Sun glints off my glass, illuminating the deep garnet liquid as it’s poured from the bottle. Through the tasting room’s huge windows, I spy endless rows of lush vines, all of them heavy with fruit, stretching across the landscape.
Although the spectacular scenery and luscious wine make me feel as though I’ve landed in Tuscany—or Bordeaux, or Sonoma—I’m actually about 45 miles northeast of Cleveland in a burgeoning wine region called the Grand River Valley.
The Grand River Valley viticulture area in Ohio is what it is because of Lake Erie. The cool breezes off the lake prevent an early bud break in the spring, and warm breezes in the fall extend the growing season.
“This particular vintage is mostly cabernet sauvignon and merlot,” says Candace DiGirolamo, vineyard and operations manager at Laurentia Winery. I watched her give the wine, a rich red blend called Craton, a swirl and bring the glass to her nose. I followed her lead, inhaling the heady aroma of plums and blackberries.
The Buckeye State can trace its wine roots back to 1825 and Nicholas Longworth, a Cincinnati attorney and land investor who planted a vineyard in the Ohio River Valley with a newly discovered hybrid called Catawba. Longworth’s grapes eventually produced a sparkling, rosy libation that became all the rage, and by 1859 Ohio led the nation in wine production. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Ode to Catawba Wine pays tribute to Longworth’s much-loved grape.