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Laura Prengaman
 
March 6, 2013 | Laura Prengaman

Behind The Vines: History of Wineries in Ohio

Episode 14: History of Wineries in Ohio

For some, Ohio may not immediately come to mind as a prime grape growing region.

But during Ohio's decades as a young nation's impossibly fertile western frontier, so esteemed were her vineyards that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was moved to pen a florid ode to the "dulcet, delicious, and dreamy" wines made from native vines that garlanded America's "Beautiful River."

Ohio's wine reputation was largely the result of the prodigious labors of Cincinnati lawyer-turned-grape-grower Nicholas Longworth, who starting in 1813 began planting vineyards on the sunny river slopes of southern Ohio. He took a huge gamble on the previously unheralded native Catawba grape, and Cincinnati wines soon earned the Ohio River valley a reputation as the "Rhineland of America."

In later decades the state's wine industry shifted to Lake Erie's "wine islands" and shoreline grape belt, but in fact, prior to Prohibition, all eighty-eight Ohio counties grew grapes commercially.

An 1877 history of Stark County, where Gervasi Vineyard was established in 2009, reports that vineyards flourished here "scarcely second to any place in the state," producing Concord, Delaware, Lady, and Agawan grapes for local consumption.

In recent decades, the successful rebirth of viable wine grape production across Ohio has been built on both scientific advances in viticulture, and relearning a thing or two Ohio's frontier grape growers already knew.

 

Click here to learn about Ohio's history of wineries with Vineyard Assistant, Brian Gregory!

 

Stay tuned for more tours of Behind the Vines at Gervasi Vineyard!

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