|Take the guys on girls'
Story and photography by Stacey Wittig
Published: October 01. 2009 12:01AM
In the know: Lake County
Where to stay: Lake County 800-368-LAKE www.lakevisit.com
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I challenge you to take the guys with you. Ohio wineries offer the fun and friendship of a girls' getaway while adding manly brewpubs and rollicking entertainment that the hombres enjoy.
While girls gab garden-side tasting internationally recognized Ohio wine, the gents can confer in the brewpub, ogle over classic cars or party outdoors to live entertainment. The wineries are in close proximity, so it is easy to enjoy the festivities of each property by driving yourself. On the other hand, opt to pamper yourselves with an escorted wine-country tour. Wineries of northeastern Ohio offer unlimited selections of fabulous events for you and your friends.
The largest wine-growing area in Ohio is located along the Grand River that flows into Lake Erie. Its climate is very similar to the Bordeaux wine area of France, a valley that empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Both rolling landscapes benefit from the thermal effects of large bodies of water. The contours of the Grand River valley help circulate warmer air, which reduces threats from frost and extends the growing season. Because of the distinctive features of this micro-clime, the Grand River valley is designated as an American Viticultural Area (AVA.)
Visiting this Ohio microclimate is like being teleported to Mosel, Germany; Bordeaux, France or Sonoma, Calif. Over the years, it has proved to be an excellent viticultural area, producing award-winning wines from chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, pinot noir and Cabernet Franc grapes.
"Cabernet Franc can be grown in our cold climate. It needs a longer time to ripen in our vineyards, so there are some years we can produce a very mature Cab Franc and other times it is a lighter style," says Mary Jo Ferrante of Ferrante Winery and Ristorante located in Geneva, Ohio. Ferrante, a fourth generation vintner, was our hostess for a sensational wine tasting.
"Our Cab Franc has a little bit of pepper; it's fruit-forward. It's got some fruit notes in it; I can taste the black cherry. This is great with a light steak or marinara sauce," she adds, sipping the wine.
"Cab Franc is pretty popular for this area," says brother Nicolas Ferrante, the winemaker. "It's one of the viniferous reds that Ohio wineries can grow. This is a lighter-style red: Cabernet Franc is one of the latest to break bud. It is slow to get out of the box, and so it takes a long growing season to ripen."
Mary Jo, manager of Ferrrante's full-service restaurant, offered us many tastes including our favorite "Golden Bunches Riesling," which has won numerous international awards. Both genders enjoyed touring the 200,000-gallon winemaking facility, and afterward were more knowledgeable about ice wines and characteristics of Ohio wine making.
Our beaus were excited to learn that Debonné Vineyards and Chalet opened a microbrewery last year. "It brings people in groups who would never go to wineries," says Tony Debevc, a second-generation owner. "And a lot of wine drinkers like micro-beers. Micro-beer people are into their beers as much as the wine lovers are into their wines."
"Cleveland is a beer town," says the vintner, who added a winery to the family grape business in 1972. "When we started out here we were a weird, unusual phenomenon that actually had dry wine, European-style wine. We converted a lot of people in the past 38 years," laughs Debevc.
The crowds that congregate for Debonné's Saturday family day concerts and Sunday afternoon jazz gatherings attest to that. Debonné Vineyards and Chalet, family owned since 1916, is the largest Estate Winery in Ohio.
Leave the guys at Debonné and head over to nearby Grand River Cellars Winery and Restaurant and "do lunch" with the girls in a picturesque woodland setting. "People come here because they want to relax and enjoy life," says Cindy Lindberg, president of the winery. "Our guests enjoy sunshine on their faces while listening to the waterfall." Gardens, hand-painted murals and a local-stone fireplace enhance the European "escape" ambience.
Cabernet Franc at Grand River Cellars Winery was so popular this year that it sold out. Lindberg served us their peppery merlot. Be sure to order some before the "converts" arrive. An escape to northeast Ohio wine country could be the perfect girls' getaway... when you take the guys along.
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