by Claudia J. Taller
The Ohio and Erie Canal; it was over 300 miles long, and connected Lake Erie in the north, to the Ohio River at Cincinnati, in the south. Although the canal no longer transports goods or people, Canal Country is rich in history and natural beauty, and like Southern Ohio, is home to some of Ohio’s most charming wineries.
Lincoln Way Vineyards opened its tasting room in Wooster in 2018, years after the winery began growing grapes and making wine. Jim Borton, who owns and runs the winery with his wife Sherri, son Alex, and daughter Arianna, established the vineyards in 2008 after planting Vidal Blanc grapes. Jim says the winery idea evolved slowly and steadily, but may have been encouraged a bit by Andy Troutman of Troutman Winery, who said, “Jim, you’re going to be a winery someday, you just don’t know it yet.” Today, the winery uses estate-grown grapes from their five-acre vineyard, and from other sources, to create their Six Sixteen, Four O’Four, and One Fifty Five wines, mostly sweet-side blends.
South of Canton, on Route 39 in Dover, is Breitenbach Wine Cellars, a lovely destination in the bucolic heart of Amish country. The winery produces award-winning blush, red, and white grape wines, and fruit, berry and dandelion wines. The most popular event of the year is the Dandelion Festival, which occurs annually when the hills bloom yellow, the first Saturday in May. Guests celebrating the dandelion harvest can join cellar tours and can sample dandelion wine and culinary creations produced on site. The Café serves fresh salads and wood fired pizzas that can be enjoyed at indoor and outdoor settings throughout the Estate. The 1890 Breitenbach Guest House sleeps eight and is located on the Estate between the cellar and The Toolshed, the winery’s destination gathering venue.
Also in Amish country, the Guggisberg Swiss Inn, Winery and Riding Stables, located near Guggisberg Cheese in rural Millersburg, offers guided horseback trail rides and serves its own, Doughty Glen Winery estate wine. Guggisberg’s award-winning Doughty Glen Winery produces fruit wines, two drier wines, and sweet blush, Catawba, and Concord wines, all of which are available for tasting and purchase. On Friday and Saturday evenings during the season, the decks and gazebos on the property are idyllic settings for horse gazing, and for enjoying live entertainment and delicious cuisine. The Farmer’s Daughter Eatery, open Wednesday through Saturday from noon until eight, offers casual fare that includes appetizers, sandwiches and pizzas.
Southwest of Millersburg, in nearby Killbuck, French Ridge Vineyard and Winery offers food, wine, and charming log cabins for overnight stays. The 23-acre vineyard, one of the largest in the tri-county area, features 23,000 vines, 13 different grape types and 22 different wine varieties. The winery produces sweeter fruit wines, as well as wines like Dusty Dewey made from Marechal Foch and DeChaunac grapes, Morning Glory made with Frontenac Blanc grapes, and Inspiration made with Niagara and peach juices. Each wine has a story. Guests are encouraged to explore the vineyards or join guided tours.
Napa Valley meets Buckeye Lake at the Buckeye Lake Winery in Thornville, east of Columbus. Each Fall, the winery’s winemakers travel to Northern California to visit growers in the Napa, Russian River, Sonoma and Lodi regions; they select grapes, participate in the harvest, and crush the grapes before bringing the juice to Ohio for aging, blending and bottling. The goal of the hands-on approach is to ensure that the winery produces Napa-quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The winery also grows and buys local grapes and produces wines on-premise. Entrées served in the elegant restaurant include Roasted Salmon Filet, Braised Short Ribs, salads and small plates.
Hocking Hills Winery is on the Appalachian Wine Trail in the heart of the Hocking Hills in Logan. The winery sources local grapes, as well as sourcing juice from other regions, and the finished products include Riesling, Pinot Grigio, rosé, dry red blends, and Ash Cave Crimson, a Petite Syrah. Guests can enjoy appetizer trays with wine on the patio and by the fire, or may bring picnics or foods to grill. Live entertainment and food trucks create memorable experiences in a surround of great natural beauty.
North of Cincinnati, Valley Vineyards Winery & Brewery in Morrow, has over 52 years of experience turning moments into memories. Valley Vineyards’ winemakers craft 20 varieties of wine, including European varietals, French hybrids, and labrusca wines. Beer brewed by the brewmasters includes different styles of IPAs, lager, stout, and cider. The weekday menu offers salads, sandwiches, pizzas and plates to share. On weekends, visitors can enjoy buffet dinners with grilled meats; the Vintner Dinner, which features Filet Mignon, must be ordered in advance.
Located near Miami University, in rural Hanover Township, is the Hanover Winery. The winery crafts a variety of wines ranging from Tempranillo and Syrah, to Chardonnay and Traminette, as well as fruit wines. Hoping to grow Marquette, Norton, and Seyval varietals in the future, the winery also offers local brews and cocktails, pizza and light fare, and live music on weekends.
Explore the charm and cultural delights of Ohio’s Canal Country and Southern Ohio wineries. You’ll be glad you did!
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