By Lauren Foote
Ohio has been making wine since the 1850s, and lately has become a major producer of rich and delicious wine, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with European competitors.
Where wine was once the realm of the elite — a drink for those who enjoy fine dining or music — now it’s a popular and casual indulgence among the younger, more economically conscious population.
There are a wide variety of wines — it’s not just red and white. And there is a taste for every palate, from the sweetest moscato to the driest sauvignon blanc, there are blends — there is honey wine, there is rice wine. If everyone gave wine an opportunity they could probably find one they would enjoy.
Wine is now enjoyed in many different ways by different kinds of people. Restaurants and wineries in Ohio allow everyday people to taste wine while not feeling pressured to conform to prescribed social roles.
According to the Ohio Wines Association, Youngstown is part of the Canal Country-East Central Ohio Wine Trail, which is filled with geological wonders, Amish country and historical remnants that will appease the adventurer inside of many wine lovers. We stand in the center of a great evolving wine country — a spot people travel to, to experience wine.
Ohio wine can be traced back to Nicholas Longworth in 1850. He began working on his wine in Cincinnati, where he planted a special type of grape known as the Catawba. These grapes can withstand Ohio winters and have a distinct flavor that separate them from other wines present at that time.
This semi-sweet, wine-producing grape kept growing until 1860, when it led the nation in the production of wine. The wineries moved to Lake Erie, then into Southern Ohio, and now various organizations are working to make Ohio one of the leading wine producers in the nation.
Ohio Wine Producers Association
In 1975, a group of wine makers formed the Ohio Wine Producers Association. Their objective is to bring together the grape growers and the wine makers in the state. They keep individual members informed on governmental action, technical advances and research and development programs affecting the grape and wine industry.
Ohio, even with some of the struggles that it has faced over the years, has remained a top wine maker and distributor.
Youngstown has some great local wineries that are distinguished not only by the wines they produce but also by the atmosphere they create. People from all over the Valley visit Youngstown wineries for their food, their decor and their scenery.
Mastropietro Winery was the first winery in Mahoning County. Its 52 acres are situated in southwest Youngstown, and there is a beautiful bed and breakfast located across from the winery called the Bella Fatoria. Bella Fattoria overlooks three acres of vineyards and offers spectacular views for guests.
The menu is filled to please a wine-lovers palate: cheese plates and Italian dishes ranging from pepperoni rolls to bruschetta. Wineadventures.com describes the wine tasting tray as exquisite and well selected, and the Mastropietros themselves as welcoming and the staff attentive. They believe that Mastropietro is becoming a major winery to visit: “This newer winery didn’t start small … Mastropietro is doing things in a big way. They are producing a wide selection of wines and they feature a large, elegant tasting room”.
Luva Bella Winery in Lowellville is a popular spot for those seeking a traditional wine-drinking experience. They have a wide selection, and their service is punctual and attentive.
It possesses a Tuscan feel, with wines lining the oak-covered walls. They offer tours, and an extensive menu.
Candlelit Winery, LLC has the perfect ambiance for anyone looking for a quaint, calm, wine-sipping getaway. They are known for their candlelight pictures.
The candle lights in each bottle are a comical but unique way of making their wines stand out from the rest. Not only do they have a wide variety of pictures but you can also sponsor a candlelight picture of your own.
They have a wide selection of wines originating from their three small vineyards. There are light shows, live music and great food available.
Wineadventures.com, a winery reviewing website, describes the wine found in Candlelit as “some of the best fruit wines we have come across in Ohio.” And when describing the setting said “the quaint tasting room was much roomier inside than it appeared to be from the outside. I loved the star-lit sky they created in the seating area. There were many star shaped lights all over the ceiling, and it was a nice touch”.
Dilleto Winery is found in Canfield. According to their history, Gary and Jacqueline Shell fell in love with wine when they tasted honey mead on a trip to Ireland. Mead is a fermented honey wine that is usually mixed with other fruits and flavors.
They created their own mead and won several awards while striving to make their winery reflect that. Their banana, elderberry, apple cider and honey wines have all won awards. Their menu has a wide variety of baked brie, meat and fruit plates as well as Hawaiian and brisket sliders. They offer murder mystery dinners, where you not only receive wine and a three course meal but you also get to figure out leaves alive.
Myrdinn Winery overlooks Lake Milton. They have plenty of seating areas both inside and out for people to sip their wine comfortably. They have a wide-ranging tasting bar to suit every customer’s needs.
Myrdinn is recognized for their great selection and atmosphere and wineadventures.com was pleased with their selection: “It’s not often we visit a winery and love all of the wines – but it happened at this winery. Myrddin is doing an excellent job of producing premium wines with exceptional flavor.”
Youngstown is quickly becoming a wine culture hub. A lot of restaurants and wineries in the city are creating opportunities for wine connoisseurs to explore their tastes and cravings. When you are craving a good glass of wine, three key restaurants come to mind: V2, Vintage Estate and the Magic Tree.
V2 Wine Bar Trattoria is located on Federal Street in downtown Youngstown. It is a low lit, open space with well-spaced tables. The menu is catered to wine lovers’ tastes from cheese plates to calamari. They always try to recommend wines that pair well with the night’s entrée.
Shawn Eckonen, the manager of V2, talked about their wine selections.
“We try to make a good atmosphere with music, good food and a great wine selection. I try to create a quiet and tranquil atmosphere. I want people to be able to come in and get a glass of wine and feel calm,” Eckonen said. “We pick wines depending on what is trending, or we believe will be trending. We have a wine director that chooses the large selection and varieties that we carry.”
“I think Youngstown is receptive to the growing wine culture, and it is changing quickly,” he added.
“Other restaurants in the area agree that their wine selection is low because they know that most people like coming here when it comes to wine,” Eckonen said. “They have a couple of house wines as options because they admit that our selection can meet every wine lover’s needs”
Vintage Estate Wine and Beer in Boardman is an incredible place to purchase a large variety of wines. They have one of the largest selections in the valley, and are well known in the area for it.
The atmosphere is relaxed, and the selection is so vast enough to satisfy any craving. The staff is friendly and always eager to help the customers. If you want a quiet night out to sip some wine and relax Vintage Estate is the place to go.
“People in Youngstown are evolving when it comes to their wine tastes. A lot of them are coming out of their comfort zone and they are trying different wines from different regions,” Russell said. “I can see that their palates are evolving and I try through wine tastings and also referrals to try to help them find different wines that maybe they had not thought of trying”.
Magic Tree Pub and Eatery has great bar food and a quiet wine and spirit room. They have a large quantity of wines available and food pairings to go with them. Their wine room is separate from the main pub area so they cater to different tastes.
Ohio wine is evolving becoming a prominent fixture in the wine world. Youngstown as a city is evolving in its taste for wine. More wineries are opening up in the area, and more restaurants are catering to the needs of wine enthusiasts. As the culture grows changes will come, but the Youngstown area already offers a variety of places to find a good glass of wine.