Wineries in Coshocton, a historic Ohio and Erie Canal town? Where the Tuscarawas and Walhonding Rivers meet to form the Muskingum River, the six wineries on the Three Rivers Wine Trail boast decent wines, and a reason for a weekend getaway.
In the 1800s the Ohio and Erie Canal opened to further settlement. Farming was a central part of the economy of the towns along the canal, the fruits of their labor being taken by boat up the canal to the cities of Massillon, Canton, Akron and Cleveland. But vineyards would have been harder to find in this climate, very different from the breezy and temperate Lake Erie wine region which is made for grape growing. My research found that only a few vineyards were planted in the Coshocton area until recently, and then only to produce wine for medicinal and church purposes.
Wine is appreciated today for more than medicinal purposes. In Coshocton, 1800s canal life is kept alive at historic Roscoe Village where retail shops and restaurants in canal-era buildings untouched by the 21st century flank the canalway. The restored Monticello canal boat is not just a relic of the past, it’s a symbol of Ohio’s agricultural and industrial development. Of the six wineries along the trail — Heritage Vineyard Winery, Raven’s Glenn Winery, Rainbow Hills Winery, Baltic Mill, Indian Bear Lodge and Yellow Butterfly Winery — two of them, Baltic Mill and Indian Bear Lodge, have opened since I completed my book, Ohio’s Canal Country Wineries, in 2014.
While driving along the winding roads on the way to Yellow Butterfly Winery in Newcomerstown, peel your eyes for that bit of yellow, the 100-year-old restored barn that announces your arrival. The winery opened in 2009 on 45 acres. When Michael and JoAnn White first bought the property, they started raising alpacas, and today the socks, yarn, scarves and teddy bears made from the fiber produced by them are available in the Nook gift shop. They also started a nonprofit horse rescue operation to rehabilitate mistreated or injured horses before adopting them out.
All wines are crafted by Michael White, the former Cleveland mayor, who fell in love with winemaking after someone gave him a winemaking gift certificate for his birthday. At the tasting bar, sample a variety of dry, semi-sweet, sweet or fruit wines all produced on site. The vineyards produce Trimanette and Vidal Blanc grapes. The rolling fields invite wine sippers to relax and take in the view while drinking Sincerity, a semi-sweet white wine or Raspberry Razzmatazz, a raspberry and apple blend. Acknowledging the importance of interpersonal relationships, the Whites encourage us to escape to their place on Wednesday evenings, when they enjoy time with the customers.
Once the sign for Rainbow Hills Vineyards is spotted on the main road in Newcomerstown, head down a gravel road that seems to be going nowhere but opens up to a meadow of brooks and a rustic sandstone and wooden tree house, flower gardens and a fountain. Rainbow Hills Vineyards was founded by Leland C. Wyse in 1988, with vineyards planted in 1985, and his wife Joy carries on the vineyard and winery operations today. The Wyses lived near vineyards in Oregon and Australia, which inspired them to conjure the rocky backwoods 82-acre farm and create a 3000-square foot mountain retreat with a winery and bed and breakfast.
Rainbow Hills is named after the couple’s shared moment of driving through a rainbow in the outback of Australia. A porch runs alongside the front of the winery, a simple building with an oak door, and a dog greets guests. Inside, the winery has slate floors, and poplar and ash walls. The winery grows Seyval Blanc, Catawba, Riesling, Cabernet Franc and De Chaun grapes and makes wine ranging from the dry-red Cabernet Franc to the sweet Rainbow Rose, a Catawba.
Raven’s Glenn is a large sprawling winery on a main thoroughfare in West Lafayette on the Tuscarawas River. It was founded by Robert and Renee Guilliams in 2004. Former long-term care facility owners, the Guilliams love to tour wineries, and during their travels they were inspired to open their own winery.
Their dream became a reality when they sold their business and started planting vineyards and keeping horses on 100 acres of land. The vineyards produce Vidal Blanc, Chardonel and Noriet grapes. The winemaker at Raven’s Glenn Winery, Beau Guilliams, learned how to make wine from enologist Tony Carlucci. Beau creates a variety of wines, including their award-winning Port-style wine. Choose to enjoy a tasting at the bar in the gift shop or eat dinner in the Italian restaurant (inspired by Robert’s Italian roots), where diners can savor the cuisine inside the dining room or on the river deck overlooking the river. In addition to estate-grown wines, the winery offers a variety of vinifera and hybrid wines, including blends like Scarlet Raven and White October.
Heritage Vineyards Winery in Warsaw, near Coshocton, prides itself on offering a variety of estate-grown American and French Hybrid and fruit wines crafted to please any palette. Wines include Niagara, Chambourcin, Traminette, Seyval and Vineyard Peach.
The winery is approached by driving through 10 acres of vineyards, and at the terminus, visitors are greeted by the resident dogs. Randy, Tina, Brandon and Brent Endsley have created a relaxing place to taste wines or spend a night in the heart of the Canal Country region. The long tasting bar at Heritage is often manned by Tina, who patiently explains what makes each wine special and encourages tasters to fully experience the wines. The Heritage Vineyard Guest House opened in 1999 and provides views of the vineyards and comfortable rooms. Sip the Lighthouse Red or Twilight Catawba while sitting on the wraparound porch. When spending the night, breakfast is included.
It’s time for me to enjoy my own weekend getaway to Coshocton since I haven’t been to Baltic Mill Winery in Baltic, Ohio, in the midst of Amish country, or to Indian Bear Winery, which is said to be set in a rustic and cozy setting overlooking 200 acres. I’ll report back when I’m back.
Claudia J. Taller is the author of Ohio’s Lake Erie Wineries (2011) and Ohio Canal Country Wineries (2015). Both books can be found on her Amazon author’s page at amazon.com/Claudia-J.-Taller.