Youngstown Finds New Niche as Wine Destination
Nestled between Cleveland and Pittsburgh in the northeast corner of Ohio, Youngstown is considered by some as a time-forgotten, rust-belt town.
But the Mahoning Valley region that is anchored by Youngstown offers a surprising plethora of culture, food, entertainment and natural beauty. And it’s cultivating a new reputation as a flourishing wine destination.
Visitors can work up a thirst for wine adventures while exploring Youngstown’s vibrant culture and history. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Butler Institute of American Art, which offers a world-renowned art collection. The city’s picturesque Mill Creek Park encompasses more than 2,600 acres of forest, streams, ponds, gardens and waterfalls.
And nestled throughout the Youngstown area are more than a half-dozen wineries that are helping to change the region’s reputation.
“Most people are unaware that Youngstown has so many wineries,” says Linda Macala, executive director of the Mahoning County Convention and Visitors Bureau. And each has a different theme, Macala says.
“We’ve got lakeside; we’ve got Tuscan-style; we’ve got California-style. We’ve become a destination for the wine lover,” Macala says.
Wineries began to crop up in the valley in the mid-2000s, and the growth has continued as the wines have grown in popularity.
The “Wines of the Valley Wine Trail” program, launched last year, is back by popular demand for 2019. Participants obtain a passport at one of the area’s six participating wineries. With each glass of wine purchased, they get a passport stamp and earn a keepsake wine charm unique to each winery. Those who receive five or more stamps can return the passport back to a participating winery and receive a bonus charm and charm box. The program is offered through Sept. 29.
Participating wineries include Mastropiétro Winery in Berlin Center, The Vineyards at Pine Lake in Columbiana, L’uva Bella Winery and Bistro in Lowellville, Diletto Winery in Boardman, Halliday’s Winery and Lil Paws Winery, both in Lake Milton.
Jessie Ray, assistant manager at Diletto, describes the winery as “a mixture of classy and cool where everyone from every demographic and every age group can come and relax.” Diletto specializes in sangria and flavored Moscatos, including strawberry, cranberry, blueberry, blackberry and peach.
The winery offers a wide range of events and activities that range from indoor cornhole to escape rooms to murder-mystery events.
At The Vineyards at Pine Lake, winemaker Joe Glista says the family-owned winery aims for a tranquil, vacation-like environment.
“We try to create a chateau-like feeling,” Glista says. “We set the atmosphere when you come in. You drive through the vines. We try to create an atmosphere of escapism.”
Pine Lake bottles 17 varietals, with an emphasis on Ohio-grown fruit. The winery also offers a banquet hall for private events, live music on weekends, and a full menu offering appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entrées, Glista says.
A love of dogs influenced Little Paws Winery owners Dale and Mary Mills and Ed and Nan Johnson to create a canine-influenced winery overlooking Lake Milton. Each of Little Paws’ 18 varieties is named for a dog that is near and dear to the owners’ hearts, Dale Mills says.
The winery also expanded into crafting its own beer and features six microbrews on tap. Not surprisingly, the beers are named after different dog breeds.
The winery features an outdoor patio with lake views and live music. Guests are welcome to bring their four-legged friends and food.
Mills says Little Paws focuses on creating smooth, drinkable wines for a wide range of palates.
“Good wines for a good price and good people – that’s all,” he says.
So if you’re looking for a new and delightful Ohio wine experience in an unexpected locale, shake off the rust and plan a trip to the Mahoning Valley.