CLE Weekend Wine Tour
So many wineries, so little time
By Kelsey O'Donnell
Northern Ohio has been a hub for wine since the late 1800s. German immigrants brought their winemaking traditions north after crop disease destroyed their grapes and the Civil War reduced the labor force in Southern Ohio. The shores of Lake Erie proved to be a blessing to winemakers because the area’s unique climate and the surrounding water created the perfect conditions for growing grapes. Thousands of gallons of wine were produced, dozens of wineries opened and the area became known as the “Lake Erie Grape Belt.”
Today, Ohio produces more than 1.1 million gallons of wine every year and is known as one of the top 10 wine-producing states in the country. But we don’t like to brag. Step into any of our local wineries and you may be shocked to find they are laid back, welcoming and totally unique.
Ohio Wines has put together various wine tasting trails throughout the state including a Lake Erie Shores and Islands trail and a Vines and Wines trail. These two trails highlight some of the best wineries in Northern Ohio.
To help you plan your wine getaway, we’ve narrowed the list down to some of our favorites.
CLE Urban Winery
Unwind and uncork after a long work week at CLE Urban Winery in Cleveland Heights. The upscale boutique winery offers a fun and inviting, unique-to-Cleveland wine experience. It is wine made in Cleveland, by Clevelanders. And the wines are named to honor and celebrate our great city. Rust Belt Rose, Murray Hill Pinot Grigio, Cedar-Lee Chardonnay and the Lake Effect Snow Vidal Ice Wine top our list of recommendations. CLE Urban Winery even allows you to bring in outside food to enjoy with your wine. So pack a picnic or enjoy some of the winery’s grab and go menu items to complete your night out.
Saturday: Lake Erie Shores and Islands
The Lake Erie Shores and Islands Wine Trail will take you along the western shores of Lake Erie to experience some of the best wineries Ohio has to offer. The possibilities are endless so maybe pick one (or a few) of our favorites:
Named for the area the original winery was located, Firelands Winery has a long-standing tradition of great wines. North Central Ohio was dubbed the Firelands during the Revolutionary War when the area was inhabited by citizens of Connecticut whose homes had been burned by the British. Today, the winery is located in Sandusky and is the largest winery in Ohio. You’ll love the rich history behind this great place.
Vermilion Valley Vineyards
A hidden gem south of Vermilion, the winery sits in the middle of a sprawling vineyard. All the wines are produced with grapes grown in their vineyard and then bottled on location. Vermilion Valley Vineyards offers an outdoor pavilion that is great for grabbing a glass of vino on a beautiful day.
Paper Moon Vineyards
Located in Vermilion, this family-run winery sits on 50 acres of wooded land, which makes it the perfect place to spend an evening. The winery’s courtyard offers a large fire pit and plenty of outdoor seating. Not only does this winery have great wine options, they recently started producing their own original hard cider.
Mon Ami Historic Winery
One of the oldest wineries around the Lake Erie Islands, Mon Ami helped develop the region’s wine industry. The winery is attached to a full-service restaurant and offers great food and live music throughout the summer. Moni Ami is in Port Clinton and its historic location produces up to 50,000 gallons of wine per year.
Make a day trip to Put-in-Bay to enjoy the oldest family-owned and -operated winery in Ohio. Heineman’s Winery is in its fifth generation of winemaking and produces more than 24 types of fine island wines. Catch a ride on the Miller Ferry or the Jet Express to experience this one-of-a-kind winery on one of Lake Erie’s hottest party islands. While you’re there, check out Crystal Cave. The cave is the world’s largest geode and it was discovered by workers who were trying to dig a well for the winery in 1897.
Sunday: Vines and Wines
Head east to the Vines and Wines Trail for a different view of Lake Erie wines. Here's a little inspiration for your journey:
The Lakehouse Inn Winery
Sip some wine while taking in the views of Lake Erie at The Lakehouse Inn Winery. Located in Geneva-on-the-Lake, it’s the perfect place for an evening wine tasting or a light dinner. Watch the sunset from the patio and you’ll understand why we like this place so much.
You'll feel like part of the family when you get to Ferrante. The family has been in the wine business since 1937 and they show no signs of slowing down. Ferrante has an awesome Italian restaurant with quintessential views of rows and rows of grape vines. The beautiful outdoor terrace is perfect for enjoying live entertainment in the summer.
Designed to resemble the owner’s Colorado cabin, Laurentia is a comfortable winery that knows how to make you feel at home. Experience finely crafted wines and secluded greenspace while enjoying all Laurentia has to offer. The winery has made-from-scratch kitchen items to complement your experience. Laurentia brings the west coast winery feel without a hint of pretentiousness.
Old Firehouse Winery
Enjoy fine wines in Geneva-on-the-Lake’s first village fire station. This old firehouse has been renovated to create a unique winery experience. At first, the Old Firehouse seems quaint, but stop by during the summer and the live entertainment on the patio brings this place to life. It's quirky and weird, totally casual, and therefore a great stop.
Debonne Vineyards is Ohio’s largest “Estate Bottled” winery. This means that all their wine is made with grapes produced on location. Since they offer a wide variety of options, be sure to check out the tasting bar to try something new. The winery also offers casual dining options and an on-site brewery. If you're lucky, you'll catch one of their special events, like the hot air balloon festival that takes off from their property. Oh, they also serve Goldfish crackers with their wine. Which makes them top our list of go-to stops.