“People think ‘local, local, local’ when it comes to food. They need to do it with wine,” notes Kim Laurello, co-owner of Laurello Vineyards.
We were chatting at the newly opened Laurello Vineyards on the Lake, Laurello’s new tasting room, right on the strip in Geneva-on-the-Lake (GOTL.) Most Northeast Ohioans who know and love GOTL appreciate its retro look and feel, like a beach town frozen in the 1950s. So it may surprise this summer’s visitors to discover they can sip Laurello wines after a fresh perch sandwich at Mary’s Kitchen or before perusing memorabilia at Frank’s Toybox.
Laurello Vineyards on the Lake opened the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and, “Everyone keeps asking if we serve donuts with our wine,” quipped Larry Laurello, the winery’s other co-owner. It’s Larry and Kim’s daughter, Jennifer Laurello Bontrager, who owns and manages this new addition to GOTL’s strip located in what used to be Jim’s Donuts. (Not to worry — for those who like donuts with their wine, Madsen Donuts is just down the street.)
Kim and Jennifer want GOTL visitors to know Laurello Vineyards on the Lake serves cheese and antipasto plates, pairing the dishes with wines from their vineyards. For $6, guests may taste a flight of four different wines, including Laurello’s popular estate-grown Cabernet Franc and Pinot Grigio. If it’s a sweltering day, give the refreshing Peach Riesling a try. It’s made with extract from another local purveyor, Bickford Flavors & Extracts, in Wickliffe. Bickford’s products are “all natural and kosher,” according to its website.
The Laurello family has deep roots in Ashtabula County, so when Jennifer graduated from Walsh University with a degree in business management, she knew she wanted to use her skills in the family business. That’s why she’s taking classes via Kent State University at Ashtabula’s VESTA program (Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance.) This distance-learning program is funded by the National Science Foundation and delivered to 17 universities and community colleges throughout the country. Students who complete their coursework will have an Associate Degree in Applied Science, Viticulture.
One of Jennifer’s goals is to introduce guests to Laurello’s main winery and tasting room via this cheery, light-filled satellite in the heart of GOTL’s strip. “We want people to get a taste here, then check out our winery and vineyards,” she says.
Laurello Vineyards has a new winemaker, Brad Indoe, a graduate of VESTA. The family has planned a host of musical entertainment for the summer. Its popular Bandfest is slated for Saturday, July 20 from noon to 10pm. The lineup of local talent and genres is impressive: Loose Tooth Band, Abby Normal and Country Redford. Food and beverages will be flowing all day, and anyone who has visited the winery’s main tasting room knows Laurello’s wood-fired pizzas and flatbreads pair beautifully with the Laurello’s Cabernet Sauvignon and other reds.