Wine aficionados don’t have to travel to California or France to find their favorite wine — the Grand River Valley wine region has them all.

The Grand River Valley wine region, which consists of vineyards in Harpersfield, Geneva and Madison townships, has everything in vinifera grape wines from dry reds to sweet ice wines. Practically every variety is available, thanks to the region’s location between the Grand River and Lake Erie, which provides sandy soil and keeps the area warmer in the fall. 

There are more than a dozen wineries in the Grand River Valley Region and the surrounding area, including Kosicek Vineyards, South River Winery, St. Joseph’s Vineyards, Debonne Vineyards, Ferrante Winery, Virant Family Winery, Laurello Vineyards, Grand River Cellars Winery, Deer’s Leap Winery, Harpersfield Vineyard, Hundley Cellars, M Cellars, Laurentia Vineyard and Winery, Old Mill Winery and the Lakehouse Inn Winery.

Donniella Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association, said the region has garnered awards from around the country and carved itself a special niche for ice wines and pinots.

Winchell said the Grand River Valley region is part of the world-wide “Pinot Belt” — which begins in Burgundy, France, and travels across the United States through the Grand River Valley in Ohio, west to Oregon — where the best conditions exist for producing world class Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir. 

There’s also no reason anyone should be driving while impaired when it comes to exploring the wineries. Shuttles depart regularly for wine destinations, she said.

There are more than 25 different shuttle buses — four are based at the Lodge at Geneva State Park and run twice per day from Sunday through Thursday and four times per day on Friday and Saturday all year long. These are available for Lodge hotel guests, as well as visitors who make prior arrangements.

Winchell credits various festivals for playing an important role of the development of wine culture in the area, including the Uncork’d WineFest at Lake Shore Park, the Wine and Walleye Festival on Bridge Street in Ashtabula, the Geneva Grape Jamboree and the Ice Wine Festival at participating wineries.

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Uncork’d WineFest, slated for June 28-29 at Lake Shore Park in Ashtabula Township, provides an opportunity to sample local wines and beer, shop for unique gifts, eat, dance and see a view of Lake Erie.

New this year will be a bounce house, face painting and a corn hole tournament, said Greg Church, executive director of the Greater Ashtabula Chamber of Commerce. The event has also changed dates from August to June.

“I am thrilled to be part of the Uncork’d WineFest this summer, especially at a time where we are offering some exciting changes,” he said. “Some of these changes include being family-oriented, as well as being intentional about highlighting our chamber members and sponsors.”

The festival will host its inaugural corn hole tournament June 29, Church said.

“All of this will be mixed in with the usual fun, wine, beer and food with a superb band lineup,” he said. “We believe that moving the festival up to June will help highlight our local wineries and food vendors early in the summer and give them the opportunity to welcome back customers for the rest of the season and beyond.”

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The Wine and Walleye Festival will take place July 26-28 on Bridge Street in the historic Ashtabula Harbor, featuring wine, fishing, entertainment, craft beer, gourmet food, shopping and more.

The festival starts at 3 p.m. July 26 with a gala dinner, a street crawl and a Walley-Eye’d 5K run.

Christine Seuffert, president of the Lift Bridge Community Association, which is hosting the event, and her team of volunteers expect large crowds of locals and out-of-town visitors. 

On July 27, there will be a full-slate of activities including street vendors, gourmet food stations, live music, beer and fish and lighthouse sail tours, while a wine tent will have northeast Ohio wineries offering tastings and wine education.

The Wine and Walleye Lighted Boat Parade will begin at 9 p.m. July 27, and at about 8:45 p.m., the Lift Bridge will be raised and remain upright until the fireworks show is over and the area cleared.

July 28’s offerings include street vendors, lighthouse sail tours, live music beginning at noon and plenty of wine, beer, fish and gourmet food stations.

City Manager Jim Timonere said city employees and the LBCA work for weeks getting ready for the popular festival.

“It grows every year,” he said. “We hope all will come and enjoy the festival.”  

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56th annual Geneva Grape Jamboree, will take place Sept. 28-29 in downtown Geneva, is a celebration of the grape harvest. Grapes, entertainment, crafts, an art show, two large parades and tours of local wineries brings thousands to the festival every year.

The Jamboree features everything to do with grapes. There are more than 75 food concessions, 125 arts and craft vendors, daily music by local bands, contests like grape stomping and grape pie eating and grandstand entertainment.

The Jamboree started in 1963 with about 5,000 visitors, but over the years that number has grown to 200,000.

Every year a “Miss Grapette” pageant queen and her court are named and become part of Saturday’s parade. In fact, all of Ohio’s festival queens come to Geneva to ride in the parade. 

The parades usually have 100 units and stretch out more than a mile in length 

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The 16th annual Ice Wine Festival, which takes place the first three Saturdays in March 2020, is put on by wineries in Ashtabula and Lake counties. 

Laurello Vineyards, Ferrante Winery, Debonne Winery, Grand River Cellars Winery, South River Vineyards and St. Joseph Vineyards all participate in the festival.

The wineries offer food pairings for the festival, as well as special events.

Ice wine is made from grapes left on the vine after the end of the traditional harvest season, Winchell said. Once the grapes freeze, they are immediately harvested and pressed before they can thaw.

The pressed juice is much more concentrated than usual, yielding only about a quarter as much liquid as grapes harvested before the freeze. That also makes the wine much sweeter.

“The festival is a drive-yourself progressive wine tasting event,” said Cindy Lindberg, president of Grand River Cellars. “We’re all within 10 minutes of each other, so it’s very convenient.” 

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