I’m one of those lucky ducks who can claim to have lived in not one, not two, but THREE wine producing regions: I grew up in Michigan, where there are over a hundred wineries producing all types of wine, including some fruit flavors (cranberry wine is quite nice in the wintertime); Sicily, where wine runs through the people’s veins and decent table wine can be had for the steep price of €2.50; and now, Ohio where, believe it or not, there is a thriving wine industry.
As you might expect, the wine cultures in these places are quite different. In Michigan, it’s a fun social activity to go visit other people and take along whatever new brew Leelanau Winery has put out. In Sicily (and Italy in general), wine is so commonplace that the only time it gets mentioned is when it’s either amazingly good or atrociously bad. In Ohio, wine is more of special thing.
At first, you wouldn’t guess that Amish Country would be the place to find wine. After all, the countryside’s namesakes are famous for their conservatism in pretty much every aspect of life. (It should be noted, though, that some Amish people do find moderate consumption of alcohol permissible – it all comes down to how orthodox the community is.) However, as it turns out, the Appalachian foothills in southeastern Ohio make for excellent grape farming.
And, really, what else would you use grapes for?
One of the fun things to do in Amish Country is a tour de winery. In fact, there are several different wine tours that you can do through the Buckeye State. The wineries that the AsparAdventures Crew visited were all a part of the Appalachian Country Wine Trail, and, despite their proximity to each other (they were all quite literally next door to each other), they each had a personality all their own.
Breitenbach Wine Cellars
Breitenbach was a neat little place, with a boho-chic-meets-country-kitsch feel. The front part of the building is the shop, where you can purchase bottles of their wine and some other foodstuffs – I made off with a bottle of Gewurztraminer and a jar of sweet potato butter (which is excellent shmeared on a slice of cinnamon bread. But I digress). If you’re there for the tasting, head on to the back room of the shop, where there’s a staffed bar offering shots of wine at 25¢ apiece. They’ll be able to explain everything you’d ever want to know about the wines, and even make a few recommendations.
Silver Moon Winery
Silver Moon is a modern little shop, with cozy seats at one end, bottles of wine for sale in the middle, and a bar at the other end. At the bar, you can sample their wines, again at 25¢ a taste. They specialize in less common wines, such as sweet or flavored wines, although they did offer some dark, dry reds as well. One of our favorites was a red special wine, called Pumpkin Spice. Now, before you go all anti-Starbucks yuppie on me, it was very good, and we decided it would be fantastic heated up like a mulled wine on a cold winter’s eve. Bonus: If you’re a bit of a magpie, like I am, you can pay an extra few bucks and keep the sampling glass with the winery’s logo on it. It fits in perfectly with my shot glass collection.
Broad Run Vineyards
It would be so easy to spend all day at this place. On the main road, Broad Run Vineyards has a shop with much the same atmosphere as Breitenbach, only they sell all manner of knickknacks and homemade cheeses in their shop along with bottles of their wine. If you’re up for the tasting – which you definitely should be – you’ll need to head up the hill around back. There, you’ll find a more modern, open-concept bar with a patio and garden out back. Inside, you’ll find friendly staff who ask whether you like red or white, sweet or dry, and start pouring. We didn’t choose a single wine we tried at this winery; all of them were suggested to us by the bartender. For $10, you can get a flight of six different types of wine and take it out onto the deck to sample in the sunshine. It should also be noted that you get quite a bit of wine at this place: For each wine you try, you get 2 ounces of wine (that’s two shots’ worth).
Overall, while all three wineries had their merits, we liked Broad Run the best. The atmosphere and experience were just right for us. We wanted to try different types of wines, and not necessarily wines that we would think to try. It’s a risky undertaking – there was one wine that was just way too sweet for any of us – but that was part of the experience. It was all about getting out of our wine comfort zones, and that we did.