Director of Winemaking and Distilling Operations
Describe your experience at Gervasi over the years.
Starting with the Gervasi team in early 2009 to develop and commission the winery has truly been a rewarding experience. It has been a pleasure working with the Swaldo family as the operation evolved and adapted over the years in response to our community of customers. We planted five acres of vineyards that are currently focused on three grape varietals; Marquette, Frontenac Gris and Aromella. Our wine portfolio has grown from 7 wines in 2010 to 24 wines today that we bottle on site. Over our short history, our wines have received distinctions with gold and double gold medals, Ohio and Finger Lakes wine competitions “Best of Class”, The Ohio Department of Agriculture Director’s Choice Award for “Best of” and 2016 Ohio Winemaker of the Year.
What are some ways you try and make the Gervasi experience memorable for guests?
A segment of the Winemaking and Distilling Operations is an extensive tour and tasting program. We offer free public winery tours on Saturdays and free distillery tours on Sundays. In addition, we offer ticketed wine pairing tours on Saturdays and ticketed spirits tasting tours on Sunday. We also offer private wine tastings and tours. We host around 6,000 visitors annually in this program. An out-reach aspect of this program includes off-site wine tasting events across the state such as Vintage Canton and Vintage Ohio. And as possible, we give brief spontaneous “any time tours” to dining or hotel guests.
Provide an insight into all the different dining/drinking experiences at Gervasi. What makes each of them unique?
Gervasi’s diverse complement of dining options give guests a choice of experiences.
The Bistro, housed in a renovated 1823 barn, offers fine dining in an environment of rustic elegance. When entering the space, one sees the structural components of the original barn which pay homage to its humble beginnings in the 1800’s while the period-compatible restorations and furnishings lend luxury and refinement. There is a sense of permanence and longevity in this environment with each of our wines finding themselves at home in this setting.
For those desiring a more casual experience, we have The Crush House. Here one enters a space adjoined to a wine manufacturing operation which carries over as manufacturing chic. Tubular hand rails, steel cables, brick walls with a time worn appeal and windows overlooking the winery give our guests an integrated experience between food, wine and production. Guests can tour the winery for an immersion into the art of wine production. Here one may feel they are at the epicenter of Gervasi’s wine experience.
The Still House is Gervasi’s latest addition to the Canton campus. The architectural elements of The Still House commemorate the centuries old church in Italy where our owner Ted Swaldo’ s mother Maria Gervasi was baptized. The environment is inviting, friendly and inclusive. Guests relax and enjoy this coffee house by morning and cocktail lounge by night. Soft seating in conversational groupings creates a relaxed comfortable setting for enjoying snacks with cocktails and wine. The distillery equipment gleams through the glassed wall that separates the lounge from the manufacturing space. It links the two spaces and peaks an interest into the mystique of spirituous liquor production.
The Piazza is a vibrant outdoor seasonal setting nestled against the Bistro and adjoining the spring fed lake. It reminds me of piazzas in the cities of the Tuscan country side. Brick pavement, umbrella shaded tables, an outdoor pizza oven, swans patrolling the lake and live music as scheduled. The stone arch seen in the distance reminds me of the ruins adjacent to the Roman Coliseum. This alfresco space is a favorite for my wife and me. Sitting with friends reminiscing about past vacations or while planning future ones with a freshly baked pizza and a bottle of wine is both relaxing and refreshing.
What is the best way to enjoy Gervasi wines?
Gervasi wines are designed to be enjoyed alone as a cocktail or to be paired with one’s favorite foods whether from Gervasi’s menu or at home. My favorite way to enjoy wine is with family and friends.
What is it about your wines that makes it tough to choose a favorite?
One of my greatest pleasures related to Gervasi wine is when I see people enjoying them. When I am with people, I am happy drinking what they like. So if I’m choosing the wine, I consider the preferences of who I am with, the season, the occasion, the place, the food. In summer, I do gravitate toward our crisp chilled whites such as our Fioretto Sauvignon Blanc or the occasional Zinfandel to complement BBQ. In winter, I lean toward our heartier reds such as Abbraccio Cabernet Sauvignon. I find plenty of opportunity to take pleasure in the others.
What do you think makes Gervasi’s wines so special? What are you doing that sets you apart from the competition?
Most of us like think that our kids (and grandkids) are the smartest, prettiest and most handsome. Without detracting from the outstanding work that my colleagues in the industry are doing, I can share that we are fastidious in all aspects of our winemaking processes. We nurture our estate vineyards by hand so as to produce the finest Family Reserve Wines possible. Grapes, juice and wine products are sourced only from carefully selected premium growers and producers in Ohio and elsewhere in the country. I have been in the vineyards and wineries of those from whom we purchase raw materials. These are operations based on quality, integrity and face to face relationships. We approach winemaking from a posture of passion. Our philosophy is “Winemaking by Design”. Great wine is not an accident. Our wines have the distinction of being served in an elegant ambiance of natural beauty, comfort and luxury which collectively elevate our guest’s overall experience.