Ohio Wine Overview

Ohio’s wine history began in the Ohio River valley near Cincinnati, when Catawba grapes were planted in large numbers in the 1830s. When disease and the outbreak of the Civil War left vineyards untended, German immigrants looked north to continue winemaking in the state.

The Lake Erie Islands became home to dozens of wineries and a thriving grape growing and wine making industry, which later spread to northeast Ohio. Today, Ohio consistently ranks among the top 10 wine-producing states in America, and grape growing has expanded far beyond just Catawba. Ohio wineries are winning awards for their Cabernet Sauvignons, Rieslings, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, just to name a few.

According to the Ohio Grape Industries Committee, there are more than 160 wineries in Ohio creating a wide variety of wine styles from Ohio grapes and fruit. Many of the wineries are in the northeast part of the state, a prolific area for grape growing that benefits from its location just south of Lake Erie. Southwest Ohio is another vibrant area for grape growing and wineries, particularly near the Ohio River. You’ll find wineries all across the state, though, and abundant acres of vineyards growing all manner of grapes.

Ohio has numerous microclimates, with grapes grown all over the state.

Ohio is home to five American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) encompassing several areas of the state and even an island just offshore in Lake Erie. Two AVAs are among the largest in the country –the Lake Erie AVA along Lake Erie’s south shore and the Ohio River Valley AVA in southern Ohio. The Grand River Valley AVA is located in several counties in northeast Ohio, an area quite popular with wine travelers. Perhaps Ohio’s most interesting AVA is located several miles offshore on Isle St. George, where the unique microclimate moderates and warms the numerous island vineyards. Finally, there’s the Loramie Creek AVA, located in Shelby County, about an hour west by slightly northwest of Columbus.

Specialty wine travel and wine tourism is very big in the state, particularly in Ohio’s northern sections. The entire area between Toledo, to the west, and the Pennsylvania border, to the east, is brimming with wineries. The Lake Erie Islands, a highly popular tourist destination, also offers several wineries to visit just minutes by boat from the mainland.

Ohio’s wine history began in the Ohio River Valley near Cincinnati, when Catawba grapes were planted in large numbers in the 1830s.

Ohio Wine Trails

Ohio is another state where wine trails exist in the eye of the beholder. We particularly like a website associated with the Ohio Grape Commission called Ohio Wines On The Go. This site divides Ohio up into five distinct wine regions: northeast, northwest, central, southwest and southeast. In each section, there’s a map with all the wineries listed and specific directions to each.

Another good site run by the Ohio Wine Producers Association lists six Ohio wine trails, also segmented by area of the state. These wine trails are the Lake Erie Shores and Islands Wine Trail (northwest), Vines and Wines Wine Trail (northeast), Capital City Wine Trail (central), Canal Country Wine Trail (east central), Appalachian Heritage Wine Trail (southeast) and the Ohio River Valley Wine Trail (southwest).

Two Ohio AVAs are among the largest in the country — the Lake Erie AVA along Lake Erie’s southern shore and the Ohio River Valley AVA in southern Ohio.

Given these two sites are officially affiliated with Ohio winery and grape growing associations, for our purposes we’ll go with the six trails mentioned as being official Ohio Wine Trails.

Travelogue: Ohio Wine: Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio

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