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.
For four generations, the same family has tilled the soil beneath the grape vines that thrive at Barrel Run Crossing Winery and Vineyard. Originally used to grow grain, hay, soybeans, and wheat, the land saw its first vines in 2006, and grapes have been planted each subsequent year. Now totaling 10 acres, up to eight grape varietals flourish on the land. The result of these planting efforts is a host of handcrafted wines and ciders, including 2012 Ohio Wine Competition award winners Tipsy Conductor and Engine Number 5. All of Barrel Run Crossing’s wines are available for sampling in the spacious tasting room and for purchase by the thimble, glass, or bottle.
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.
Upstairs from the bustling hair studio and spa, The Wine Bar at Solaire offers a quiet respite amid lush curtains and soft lighting. Beneath the undulating panels of the ceiling at the center of the dining room, bistro-inspired plates fill the air with the aromas of pan-seared scallops and fresh pasta.
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.