Sapphire Creek Winery: A Sylvan Setting to Sip Napa Wines

“Turn right at Knowles Industrial Park and go all the way through. You’ll end up at this beautiful event center in the woods,” explained a friend who lives in Chagrin Falls.

I’d stopped to ask the best way to Sapphire Creek Winery & Gardens.

I was meeting colleagues there for a tour, wine tasting and dinner, and I didn’t know the area well. Plus, it was pouring at the exact time I was supposed to arrive. My friend kindly offered to guide me, so I followed without incident.

My jaw dropped when I saw this massive wood-and-glass structure in a lovely woodland with trees sprouting lime-green buds and giant green plants carpeting the ground. What a difference a couple of blocks off East Washington Street makes! We felt like we were Hansel & Gretel (plus one, as there were three of us) and had accidentally stumbled into an Emerald City. Sapphire Creek’s architecture and décor are stunning: vaulted wood ceilings with glass walls all the way up to the apexes and lighting evocative of the moon and stars.

I’d read about Sapphire Creek and heard about the principals in this venture: Kathleen and Andy Dangelo and Kimberly and Jimmy Gibson. Both couples are fans of Napa Valley wineries. They wanted to bring that type of experience to their hometown. Personally, I don’t think the comparison gives Sapphire Creek the full credit it deserves.

Certainly, Napa has some beautiful tasting rooms with some great product. The topography’s just different. As a native Ohioan, I crave Eastern-style woodlands with lots of hemlocks, birches, evergreens and other deciduous trees. I feel serene in the woods, away from civilization and pleased to be in the company of songbirds and Bambi.

Speaking of songs, there was a rousing chorus as we lounged on Sapphire Creek’s screened-in patio nibbling delectable appetizers: Burrata with grilled pear, balsamic “caviar” and candied pistachio gremolata; plus tuna tartar and an enormous duet cheese board of charcuterie, cheeses and fresh fruit. Kimberly explained the outdoor harmonizing was provided by tree frogs. After sampling Sapphire Creek’s Cuvée sparkling wine and appetizers, we took a tour of this remarkable three-story complex.

“We’ve got 167 wedding booked this year and next,” notes Kimberly (don’t worry: there’s plenty of availability left in 2020). So Sapphire may not be open to the public the exact Saturday you want. It would be best to call first.

It’s easy to see why Sapphire Creek Winery & Gardens is popular for nuptials. The outdoor spaces offer ideal surroundings for dancing, photos and fun. Plus, there are dedicated rooms upstairs for the bridal party to get ready as well as the cozy groomsmen room downstairs.

Kimberly McCune Gibson and her husband, Jimmy, call themselves Sapphire Creek’s “Proprietors and Culinary Assassins.” Both have extensive culinary backgrounds. Kimberly grew up next to a party center and started working there at age 5. She also started Hungry Bee Catery in Chagrin Falls, which she says really got on the map via contracts with the Republican National Convention. Jimmy has worked at Cleveland-area restaurants such as fire, food & drink, Moxie the Restaurant, and Red the Steakhouse in Beachwood. The Gibsons started (and recently sold) their healthy food-focused restaurant, Cultivate.

The Dangelos bring to this business marriage years of design expertise. Kathleen is a lawyer who helped her husband Andy develop neighboring Ohio Valley Group, Inc. become one of the region’s top landscape design/build firms. That’s why all of Sapphire Creek’s terraces and patios boast a sylvan backdrop with exquisite lighting, and the ground appears to be carpeted with giant green hostas (which are actually “skunk cabbage” that attracts mosquitoes away from humans!)

Sapphire’s food was delicious. We were delighted by the short rib with butternut squash and vermicelli, the King Crab spring rolls and the mushroom pizza. We also appreciated a menu designed for various budgets. Guests can splurge on a special occasion, or slide on a barstool, watch Master Mixologist Jason Chapple make a killer cocktail (try the Figgin’ Amazing: it’s a bourbon elixir infused with fig and garnished with fresh figs and rosemary) or just order a burger or a Neapolitan-style pizza.

Sapphire Creek’s signature wines are sourced from a Napa grower.  Although the Pinot Grigio is their best-selling white and Pinot Noir is their best-selling red, our trio enjoyed the Red Blend made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petite Syrah. Sapphire’s wine menu offers a smattering of other brands such as Mer Soleil, Cloudy Bay, Dry Creek and Grgich Hills.

I’m not sure when I’ll next visit Napa Valley, but I’m already planning my return to Sapphire Creek Winery & Gardens to sip some Napa-sourced wines in that gorgeous sylvan setting.

This time I’ll know my way.

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