buying – and enjoying – local wine

Vintage Ohio is right around the corner. To help you gain a better understanding of our local wine industry, here is a trio of Q&As with some of the folks that know best.

Q&A with Jan Cobett, American Wine Society

Q. Why is Ohio an ideal setting for producing wine?

A. Proximity to Lake Erie and the Ohio River Valley provide moderating influences to our colder climate.  Ohio is the warmest of all states that touch the Great Lakes.  We get warm days and cool nights, much like Central and Northern European vineyards. One advantage of our cold climate is that we can produce fabulous ice wine.

Q. What wines have you tasted locally that could go up against any in the country – or beyond?

A. Firelands Winery Pinot Grigio, St. Joseph Pinot Noir, Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Franc, Ferrante Riesling, Debonne Chardonnay, and ice wine which is produced by several Ohio wineries.  All of these are made with Ohio grapes and many have won awards at large national competitions.

Q. What are must-visit wineries?

A. Firelands, Laurello, St. Joseph, Debonne, Valley Vineyards, Kinkead Ridge, Ferrante.  Gervasi Vineyards is also worth a visit.  They do make most wine from grapes from California, but it is a beautiful winery and restaurant. They are growing grapes, so look for Ohio made wines from them in the future.

Q. How do we compare to more well-known regions for making wine?

A. Most people compare every other American wine region with California.

People need to remind themselves that climate is a big factor in agriculture, including grape growing. We do not have enough heat days here to grow some of the Italian and Mediterranean varietals.  We can produce wonderful Riesling, Pinot, Noir, Chardonnay and French hybrids such as Vignoles.

Q. Tips for buying local wine?

A. Buy wines that have won recent medals. Ask the winery if you can taste their best sellers.  Come to Vintage Ohio and spend the day tasting what Ohio has to offer.

Q& A with Jim Arbaczewski, Ferrante

Q. What is unique about Ferrante?

A. Ferrante’s is one of the oldest and largest wineries in the state. We have a state-of-the-art wine making facility along with an Italian Restaurant.

Q. What are you best known for?

A. Our cool climate whites. Our best known wine is our Golden Bunches Dry Riesling this year. It is the Dir of Ags choice for Best White Wine in the state of Ohio.

Q. What’s coming up?

A. In September we have our Cask release party and in November we have our Turkey Trot event all part of the Grand River Valley group. We have an event every day at the winery.

Q. Tips for those planning a trip?

A. My suggestion would be to stop at the wineries on 307 and end up at our place to enjoy their favorite wines and have a bite to eat.

Q&A with Joel Sandrey with Debonne

Q. What is unique about Debonne?

A. Debonne Vineyards is the largest estate winery in Ohio.  We have just shy of 175 acres of grapes growing on property.  Most years our wines are made with about 97% estate grown fruit.  Growing our own fruit gives us a little more control and understanding of what the potential final wines could become.

Q. What are you known for?

A. We grow many different varietal of grapes here in the Grand River Valley.  Although we have had success with Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Cabernet Franc, we are almost certainly best known for our Rieslings.

The Debevc’s starting making wine in 1972 on property owned by the family since 1916.  For many years the grapes that were grown were sold to jelly and juice manufactures.  In 1971 Tony looked to use those grapes to make wine and create a fun destination for friends to come together and enjoy wine.

Q. Tips for those planning a visit?

A. I would start by going to and look to see what events are scheduled.  Throughout the warmer months we have planned events for everyone.  From classic car shows and pet days, to kites and remote control planes.  We have even started offering tethered hot air balloon rides. I would book fast, they sell out!

DISCOUNT Once again, Cleveland Foodie readers can enjoy a special discount to Vintage Ohio. Just use #13FOOD to receive $10 off the gate price (in other words – $20 tickets!).

Vintage Ohio is held August 2-3, 2013 from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day at Lake Metroparks Farmpark. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the gate.  Ticket includes entry to the festival, a souvenir wine glass and 25 wine sampling tickets. Advance tickets are available online here or by calling 800-227-6972.  Two-day taster tickets are available for $45.  Groups of 10 or more, purchased in advance with one method of payment, are $20 each. Meet the Winemaker VIP tickets are an additional $15.  Foodie and designated driver tickets are $12 and include admission to the festival and up to 5 non-alcoholic beverages.  Children age 4-17 are $3.  Children three and under are free.  Vintage Ohio is held in conjunction with Lake Metroparks.

This post was sponsored by Vintage Ohio.