Grape vineyards and fine wines aren’t the first things that come to mind when most people think of Ohio agriculture. Yet, the state’s grape and wine industry has attracted attention over the past decade, growing from 124 licensed wineries in 2007 to 206 as of June 2014.
“Ohio’s wine industry is growing and represents a significant segment of the state’s $105 billion food and agriculture industry,” says Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels. “Ohio grape growers and wine makers all over the state are creating quality, award-winning products that rival those in well-known wine producing areas like California and Europe.”
In 2012, Ohio’s booming wine and grape industry had an economic impact of $786 million, and it became the seventh largest wine-producing state in the nation. The state’s wineries produce more than 1.2 million gallons of wine annually and host nearly 3 million visitors every year.
Vision and Education
At Terra Cotta Vineyards in Muskingum County, visitors can browse the vineyards, taste the wines and enjoy a fantastic view. “We have a view of rolling hills that you can see forever,” says Donna Roberts, who owns Terra Cotta Vineyards with her husband, Paul. “There isn’t anyone who visits us that doesn’t comment on our view. People sit on our back deck, side patio or shelter area and enjoy wine with cheese and crackers, or a nosh plate.”
Paul made wine as a hobby for several years before the couple opened Terra Cotta Vineyards in 1999.
“We visited Ohio wineries for our summer vacations and attended wine conferences,” Donna says. “We were Ohio Wine & Friends members through the Ohio Wine Producers Association. My husband attended the Ohio Short Course Educational Conferences sponsored by The Ohio State University and Ohio Grape Industries for about 15 years before we were a winery.”
Taste The Grape-ness
The Roberts family grows mostly French Hybrid grapes because they withstand Ohio’s colder temperatures. They make 14 different wine varieties.
“There are more people who drink sweeter wines than dry, so in that category our Concord, Crooked Creek and Terra White are very popular,” Donna says. “In the dry category, Chambourcin, Chambourcin Rosé and Seyval Blanc are popular.”
Terra Cotta Vineyards hosts special events periodically, including chef dinners, cookouts, painting parties and ladies’ nights with vendors.
“We love meeting really neat people who want to learn about and enjoy wine,” Donna says. “Many memories are made when families come for a special dinner, an engagement proposal or when a wedding takes place here.”
Variety In Versailles
In Darke County, The Winery at Versailles is helping wine-lovers create memories. Open since 2002, the winery makes more than 30 different wines. Owners Mike and Carol Williams moved to Ohio from Pennsylvania, where they have another winery. Their son Jamie runs their Wilcox, Pa. winery. Daughter Lisa is the sales manager in Versailles.
“Our most popular wine is Rodeo Red, a sweet red blend,” says David Coons, winemaker at The Winery at Versailles. “We make something for every taste, from traditional Cabernet, Chardonnay and Merlot to blueberry, blackberry and peach. Dry, sweet, fruit or sparkling … we do it all.”
The first weekend of every month, The Winery at Versailles hosts its Ultimate Tasting event, including a tour, tasting of all wines and an informative talk while guests taste. The kitchen is also open daily, serving appetizers, gourmet pizzas, soup and salad.
“The wine industry is unique in that everyone is happy to share information and help each other out,” Coons says. “There is a great camaraderie among people who would be looked at as competitors in any other industry.”