Ohio Wineries and Wine Trails
Ohio’s wine history began in the Ohio River valley near Cincinnati, when Catawba grapes were planted in large numbers in the 1830s. When disease and the outbreak of the Civil War left vineyards untended, German immigrants looked north to continue winemaking in the state.
The Lake Erie Islands became home to dozens of wineries and a thriving grape growing and wine making industry, which later spread to northeast Ohio. Today, Ohio consistently ranks among the top 10 wine-producing states in America, and grape growing has expanded far beyond just Catawba. Ohio wineries are winning awards for their Cabernet Sauvignons, Rieslings, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, just to name a few.
According to the Ohio Grape Industries Committee, there are more than 160 wineries in Ohio creating a wide variety of wine styles from Ohio grapes and fruit. Many of the wineries are in the northeast part of the state, a prolific area for grape growing that benefits from its location just south of Lake Erie. Southwest Ohio is another vibrant area for grape growing and wineries, particularly near the Ohio River. You’ll find wineries all across the state, though, and abundant acres of vineyards growing all manner of grapes.
Ohio is home to five American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) encompassing several areas of the state and even an island just offshore in Lake Erie. Two AVAs are among the largest in the country –the Lake Erie AVA along Lake Erie’s south shore and the Ohio River Valley AVA in southern Ohio. The Grand River Valley AVA is located in several counties in northeast Ohio, an area quite popular with wine travelers. Perhaps Ohio’s most interesting AVA is located several miles offshore on Isle St. George, where the unique microclimate moderates and warms the numerous island vineyards. Finally, there’s the Loramie Creek AVA, located in Shelby County, about an hour west by slightly northwest of Columbus.
Specialty wine travel and wine tourism is very big in the state, particularly in Ohio’s northern sections. The entire area between Toledo, to the west, and the Pennsylvania border, to the east, is brimming with wineries. The Lake Erie Islands, a highly popular tourist destination, also offers several wineries to visit just minutes by boat from the mainland.
Ohio Wine Trails
Ohio is another state where wine trails exist in the eye of the beholder. We particularly like a website associated with the Ohio Grape Commission called Ohio Wines On The Go. This site divides Ohio up into five distinct wine regions: northeast, northwest, central, southwest and southeast. In each section, there’s a map with all the wineries listed and specific directions to each.
Another good site run by the Ohio Wine Producers Association lists six Ohio wine trails, also segmented by area of the state.
Given these two sites are officially affiliated with Ohio winery and grape growing associations, for our purposes we’ll go with the six trails mentioned as being official Ohio Wine Trails.
These wine trails are:
Lake Erie Shores and Islands Wine Trail (northwest Ohio)
The Lake Erie Shores and Islands Wine Trail is a must-see. Brisk sea breezes and the cooling influence of Lake Erie in Ohio allow our vintners to grow grapes and make wine in some of the country’s most scenic settings. Historic vineyards and wine families who have farmed them for generations are supplemented by new plantings of Rieslings and Chardonnays established by dynamic entrepreneurs throughout this ‘cool climate’ growing district. Numerous soil types, deposited by years of glacial movement, provide fertile ground for both new and old viticulture.
Vines and Wines Wine Trail (northeast Ohio)
As the cool winds blowing over the icy lake slow the growth of tender buds in the spring, and the delicate warm breezes stretch the summer season into the fall, and the valleys collect cold frosty spring air, the area’s winegrowing families celebrate their ability to grow some of the finest grapes anywhere in the country. Hundreds of acres of rolling, lush vineyards, award-winning wines such as Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc, as well as easy-to-drink Chambourcin and Vidal Blanc and local favorites made from native varieties, attract tens of thousands of visitors each year for touring and sampling.
Plan a long weekend – or better yet, a handful of getaway excursions – to explore some of the country’s best kept covered bridges, resort communities, antique shops, fine dining and family-friendly eateries, unique museums, dozens of bed and breakfasts – and the sparkling lake itself – are all complements to the region’s star attraction: the wines and vines of northeast Ohio.
Capital City Wine Trail – Central Ohio
The Capital City Wine Trail has something to offer every level of wine enthusiast. Whether you are new to the world of wine or a seasoned connoisseur, the wineries in the heart of Ohio will make you feel at home. Acres of wine grapes can be found at some of the wineries. In the midst of rolling vineyards, sipping their vintages on nearby picnic tables. Others will have comfortable tasting rooms and possibly a cozy fireplace. Some winemakers will invite you into their home for a wine and cheese tasting. You’ll find unusual gifts and ideas for your next wine tasting party at several of them.
Canal Country Wine Trail – East Central Ohio
The Ohio and Erie Canal was built in the early nineteenth century and finished the final water link between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Today, the Canal’s ruins can be found in an area rich in history, beautiful scenery, rich culture, natural resources, and recreational opportunities. Some of Ohio’s most charming wineries can be found all over the state.
Appalachian Heritage Wine Trail – Southeast Ohio
Visit the vineyards and wineries in eastern Ohio’s Appalachian foothills. The rolling hills were covered in a vast open forest two hundred years ago, laced with rambling rivers and narrow Indian trails. When the wilderness was at peace, Ebeneezer Zane and General Rufus Putnam paved the way for the entrepreneurs who built the roads, canals, and railroads that stand as memorials to their efforts.
Ohio River Valley Wine Trail – Southwest Ohio
The Ohio River Valley Wine Trail (which was once the Nicholas Longworth Heritage Wine Trail) commemorates Ohio wines’ rise to prominence not once, but twice. As grape growing and winemaking techniques advanced toward the end of the twentieth century, additional plantings of Vinifera, or European style varietals, were discovered to thrive in the climate and soil conditions provided by the Ohio River Valley. Reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc have been planted and are showing great promise.
The region is also known for producing some of the best late harvest, or ‘ice wines,’ in the country. The vintners of Ohio’s first and most historic wine region invite you to visit, explore, and enjoy the exceptional quality of their finest offerings by traveling the Longworth Heritage Wine Trail.