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.
Carnage in the Corn at Maize Valley Market and Winery is a six-acre corn maze full of twists, turns, and frightful sensory escapades. A vast growth of corn sorghum, field corn, and forest paths create a seasonal labyrinth that will have your blood developing goose-bumps as you turn each corner in unknowing darkness. Carnage in the Corn employs no actors or gross-out techniques lifted from such horror films as Man, Blood, There's Blood, Man; the unknown nature of the maze and the darkness are all that it takes to strike terror in participants of this sprawling center of the spooky. The maze is designed for kids of all ages, within reason, as actual babies are likely to go feral if exposed to fresh air and cornstalks for more than a few minutes at a time.
The family of vintners at The Grape and Granary have concocted vinos for years, and their ancillary enthusiasms for beer brewing and other DIY drinks have led to some one-of-a-kind grape distillates. The Grape and Granary’s specialty Jalapeno Pepper wine ($12.95) saunters across the palate's runway and leaves behind sweet and spicy smoke trails. This particular semi-dry white—sold only in Ohio by buckeye-flavored salesmen—pairs well with piquant cuisines and tabasco-flavored frozen yogurt. A jalapeño pepper luxuriates in every bottle. The Grape and Granary also culls dry wines from grapes born, raised, and mostly educated in California’s Central Valley such as the dry red 2009 Renaissance Wine Cellars merlot ($12.99), which boasts a light body with dry, fruity tones in hot pursuit.
For more than 75 years, the Lacomini family has graced the local culinary landscape with a rich menu of traditional Italian recipes and an extensive selection of ambrosial wines and martinis. Defy conventional pasta physics with an appetizing antipasto such as crab-stuffed mushrooms ($6.95) or zucchini fretto sprinkled with parmesan cheese ($6.95) before pondering the complex tuscan béchamel strata of a baked rustic lasagna ($14.95). Delectable dishes such as the cashew-crusted trout ($22.95) or sautéed veal scaloppini ($21.95) complement a tabletop like a kiss seals a memo or a rose kisses Seal.
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.