Last year, when Ohio State University’s Alumni Association unveiled its “Oval Collection” of hand-selected wines it wanted to sell to its members to raise money for student scholarships, there was not a single Ohio wine in the bunch.
That omission stung many of Ohio’s winery owners and grape growers, given the prominent role that the university and its graduates have played in the development of Ohio’s wine industry.
“The wine industry in Ohio makes such a huge economic impact on the state, it’s hard to believe that The Ohio State University would be so blind to the quality of wines we produce here,” one commenter wrote about a story TheWineBuzz.com published on its web site in January 2018 under the headline, “OSU Alumni Association Muffs Golden Opportunity to Recognize Rising Quality of Ohio Wines.”
“I can only hope that something is in the works to make a change for the next vintage,” the commenter said.
Well, fast-forward 10 months, and on Wednesday, Nov. 28, the OSU Alumni Association unveiled its 2018 Oval Collection – “new wines produced exclusively for Ohio State alumni and friends” – and lo and behold, it includes an Ohio-grown-and-bottled wine: The Buckeye Blush from The Winery at Versailles in Darke County in west-central Ohio. (The “Buckeye Blush” name was in place well before the wine’s selection.)
Ohio’s wine industry leaders praised the decision, but they also hope it is just a start.
“The Ohio Grape Industries Committee is excited and honored to have an Ohio wine included in this year’s Oval Collection,” Christy Eckstein, executive director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Ohio Grape Industries Committee told TheWineBuzz. “With more than 300 licensed wine manufacturers in the Buckeye state and nearly two dozen of our winemakers being alumni of OSU, this is a great way to promote the long-standing partnership between Ohio’s grape and wine industry and OSU, specifically the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Centerin Wooster.”
“We hope the addition of The Winery at Versailles’ Buckeye Blush this year creates the opportunity for many more Ohio wines to be considered and included in the Oval Collection in the future.”
Donniella Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association, said, “We are delighted the Oval Collection will feature an Ohio grown wine — and obviously its label, Buckeye Blush, has lots of appeal. As a hybrid blend, it represents much of what is produced here, and we are proud that it was produced by one of our premier wine families at the Winery at Versailles. … (We) hope this is the first one of many Ohio wines to be included in the Oval Collection.”
Bill Bakan, owner of Maize Valley Winery and a member of the Ohio Grape Industries Committee, said several people worked behind the scenes to educate university and alumni association officials about the quality of Ohio wines.
Bakan called the inclusion of Buckeye Blush “an excellent step in the right direction, and hopefully, we can add more Ohio wines in the future.”
And what about the wine? It is a blend of Vidal Blanc and Chambourcin, described as “semi-sweet” by the winery’s owners on the winery’s web site. “For those who enjoy the White Zinfandel, this blend offers everything you enjoy about it. … (the blend) creates a fruity and slightly sweeter version of a White Zin with a softer finish and a rich color.”
The wine sells for $10 in the Oval Collection, the same price as the wine sells for at the winery. It is far and away the least expensive of the six wines in the Oval Collection. The other five wines range from $18 for a California chardonnay to $50 for a California red blend.
To view the Oval Collection, go to partners.vinoshipper.com/ohio-state.