Ohio’s Lake Erie wineries and vineyards are rooted in tradition. European immigrants settled on the Lake Erie islands and nearby shoreline in the mid-1800s, and the grape industry flourished in Ohio into the early 20th century. Industrialization from Cleveland to Toledo swallowed up prime growing property along the lakeshore, but many farms continued to grow grapes. During Prohibition, wine making went underground. When it ended, restaurant owners bottled their own fortified wines and some of the wineries started mass producing wine with new equipment. The wines of Ohio, like those all over the eastern United States, were mostly sweet and made from native labrusca grapes. In the 1960s, Ohio’s serious winemakers learned how to cultivate European-style vinifera grapes along Lake Erie’s shore and on the islands. Chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon grapes now grow alongside Concord and Catawba. Today, more than 40 wineries stretch across northern Ohio.
Claudia J. Taller is a Cleveland-area freelance writer who has been enjoying wine country adventures in Ohio over the last 10 years. She writes travel, history, and lifestyle articles for local and national publications. A lifelong writer, she is a graduate of Kent State University’s English department and leads writing groups and retreats.