Ohio presents rare blend of wine, food and fun
By Michelle Payne
Published Aug. 3, 2005
Salute! Prosit! No matter what word you choose there will be
plenty of wine for the toasting (and drinking) at this year's Vintage
Ohio food and wine festival in Lake County.
Every year wine drinkers around the world flock to places like California,
Italy and France to sample the world-renowned Merlots, Pinot Grigios
and Bordeauxs native to these locations. But what many local residents
don't realize is that the search for a good bottle of Pinot Noir,
Chardonnay or Merlot does need to extend far beyond their own backyards.
boasts more than 90 wineries and there is a winery within 45 minutes
of every Ohioan, according to the Ohio Wine Producers Association.
The annual Vintage Ohio festival on Aug. 5 and 6 will feature 21
of those wineries, including John Christ Winery and Klingshirn Winery
of Avon Lake.
"The whole idea of this event is to bring awareness to Ohio wineries
and let people know there is some great wine being made here," said
Mary Beth Lee, event coordinator for Vintage Ohio. "It's one of
the largest wine festivals in the country and it's right here in
The annual festival sponsored by the Ohio Wine Association is held
the first weekend in August and has gained national acclaim in its
11-year history. Not only is it the largest wine event between the
Appalachians and the Rockies but the American Bus Association rated
it as one of the 'Top 100 Events in North America' in 2001 and 2005.
Wine Spectator magazine, USA Today and Bon Appetit magazine also
rated it as one of the nation's top wine and food events for the
last five years.
While Ohio is often over-looked by wine drinkers as a place to experience
truly exceptional wine, the state ranks fifth in the number of wineries
in the nation, according to the Ohio Wine Producers Association.
And many local wine makers have emerged as leaders in the viniculture
when it comes to one particular type of wine - ice wine.
recognition of this, the festival's newest feature will be a separate
tent serving only the specialty wine and a selection of desserts.
"Because Ohio is one of the few states good at producing ice wine,
we decided to have a special area featuring all ice wines. Seven
wineries will be pouring only ice wine, but it's very expensive,
so we cannot afford to pour on the field," Lee said. "The special
tent will have an additional admission of $7.50 per person and each
person will receive a special souvenir glass more appropriate for
serving ice wines."
Ice wine differs from regular wine because the grapes used to produce
it are left on the vine until after the first frost. The grapes
are then harvested and pressed while they are still frozen making
for a very acidic and sweet wine.
While all participating wineries will be pouring more than 100 different
samples, including the ice wines, they will also be selling their
product by the glass and bottle. Debonne Vineyard located in Madison
will be offering several brands of wine and a North Olmsted resident
will be in charge of satiating those who want to take some of Debonne's
Tony Rego has been the sales and marketing director for Debonne
for four years and joined the winery after spending 38 years in
grocery store business with Rini Regos and Giant Eagle supermarkets.
He is responsible for managing special events off the winery premises
and believes the festival is one of the year's best wine events.
"It's one of the largest wine festival in country and it creates
great exposure for not only us but Ohio Wine industry as well,"
he said. "A person with a wide knowledge of wine or no knowledge
can come and experience everything from cabernets to chardonnays
to Native American varieties - there is something for everyone."
In addition to wine, close to 30 vendors will also be selling their
wares at Vintage Ohio's Designer Lifestyles Showcase. Food and wine
products, artwork and crafts will be available for purchase from
merchants from Butler, Pa. to Strongsville, Ohio.
Carol Westfall, owner of the Flavor of Ohio in North Olmsted will
be returning for the fifth year to sell the Ohio made products featured
in her store.
"I will be passing out samples at the Ohio Proud tent. I usually
bring some gift baskets, talk to customers about the products and
pass out brochures. It's a nice event and we've always had a good
response," she said. "Somebody might not be sending a gift basket
out for three months, but they hold on to the catalog and call us
when they need it."
While Vintage Ohio is centered on the fruit of the vines, there
will be more than 25 regional restaurants and caterers including:
Tony Roma's, Chubby's BBQ, Tarentin Foods and Unionville Tavern
serving up a banquet of foods to accompany the libations. Dishes
such as: lobster bisque, grilled shrimp, chocolate mousse, ostrich
burgers and St. Louis style ribs will be available for those who
work up an appetite walking from tent to tent.
And for the culinary inclined, representatives from Loretta Paganini's
School of Cooking will be hosting a selection food and wine demonstration
called "The Flavors of Italy."
There will also be plenty of entertainment on hand. Guests will
enjoy two stages of music and 12 bands will be playing everything
from rock to jazz to reggae. Admission to all Lake Farm Park activities
is included in the ticket price. Kids (and adults) can learn to
milk a cow in the park's dairy parlor, make ice cream or have their
face painted throughout the weekend.
More than 30,000 people are expected in to attend the event, which
will go on regardless of the weather, according to Lee.
"It's a tented event, so the show goes on no matter what," she said.
"And because it's held at Lake Farm Park we field a lot of families
The location of the festival is 8800 Chardon Rd., Kirtland, OH 44094
and festivities are from 1 - 10 p.m. with wine sampling ending at
9:30 p.m. There will also be a fireworks display at dusk on Friday.
Ticket can be purchased in advance for $18 at selected Tops and
Key Bank locations, online at www.ohiowines.org,
by calling 1-800-227-6972 or for $20 at the gate. Those purchasing
taster tickets must be over 21 and tickets for designated drivers/non-tasters
can be purchased for $8. Child admission (17 and under) is $3 and
children three and under are free.