For almost four decades, this corner of the state has enjoyed prominence as Ohio Wine Country’s premier destination. Our wineries have remained largely successful, generally prospering. We’ve lost one to sunny Florida and will lose a couple more in the not to distant future to a well-deserved retirement. Five or six have changed hands and a couple consolidated with other wineries. But since the brochure we printed in 1999, only Rolling Hills and Tarsitano have actually closed their doors.
However, until just the last five or six years — a blink in terms of winery history — we have not had many brand new openings. Now things seem to be changing — and quite dramatically. At last count, between 2010 and 2020, we will have at least 10 new owners who built new ventures from scratch or have taken over and rejuvenated existing wineries.
The names opened within the last several years are many: Laurentia, Park Avenue, Kosick, Silver Crest, Urban Vintner, Spirits and Red Barn Cidery. We have new operations coming soon in Andover plus three on State Route 307 in Madison and Harpersfield. Another is project is planned for Thompson and one more still in South Madison. We’ve heard rumors about a couple more who have not yet shared their plans. We are on a roll.
What does this mean for the local economy?
Two new hotels at the I-90 exit will be filed with wine lovers from the dates of the Ice Wine Festival in early March, through the fall harvest season and ending with Christmas wine sales and the Tannenbaum trail. We’ll need more Beds and Breakfasts to accommodate those looking for a more intimate lodging experience.
Our beautiful Lodge will increase its already spectacular occupancy rates. I remember when the occupancy rate at state lodge at Maumee was our perceived as tough to meet — we’re way ahead of their numbers. I am expecting we’ll add other craft beverages, including breweries, cideries and distilleries. Foodies who love wine will fill our restaurants, both the “checkered table cloth” family-friendly ones and the sophisticated “white table cloth” ones ever more present among our midst.
It means more drivers for livery services. It means more shoppers in our locally owned stores, gas stations and grocery stores. It will likely mean more fishing charter reservations and Grand River fly fishermen, once the visitors see the amazing opportunities our major bodies of water offer.
We’ll have more covered bridge visitors and D-Day experience attendees. Our road side markets will sell more fresh strawberries, sweet corn, pumpkins and pies. And the demographics are broadening: we are seeing more millennials who go adventure biking or zip lining early in the day and spend their afternoons at a tasting room.
Surely the wineries are just a part of what will help make our tourism industry hum here — albeit they are a critical cog. The average winery visitors have excellent disposable income, they love to travel, they are well-educated and are passionate about and proud of the wines we are producing. In fact, we might even call them our cheerleading team.
A favorite author, Mark Penn talks a lot about finding niche groups of folks passionate about something — rescuing shelter dogs, boating on Lake Erie, herb gardening, local food aficionados, those adventure bikers, World War ll buffs, birders and on and on. His advice is to find a way to take their passion and superimpose your — in this case our wines — passion and create a powerful third-party group to tell your stories and share all of what they most love with friends, family and on the ubiquitous social media channels.
“A rising tide raises all ships.” It is the goal of our wineries and of this office to be that tide as we move into the next decades.
DONNIELLA WINCHELL is executive director of Ohio Wines and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.