Napa Valley of The East in Northeast Ohio
Cheers from Gadabout Gal Michele! Today I'm excited to share my travel diary post because it's about the area where I grew up. Even though I moved away years ago, I still make time to go back to visit family and to enjoy some of the most beautiful (and some of my most favorite places) on the planet. I'm talking the wineries of the Grand River Valley Region. If you have not yet made a trip to Lake and Ashtabula counties in Ohio to visit the many wineries you sure are missing out!
This valley, with a span of only 10 miles, is filled with vineyards and wineries throughout the area. The micro-climate characterized by warm, sunny days and cool nights makes it one of the best viticultural areas to be found and also one of the smallest. It's hard to believe that this region formed thousands of years ago when glaciers carved out the Great Lakes and deposited a ridge of fertile soil ideal for the cultivation of vineyards. It wasn't until 1916, when a couple farmers cleared land and planted grapes at the end of a road, that the winery region emerged growing into what is now over 20 award winning wineries.
Honestly, there are so many to choose from and some I have still yet to try. All of the wineries present a unique experience from small and cozy, family-owned, on the water, to larger, state of the art facilities, with tasting rooms or culinary experiences. I do have some favorites that I would highly recommend. Here is my must visit list:
With plantings beginning in 2011 and a winery in 2013 this newer winery has quickly become one of my most favorites. The grounds are gorgeous with patios, balconies, rolling hills and a pond to the stone walls, massive fireplace, cellar and rustic indoor decor that makes it feel like a comfy lodge. The wine is delicious. I've enjoyed a Pinot Gris in the summer and a hardy Cab in the winter and both were phenomenal! The tasting room also offer a menu of various samplings of boards, shared plates and artisan pizzas which are updated frequently.
One of the most unique Northeast Ohio wineries because it is in a former church that was built in 1892. But the interesting fact is that it was built elsewhere, in Shalersville, Ohio. It was actually moved piece by piece and opened in its present location in 2002 and it still features the natural woodwork, pews, and some of the stained glass windows. South River also offers a pavilion outside, with stunning views of the vineyards. For those of you who like beer, they serve a variety of beers around the world. While they only serve a cheese and bread tray, they do allow you to picnic in and just ask that you take out what you bring in.
A boutique winery so filled with endless hospitality that you really feel as though you’re one of the family (maybe it's because the winery is dedicated to their grandfather's memory who had a love for grapes and wine that started back in 1944). As soon as you enter, you are immersed in the nostalgia of Italy especially when sipping wines in the Tuscany Room near the roaring fireplace. A delicious food menu of appetizers, salads, paninis, and wood oven pizzas (with gluten-free options available) can be enjoyed in the Bubba Stein Room, the Isernia Room, or out on the covered patio. A couple of my red wine favorite are Rodavi and Cosmo (American) Super Tuscan Red Blend, which is named after their grandfather.
Located in Madison, Debonne Vineyards is now the largest estate winery in Ohio, boasting over 175 acres of vines. They are also the first Ohio winery to open up a micro-brewery. Debbone has expansive outdoor seating, wine & beer tasting flights, casual dining, tasting bars, gift shop, live entertainment, and many seasonal events! Their Summer tethered hot air balloon rides are amazing! I love this winery for it's beautiful grounds and the covered huge covered patio that makes you feel outside and comfortable even on a rainy day!
5. M Cellars
A boutique winery located in the heart of the Grand River Valley that focuses on growing and producing cool-climate estate wines. Signature wines at M include Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Meritage. On my last visit I tried their delicious 2016 Rkatsiteli which is made of grapes from the Republic of Georgia. I've never tasted a Russian grape before and I was pleasantly surprised! If you like a citrusy white, you'll enjoy this one with its lemon & lime zest, and hint of anise with a scent of pineapple. Yum!
One of Ohio’s premiere vinifera estate grown wineries providing quality, internationally acclaimed wines since 1937. From Chardonnays to Ice Wine the many varietals create an extensive list of 22 wines. Ferrante’s boasts a fantastic Italian restaurant. Homemade and delicious and they offer a gluten-free menu. It also has live weekend entertainment on their large outdoor patio. This winery is like home to me. We have shared so many family meals and memories so it's no surprise that Ferrante's is very close to my heart!
On the shores of Lake Erie, spending a summer afternoon or evening on the outdoor patio sampling wine with a local cheese board or woodfired pizza is so relaxing while watching the waves. During the fall and winter months, the winery moves to the restaurant, Crosswinds Grille. The other wonderful piece of this destination is that with the Inn it not only offers wonderful accommodations, but an on-site spa for pampering! I haven't done this yet, but a stay with a spa package is definitely on my list. Maybe I can get the other Gadabout Gals to join me!
So many wineries so little time. I'd suggest a nice long weekend or even a week if you can do it. If you want to make a vacation out of it, Niagara Falls is only a three hour drive from there. And I've heard that Niagara on the Lake has some pretty incredible wineries as well (yep, you guessed it, that's also on my list). I'm working on a possible Fall trip for the Gadabout Gals so stay tuned!
Travel Tip: If you want to uncork and unwind but don't have a designated driver you can always leave the driving to Grand River Valley Winery Tours. They offer personalized tours of the areas wineries.