Oh, Tannenbaum, Hitting the Wine Trails!

Oh, Tannenbaum, Hitting the Wine Trails!
6 Days. 16 Wineries. One price.

Keep warm and spirited at the wineries along Ohio’s Vines and Wine Trail, the trail east of the Cuyahoga River in the hills and vales of Lake and Ashtabula counties, during Tannenbaum Weekends at the wineries. Many of the wineries have cozy fireplaces and romantic vineyard vistas. You may even catch some weekend entertainment, like the harp duo I enjoyed at St. Joseph Vineyards a few weekends ago. Memories of holidays past are sure to come as you drive past snow-covered barns and find your wheels on dirt instead of pavement.

Here’s the deal: You pay $45 a couple or $35 a single and sample wine and eat appetizers at one of sixteen wineries, ranging from The Barrel Room in Wickliffe to Buccia Vineyards in Conneaut. At a designated winery along the trail, visitors receive a Schott Zwiesel wine glass and a tabletop Christmas tree. At each of the wineries, wine lovers will be given a small ornament for the Christmas tree, and you’ll receive a set of handmade wine charms to keep guests straight when they visit your home and you serve them a fantastic Bene Vino Urban Winery Cabernet Sauvignon. The one-time payment covers visits all three weekends.

The Ohio Wine Producers Association provides a map on their website, and it’s best to plan out a route before you start out. For example, Old Firehouse and Old Mill are in Geneva-on-the-Lake, and you can probably go to the Geneva wineries—Laurello, Spring Hill, and Virant—on the same day, leaving Ferrante for last because the Ristorante serves great meals. Or travel along the Grand River and go to Debonne, St. Joseph, Grand River, and Laleure, which has a view of the Pennsylvania hills from the winery.

Some may think six days of wine tasting is a lot of wine, but the reason to do a tour is to know the personality and focus of each winery while sampling the wine, not drinking more than a couple glasses over the course of a day. Some are all about making wine, like Maple Ridge Vineyards in Madison, while others are crowd-pleasers, like Debonne Vineyards in Madison.

Having been to all the wineries, and going down the list, Biscotti is an old-fashioned Italian country place with a gift shop and a big, bold meritage red, Bene Vino’s winery showcases its wine fermentation tanks and produces quality wines not necessarily from Ohio, and Buccia is a vineyard experience with wines you may not have heard of. Debonne is comfortable and serves a wonderful Chambourcin, Emerine [pictured; top] is a purist about ingredients and methods and its wines are interesting, and Grand River has great food. Ferrante [pictured; bottom] has great food but it has history too, Laleure is passionate about quality wine and community, and Laurello has a story to tell about visiting the area as a child. Maple Ridge is passionate about winemaking, Old Firehouse is about fun, and Old Mill knows how to make a good labrusca wine. St. Joseph’s Pinot Noirs are the best in Ohio, The Barrel Room likes California grapes and Italian Food, the Winery at Spring Hill sprung from a fruit farm, and Virant has been making wine for decades and loves it.

You’ll love learning about these places. Vineyards and wineries are our heritage. Lake Erie lakeshore and islands produced most of the wine in the US in the 19th century and won contests at the Paris Exhibition. We live in prime wine making territory, and the State of Ohio, through its grant program, plans to keep the vineyards and the wine industry strong.

The Tannenbaum Weekends event is sponsored by Adams Reserve Cheddar. The event is from 12-6PM from Sat 12/4 through Sun 12/19. For more information, call 1-800-227-6972 or email dhammond@ohiowines.org.

From Cool Cleveland contributor Claudia Taller, whose book “Ohio’s Lake Erie Wineries” will be published by Arcadia next spring. Her passion for words has led to creation of the Lakeside Word Lover’s Retreats, an outgrowth of her work with Skyline Writers.

Her favorite foods are red wine, salmon, ice cream, and chocolate. She loves to read, write, tour wineries, ride her bike, ease into yoga, and cook gourmet meals for friends. Find her at http://www.claudiatallermusings.blogspot.com.

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