It’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine … it’s summertime!
― Kenny Chesney
No one would think to call Northwest Ohio “wine country”. California, Oregon, Washington, even the rapidly growing New York region has a better chance of getting that distinction. However, as late as 1859 Ohio was a leading producer of wines in the country, known mostly for its Catawba grape production.
Even though other states have entered the Union and dominated the landscape, the Great Lakes region, and Ohio, in particular, is making a comeback. Several amazing local growers dot our landscape. And more than just wines, these vineyards and vintners are offering what wine does best: a great experience.
More Than Wine
One of the great things about wineries is their ancillary offerings. Besides wine, many also offer craft beers. Food is often paired, including providing venues for some of our great one the move chefs (translation: food trucks). And of course, entertainment is on the calendar. Our local wineries are some of the best supporters of local musicians of any class of businesses.
However, the single best part of a winery or vintner is education. Wines can be tough, especially for the novice. It is difficult to just walk in, look at a rack of wines, and say, “I’ll take that one!” The choices are too varies, as are the prices.
However, local wine shops and vineyards are willing, even enthusiastic to share their knowledge. And you should rely on what they say. Wines and winemaking is never just a job. It is a hobby, a passion, an art, and joy all wrapped into one amazing profession.
So as summer approaches now is a great time to get out and explore Wine Country, Lake Erie!
For more places to explore across the state check out Ohio Wines.
Find wineries to visit in Michigan at Michigan Wines.
Top Ten Local Wineries and Vintners
- Majestic Oak Winery (Grand Rapids OH):The address may be a little confusing, as this vineyard is closer to Neopolis than Grand Rapids. Regardless, Majestic Oak is a bit of a “two-fer” since it also houses Neon Groundhog Brewery. Music on the weekends along with food truck plus special events (like Yoga in the Vineyard).
- Chateau Tebeau Winery (Helena OH):A working winery with a decent bistro style restaurant, party of Chateau’s charm is its outdoor area, with a gazebo for musicians and excellent seating in view of the vineyard. Music on the weekends. Open Tuesday through Saturday.
- Knotty Vines Winery and Tasting Room(Wauseon OH): Open Wednesday through Saturday with a great tasting room and simple menu, Knotty Vines did its first plantings in 2008 and opened its tasting room in 2012, becoming popular enough to do an expansion in 2015. A great “let’s go for a drive” destination. Music on Saturdays.
- Gillig Winery (Findlay OH): The first winery in Findlay and hand crafting wine from purchased grapes, Gillig offers a decent bistro menu and music on select weekend days in an interesting and fun atmosphere. One of the more unique things they do is “custom” label for weddings, parties, and other special events.
- Stoney Ridge (Bryan OH):A very simple menu compliments this vineyard (total of 13 acres) including custom flatbreads. Occasional music along with special “food truck” days make this an interesting destination. Simple, clean country vineyard that feels more like a day trip than quick trip out for a glass of wine. Check their event listings for specialty food truck days.
- BlackFire Winery (Tecumseh, MI):An hour north of the state line, BackFire is a relative newcomer (2016) offering “small batch” wines to the area. The owner is a former Fire Department Lieutenant who started growing grapes commercially in 2005. He is the first African-American to own a commercial vineyard, winery, and tasting room in Michigan. It has a tasting room open Wednesday through Sunday.
- Mon Ami Historic Restaurant and Winery (Pt. Clinton, OH):One of the oldest wineries in the region, Mon Ami has several advantages. First, it is an excellent restaurant. Second, it is a working winery. Finally, it has a consistent weekend entertainment schedule. Finally, it is Pt. Clinton, which as a destination has its own charm. Well worth the drive and a great day trip.
- Wine Flight (Elmore, OH): Worth every bit of the drive, Wine Flight is owned by a husband and wife team who obviously love wine; so much so that Rebekah is a full sommelier. Together they have created a great bottle shop and eatery that will satisfy the expert but is welcoming to the novice. Check out their bistro menu and don’t forget to be prepared to take bottle home. Their selection is driven by both wine expertise and passion.
- Suburban Bottle (Perrysburg, OH): Open right in downtown Perrysburg, Suburban Bottle is a newer player on the bottle shop/winery scene. Originally Zinful, the new owners are making a great transition onto the wine scene in Northwest Ohio. Make sure to check out their event spaces (both a large and small) for private parties. Open Tuesday through Saturday.
- Bottle Shop at Mancy’s Italian (Toledo, OH):Another relative newcomer to the area wine scene, the Mancy’s corporation is a perfect company to take on retail wine. They obviously have been selling it tableside for 3 generations. The Bottle Shop has a great selection and emphasizes on earth friendly and organic wines.
Walt Churchill’s Markets (Perrysburg and Maumee OH): WCM has been doing retail wine right for years. Both locations have excellent selections and staff to help you make a great decision on a bottle for dinner or a gift. Plus, they are great markets as well so pick up some olives and fresh bread and have a relaxed summer evening.
Sofo’s (Toledo, OH):We all know Sofo’s is a great Italian market. Sure, you can get olives, bread, cheeses, and of course to die for cannoli. Hidden beneath all of the that amazing grocery goodness is a respectable wine selection. Grab a bottle and take a quick spin around the market then head home for a picnic.