Sat 3/3, Sat 3/10 & Sat 3/17 @ noon-5PM
Don’t like sweet wine? Or maybe you LOVE ice wines! Give them a try at the Grand River Valley Ice Wine Festival this coming weekend and on the next couple Saturdays. This is your chance to try Ohio wines made from grapes left on the vines until they freeze and then picked quickly by a force of people called out into the night in the fall. There are reasons why ice wine is bottled in small containers and costs more than other wines — it’s in short supply, and it’s labor intensive.
The Grand River is the heart of the Vines and Wines Trail east of Cleveland near Lake Erie. In addition to the moderating temperature of the lake, the valley of the Grand River adds additional protection from wind and sleet and snow.
Since we’re in Ohio, winter always comes, and when it’s near, growers keep watch for the first frost. Ohio ice wines are one of our signature productions in the Lake Erie appellation — not all grape-growing regions get a frost. Personally, I love Ohio wines because they’re local, each winery’s unique, the wines and the owners are accessible, and because Ohio has a deep history of winemaking that makes it special. People don’t know Ohio has over 200 wineries or that it was called Vinland in the 19th century because travelers up the Ohio River spied bountiful vineyards. It’s fun to talk to the winemakers and experience the unique qualities of every wine.
Participating wineries at the festival are Debonne Vineyards, Ferrante Winery & Ristorante, Grand River Cellars, Laurello Vineyards and St. Joseph Vineyards. Take Route 2 west into Lake County and follow the signs to the wineries that are within a few minutes’ drive from each other.
At each winery, you’ll sample the ice wine with an appetizer and a special activity such as dog sled demos at Debonne and ice sculpting at Ferrante. The $6 cost at each winery includes a collectible ice wine glass, wine samples, an appetizer and a special festival-style event. Those bringing a canned food item for the food bank get a $1 discount. Noon to five is enough time to linger at each of the five wineries and maybe eat dinner when the afternoon ends.
At St. Joseph Vineyards, enjoy an almond snowflake pastry with pear preserve a la mode with Kryz’s Maple Syrup and a Premier Jewelry show. St. Joseph Vineyards produces pinot noirs that surprise many Ohio wine drinkers and successfully compete against Oregon wineries. The owners and staff are knowledgeable and can guide you through an ice wine tasting or a tasting of their red wines.
Debonne Vineyards, Tony Debevc’s heritage family winery, serves peach cobbler with ice-wine whipped cream with their ice wine during the festival. The winery’s chalet-style building and cozy, homey interior is a nice escape from winter doldrums. The Debevc family are wonderful hosts and will make you feel like you’ve arrived somewhere special.
Ferrante Winery & Ristorante is serving Gorgonzola Prosciutto Mac & cheese and features an ice wine bellinis and pairing dinners. The Ferrante family began making wine in Cleveland’s Collinwood neighborhood, and the Tuscan villa-style winery that serves Italian food is a destination winery known for its Italian hospitality.
Nearby Grand River Cellars is a newer winery that will showcases a jumbo meatball topped with an apricot glaze and ice wine marshmallow roast. The winery is set back from the road, giving it a reclusive feel, in a good way, and inside you’ll feel like you’ve escaped. Grand River Cellars hosts an Ice Carving and a Winter Glow Progressive Dinner each Friday evening. Call 440-298-9838 or grandrivercellars.com for menu or more information on the dinner or to make reservations.
Laurello Vineyards offers a cannoli dip with dark chocolate chips and waffle cone bits during the festival. This family-owned winery pays homage to the family’s ancestors with Italian-style wine made from estate-grown grapes. The winery is softly lit and friendly. Linger awhile and watch a video of this year’s ice wine harvest and pressing.
South River Vineyards’ Concord or Blush Ice wines sampled in imprinted Sun Glass and their Red Eagle Distillery will serve a festive cocktail featuring South River Vineyards Blush Ice Wine topped with fruit infused hard cider and a different distilled liquor each week (bourbon, maple rum or brandy) in an imprinted Red Eagle Distillery Glass.
The wineries will light up the festival with live music Friday and Saturday evenings from 7:30-10:30. The Run & Ice Wine, a 4-mile run between Debonne and Grand River Cellars, takes place on Sun 3/4. For details and registration, go to runandicewine. Many of the wineries will host gourmet meals with wine pairings.
To make the event special, go on a Friday for a progressive dinner. This event will provide an opportunity to compare the wineries, their ice wines, and their food. But there’s no reason why, when going out to Grand River wine country, you shouldn’t visit each of the wineries, every time. More information can be found on the winery’s website or at the Ohio Wine Producer Association’s site: http://www.ohiowines.org/
Cool Cleveland contributor Claudia Taller wrote about Cleveland and the North Coast in her non-fiction book Ohio’s Lake Erie Wineries and her novel Daffodils and Fireflies. Find out more at claudiajtaller.com/.