarsitano says. This isn't the only reason Ken turned his 17 acres—which has been in his family for five generations—into a vineyard. His grandfather, Michael Tarsitano, "always had something bubbling away in his cellar," and it was Grandpa's ability to transform elderberries, apples, and even dandelions into wine that inspired Ken.
Today, Ken is the owner, vineyard manager, and winemaker at his eponymous winery and vineyard, whose 25 grape varieties have been organic since its 1998 inception. Wine isn't the only thing visitors dine on here: winery goers savor flatbreads and cheese plates. Tarsitano's Artisan Winery even hosts events, such as moon-viewing parties, where guests gather to launch sky lanterns in the light of a waxing moon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Although Lavery Brewing Company is relatively small on the brewery scale, it makes big, flavorful beers in small batches that are carefully handcrafted by its brewers. Founded by husband-and-wife team Jason and Nicole Lavery back in 2009, the 10-barrel brewery takes pride in the attention to detail that such a small operation not only allows for but demands. In addition to a roster of seasonal beers, the lineup of brews available year-round includes two IPAs, an imperial red ale, and a black saison.