a closer look into ohio wine (plus discounted vintage ohio tickets)

Did you know wine making in Ohio dates back to the early 1800’s? And while we may occasionally complain about our weather, it’s actually ideal for producing wine. Ohio in fact is home to many wonderful wineries. Wineries that are not only receiving local attention, but accolades from across the country. Yet another reason to love our great state

Personally, we’ve enjoyed many afternoons at several nearby wineries, including The Lakehouse Inn (they host a fantastic clambake in the fall), Debonne and Ferannte to name a few (and of course, the old Lonz Winery – which was more about just being there than the actual wine). And I know there are plenty more for us to discover. We’re also big fans of the Vintage Ohio Wine Festival at Lake Metroparks Farmpark in Kirtland. It’s a great way to sample a lot of wine, learn a thing or two, and explore a growing industry within our state. The event, now in its 15th year, will be held this year August 7th and 8th from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Twenty-five wineries in all participate offering over 150 vintages to taste, plus cooking demos and local restaurants. USA Today has even named this one of America’s top wine and food events.

Tickets are normally $22 or $25 day of per person — but the Ohio Wine Assoc. is offering Cleveland Foodie readers a special discounted price of $17. Visit here or call 800 227 6972 and reference code FOV2009 for this special Cleveland Foodie rate.

To get you a little excited for the two-day event, Joel Sandrey, a sommelier who has been involved with Ohio wine since 1997 and is currently the sales/marketing director for Debonne Vineyards, shares with us his point of view on wine and why wine snobs should stay in their cellar.

As Joel puts it, his quest is to get as many people as he can to let down their guard, open up their minds and just drink wine.

“In the last few years I have developed, what I think, is a unique view of the wine world. As so many things in our lives get more and more complicated and stress-filled, isn’t it wonderful that there exists a nearly perfect beverage? One that tastes fantastic, goes great with food, is relatively inexpensive, and makes you smile more and more the more you drink it. And still we insist on wasting time debating, and boasting, and pounding our chests about how wine savvy we are, instead of just cracking open a bottle and enjoying it for what it is….without apology or worrying about what others think of your choice.”

1. Why does Ohio weather make this such a great state for producing wine? The weather in Northern Ohio changes almost from hour to hour. Over the course of a growing season, all of those temp spikes/drops and rain/droughts will create this years’ Vintage, which in all likelihood, will be pretty different from last years’ Vintage. So because of our constantly changing weather, we get true, unique, vintages every year.

2. What are the biggest misconceptions about Ohio wine? That all we can produce is big sugar bombs. Ohio wineries have been winning medals in international competitions for years in traditional European vinifera. We produce world class Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Riesling, and so on. We also make big ass sugar bombs.

3. If Cleveland were a wine, which one would it be? As a lifelong Clevelander, I think Cleveland is a Zinfandel. One big, unapologetic, Zin. We are what we are, perhaps to bold for our own good sometimes, but that is what makes us unique.

4. What’s the highest honor an Ohio wine has received? I am not sure about everyone else but Debonné has won Platinum and Double Gold this year on our Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Reserve Riesling. Every year we win dozens of medals in international blind competition.

5. Cork or screw top? Cork is more romantic for table side presentation, but a screw cap means wine will not be flawed. If you are at all concerned about the means by which your favorite wine is sealed, perhaps it is time to reevaluate things in your life :)

6. What can Ohio deliver that Sonoma and Napa can’t? Ice wine, baby. They can fake it, but they can’t make it. Throwing grapes in a freezer is not the same as letting them over ripen and then freeze on the vine. There are not too many places on the planet that can produce this jewel of the wine world, Northern Ohio just happen to have the perfect climate.

7. What would a wine snob be surprised to learn about Ohio wine? Nothing. Wine snobs have a preconceived notion that is unbending. If you encounter one of these self important jackasses, it is best to walk away slowly as to not arouse their heightened instinct to blather on with their never ending opinions. You could get trapped in a many hour diatribe about their last trip to “real wine country” where we stayed at blah blah blah. Lucky for everyone, the “wine snob” is a dying breed. In their place is growing a population of wine adventurers, who are willing to experience, with an open mind, anything that is thrown at them. A wine adventurer is just as likely on any given night to grab an old world white, as a big, new world, fruit bomb, red. Thank God for the new wine adventurer! As for you wine snobs, please stay in your cellars.

8. What are 3 must-try wines at the wine festival? I would not want to insult one by not mentioning it, so I will only say, Vintage Ohio is a monster!

9. What is the proper way to taste a wine? Pour it in a glass, swirl it around to let the wine open a little and free all of the subtle characteristics, and then enjoy It. Really it doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

10. What wine do you always keep in your house? Bottle of red, bottle of white – you never know what I will be in the mood for.

11. Perfect Ohio wine to take to a backyard BBQ? I like to bring a Pinot Noir and a Pinot Gris; both are light and fun and will be nice enough to go with almost any dish.


  1. Allison M.
    Posted July 20, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    I went for the first time last year and had so much fun. However, I'm missing it because I'll be out of town.

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  3. Jim Alunni
    Posted July 21, 2009 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Beth and I got engaged here http://www.tarsitanowinery.com/ we stumbled across it on our Vespas doing a covered bridges tour. The wine is decent, very "new" but not the sweet cream you would think. The food at their place is all great, they make pasta and ravioli fresh daily, I could not believe it because it just looks like a non-descript barn on a dirt road. The best part about the food is when I ordered the Roasted Garden Red Pepper Ravioli they asked me what I wanted for a side, my choices were a chicken breast or a steak!!

  4. Ohio Wine
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    The Vintage Ohio Wine Festival is something a wine lover should never miss!

  5. Ryan
    Posted July 30, 2009 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Great interview Natalie – Joel is a swell guy.

    Ohio wines aren't meant to be compared to California or any others. No one would ever compare California to Oregon in that manner or Bordeaux to Burgundy.

    Here's a good follow up article about wine snobs: http://www.nataliemaclean.com/view.asp?id=165

    As for award winning, I'll mention that Grand River Cellars won the Governor's award last year for the best dessert wine in the state, and a Gold for our Chardonnay.

    I blog about all kinds of wine on my blog oe-no-phile, including those in our backyard.