As the weather turns warmer and the length of the days grows longer, there’s no better way to enjoy the sunshine and beauty of the North Coast than a visit to a local winery. Or, better yet, more than one. Whether you enjoy a Cabernet on a Sunday or a Rosé, well, all day, the wineries of the Firelands will have you sipping and smiling this summer.
We asked local wineries to weigh in on what makes their winery a special place to visit. Here’s what they had to say.
The Copper Whale tasting room is ready for guests. (Courtesy of Copper Whale Winery)Copper Whale Winery
1734 E. McPherson Highway, Clyde
The character and uniqueness of the property are just two of the reasons people frequent Clyde’s Copper Whale Winery
. Opening its doors in August 2020, the winery has been a hit with locals and tourists alike.
Copper Whale serves a variety of blends and flavors, with rhubarb, blackberry, peach and tri-blend topping the favorites list.
The tasting room is located in a newly constructed building, while the pavilion is a restored barn. Both offer a charming atmosphere in which to sip a glass of wine. Visitors will enjoy viewing the pre-Prohibition winery memorabilia (co-owner Brian House notes that they own the marble cornerstone from the former Hommel Champagne Building in Sandusky).
To continue with the memorabilia theme, House says they are putting in a 40-foot, 1940s Cris Craft boat off the back of the pavilion this season. They will also welcome food trucks every weekend once the weather warms up.
The winery is open on Fridays and Saturdays and offers live music or entertainment nightly. Visitors can enjoy comedy on the second Friday of every month, as well as upcoming events like the Camaro car show on May 13, toga party on June 17 and toy and comic show on June 18.
Crooked Tree VineyardThe Wermuths' granddaughter, Avery, explores the vineyard. (Photo/Courtesy of Crooked Tree Vineyard)
715 E. Lakeshore Drive, Kelleys Island
The vines at the Crooked Tree Vineyard
are a labor of love for owners Janet and Steve Wermuth. The duo planted their vines in 2013 and opened the tasting room in 2019. While their original plan was to grow grapes and then sell them to producers, as their vines matured, so did their business plans. The Wermuths decided to pivot and open a fully operating vineyard and winery.
“The caring for the vines takes up the vast majority of our time from spring into the fall harvest,” Janet says via a recent email interview. “When folks ask why we aren’t open more days or longer hours – we point to the vineyard!”
That vineyard grows two grape varietals in the three-acre vineyard – Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin; both are red grapes.
“The Cabernet Franc wine is our best seller and what I would consider our signature,” Janet says. “The grapes produce a dry bold red which varies from year to year based on the growing season. We can control some facets of any of our wines in the cellar, but Mother Nature is in control of the base ingredient!”
Mother Nature has helped Crooked Tree to achieve a significant quality: a majority of the wine the Wermuths produce is made from grapes grown on their property.
“Of the 323 wineries in Ohio, 144 are wineries with vineyard operations,” she says.”In 2023, we will have eight wines on the menu with five of those being made from our grapes.”
Something else that makes Crooked Tree special is the staff. One could say that they’re like family. Because, well, they are.
“Steve and I do most of the work in the vineyard and when the tasting room is open, we are there,” Janet says. “My sisters, Lynne and Patti, and my brother Dominic, help us with the tasting room. And, when our kids and their significant others have free time, they will come up and help.”
The Wermuths are ready to welcome family and friends back this season, as they added an outdoor pavilion in September with the support of Shores and Islands Ohio
. This will double their outdoor seating capacity.
“Our tasting room growth has been driven by the North Coast tourism industry,” Janet says. “We are so thankful for each and every person that is visiting the Island and stops in to see the vineyard and taste wine.”
D & D Smith Winery is housed in a historic home built in 1870 (Photo/Courtesy of D&D Smith Winery)D & D Smith Winery
401 W. Main St., Norwalk
Now in its 15th year, D & D Smith Winery
is a family affair. While the winery may have opened in 2008, owners Danielle and Dennis Smith have been making wine together for more than three decades, and Dennis has been making wine since college, say the Smiths via an email interview.
“We started off with just a simple wine making kit and it blossomed from there,” the Smiths say.
Their love of wine-making started off in the basement of their home with a bonded wine cellar, which then led to a business location, a historic home-turned-winery built in 1870. They started with six varieties of wine and have now grown to 46 varieties, many of which are award-winning.
Among those varieties is the estate Frontenac Gris & Blue. New for 2023 are blueberry, Malbec, and Marquette wines.
If you want to do more than just sip, D & D offers wine-making classes for those who want to learn how to make wine at home, as well as fun events including the upcoming Annual Meatloaf Cook Off (May 21) and Home Wine Making Competition (June 25). Check out the winery’s website for more information and events.
