Fine Dining at Ohio’s Destination Wineries

by Rich Warren

Many Ohio wineries offer casual culinary fare; some operate full-scale restaurants and offer fine dining experiences. I visited six Ohio wineries, personally vetted their dining and tasting rooms, and enjoyed every delicious minute!

Crosswinds Grille in Geneva-on-the-Lake is part of a resort that comprises the restaurant, the Lakehouse Inn, a day spa, and the Inn’s boutique winery. Situated just steps from Lake Erie, the restaurant’s dining area has a vaulted ceiling with skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows that afford diners spectacular views of the lake. The restaurant is infused with the aromas of brick-oven-baked pizza, and other flavorful dishes being prepared by Chef Cameron Lucas. Crosswinds prides itself on sourcing its foods from local farmers. Summertime fare features produce and herbs grown right on the property. Especially popular throughout the year, and featured in Crosswinds’ huge charcuterie boards, are to-die-for meats obtained from Na*Kyrsie Meats in Geneva, which offers locally sourced grass-fed and free-range cuts of pork and beef. Frequently on Crosswinds’ menu are Na*Kyrsie’s succulent filets, rib eyes, flank steak, top sirloin, marinated pork chops, and the popular Butcher’s Ragu, made from braised Na*Kyrsie beef and pork. Even the hamburgers are exquisite gourmet treats!

Gervasi Vineyard in Canton is a premier Ohio dining, winery and distillery destination. Located on Gervasi’s beautifully landscaped, 55-acre campus is the Bistro for fine dining. An elegantly restored 1823 barn, the Bistro is appointed with an eclectic mix of rustic and refined interior finishes and architectural details. Hand-hewn timbers, candelabra lighting, oils on canvas and an elegantly curved stairway that leads to a loft, contribute to the Bistro’s delightful ambiance. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlook a lake, surrounded by willow trees. Popular among diners is the Tuscan Beef Short Rib, cooked “low and slow” for six hours, which, as promised, fell apart on my fork. I can also vouch for the house-made pierogis and meatballs arrabbiata, both sizable appetizers that could double as entrées. Also on the property is the more casual Crush House Wine Bar and Eatery, with outdoor and indoor seating and plentiful pasta and sandwich options. Nearby, the Still House, a combination coffeehouse and cocktail lounge, offers upscale appetizers.

Gideon Owen Wine Company on Catawba Island opened in 2019, but as its tagline “Our Roots Run Deep” suggests, it’s linked with something much older. Housed in the historic limestone structure that for many years was home to Mon Ami Winery, Gideon Owen is working to re-establish the vineyards that once flourished on Catawba. Visit Gideon’s Tirage Bar where you can sample wines on tap; everything from a local Beaujolais to a Jam Jar Moscato from South Africa. Then move into the adjacent restaurant where the lofty limestone walls of yesteryear blend with modern lighting fixtures and tables, an indoor fire pit, and two long bars. The floor-to-ceiling windows roll up and open to the outdoor patios in the summertime. Elegant fare includes lobster bisque and bang bang shrimp, and more substantial entrées like herb-crusted rack of lamb, filet mignon, and – of course – local Lake Erie walleye.

Although it’s an urban winery in Cincinnati’s Westwood neighborhood, Henke Winery, located in what was formerly an 1880s farmhouse, has several dining rooms with large picture windows, and a very cozy feel. A sign outside summarizes the winery’s philosophy: “Sit, Sip, and Savor.” Owner, Joe Henke, sincerely wants his guests to linger and enjoy his 15 European-style wines and a memorable meal. Start with the air-fried cheese appetizer which features Vermont white cheddar in a crunchy herb jacket, served atop a blueberry compote. Main courses include a New York strip and seared or blackened salmon. I can personally attest to the quality of the chicken linguine carbonara, although I heard someone at an adjacent table say, “People rave about the pork tenderloin medallions here.” Next time!

In the forested Appalachian foothills south of Athens, Shade Winery resembles a rustic hunting lodge surrounded by vineyards which carpet the rolling terrain. Its eclectic menu includes smoked salmon potato latkes, yellowfin tuna, and New York strip steak. Order the lemon torte and blueberry compote for dessert, and don’t skip the delectable whipped cream made by the nearby Snowville Creamery. Enjoy your meal inside the lodge, on a wrap-around porch, or under a covered outdoor deck. Shade Winery is a popular regional dining destination, and they’ve recently started to take reservations, making a long wait for a table less likely. Owner, Neal Dix, makes the rounds, offering wine suggestions, and is pleased to have released three new wines this year — Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, and an estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wishmaker House, a combination winery/restaurant/B&B in a magnificent 1890s mansion adjacent to downtown Bellville’s iconic gazebo, makes two dozen award-winning wines. Servers wearing “I make pour decisions” t-shirts will assist you with your choices. But you can also choose from a full menu of tantalizing entrées, including Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese, Tuscan Pasta, and the playfully named Pork Shank Redemption, a sly nod to the fact that “The Shawshank Redemption” was filmed nearby. The restaurant’s Maple Bourbon Salmon, a special the night I dined there, was especially delcious. For dessert, choose from more than a dozen different cheesecakes, including a bourbon caramel pecan, and a hyper-popular new addition honoring Betty White, with homemade caramel and toffee pieces.

Six delectable, Ohio winery dining destinations down, many more to go! Bon appétit! Look for “Part Two” to this story, later in the year.

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