Barrels line Gideon Owen's wine cellar. (Photo/Courtesy of Gideon Owen)Gideon Owen Wine Company
3845 E. Wine Cellar Road, Port Clinton
Formerly known as Catawba Island Wine Company (built in 1872) and Mon Ami Champagne Company (in 1937), the property became known as Gideon Owen
in 2020 in honor of one of the first pioneer grape growers on Catawba Island, according to Marketing Manager David Stosio.
Gideon Owen’s top selling wine is the red blend, made of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot Ohio-grown grapes. New for this spring is the 2022 vintage, while other new wines include Chardonel, Rose of Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay Reserve, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Grigio.
Gideon Owen has a special place in Catawba Island history. The winery offers unique wine-tasting experiences, fine dining, and event space located in a historic 150-year-old limestone building with four European-inspired wine vaults that are 40 feet underground. The building is the oldest winery cooperative building in North America, says Stosio via a recent email interview.
“[The year] 2022 marked the first time wine was made on our historic property in almost 50 years,” Stosio says. “[The year] 2023 will be a milestone celebrating our first grape harvest from our new estate vineyards.”
He notes that this will be the first grape harvest from a commercial vineyard on Catawba Island since prohibition, so the event will be a celebration for both the winery and the community.
“Gideon Owen Wine Company brands itself with the Catawba Island community,” says Stosio via a recent email interview. “We pride ourselves on offering exceptional wine experiences and a comfortable atmosphere for the community to enjoy.”
Matus Winery in Wakeman opened in 2006. (Photo/Courtesy of Matus Winery)Matus Winery
15674 Gore Orphanage Road, Wakeman
Nestled between peaceful corn and bean fields is Matus Winery
, which opened its doors in June 2006. The winery boasts an array of estate and fruit wines that total about 20 different varieties, including the best seller Purple Haze, a sweet blend of Concord and Niagara grapes.
The family-friendly atmosphere is perfect for a relaxing summer afternoon where guests can enjoy live music and monthly themes with an accompanying food vendor.
Speaking of food, Matus allows visitors to bring their own food, which is new for 2023. Starting May 18, Matus will welcome back its popular weekly Cruise-In with live music, a food vendor and, of course, great wine.
What makes Matus extra special, though, is its patrons, says Matus Winery Manager Kellie Foster.
“We have the best patrons and love our jobs, and it shows,” Foster says. “We welcome all to stop in and enjoy the simple comforts and awesome wines.”
Visitors can enjoy a glass of wine on Quarry Hill's patio. (Photo/Courtesy of Quarry Hill)Quarry Hill Winery
8403 Mason Road, Berlin Heights
Wine isn’t the only standout at Quarry Hill Winery
. The views, atop a hill overlooking the vineyards, are worth a visit alone to the Berlin Heights business.
“We are lucky enough to be at a high enough elevation to have a distant but clear view of Lake Erie,” Tasting Room General Manager Emily Specht says. “On a clear day, the views are immaculate from our wrap-around porch.”
Guests can enjoy the views with a glass of best-selling Buckeye Red, a sweet concord blend. Visitors are also welcome to pick their own fruit and then stop in the winery for a glass of wine. They can also check out the orchard market barn, where the Gammie family started selling their product when the vineyard was planted in 2005 (the winery facility was built in 2010).
“Nothing is better than drinking a glass of apple wine while picking the same apples it is made from,” Specht says.
Visitors can enjoy even more at Quarry Hill this season, as the winery will expand its fruit wine and introduce wine slushies, just in time for summer.
The lights at Rocky Point Winery greet visitors. (Photo/Courtesy of Rocky Point Winery)Rocky Point Winery
111 W. Main St., Marblehead
Tucked away in Marblehead is Rocky Point Winery
, which opened in December 2014. It is one of only two wineries on the mainland in Ottawa County (Gideon Owen being the other) and is located in a quaint 1893 schoolhouse.
Rocky Point’s most popular wine is the Pink Catawba, but the new White Catawba will be filling glasses this year, according to owner Chris Redfern.
“It’s smoother than the pink,” he says. “It’s less angular.”
The winery connects to the area in many ways, but one of note is in its wine labels, many of which were painted by Erik Anderson of Sandusky.
“All of our wine labels feature a scene from eastern Ottawa County and Lake Erie,” Redfern says.
And in case enjoying a glass turns into a late night out, guests can bunk down at the on-site boutique hotel the Red Fern Inn
“We feature live music and the perfect setting to enjoy a glass,” Redfern says.
Check out some of these wineries and more at the Toast of Ohio Wine Festival
at the Jackson Street Pier June 10.