And, shame on me for even laughing, snob that I was.
Years ago, I attended an American Wine Society conference, as a guest speaker. It was while I was working for Ironstone Vineyards as their Director of PR, and my subject was Cabernet Franc. I had written a presentation for my boss, and was also prepared to deliver it whenever the time called for it. It didn’t take long before that time arrived and off I went to Ohio.
More than once, but not any more, I had a few holier than thou moments, and this was one of them. “Ha!” I laughed, as off I went to Ohio. “What a joke this is going to be!” Then I got there. I spent some time in Columbus, working with our wholesaler. Then I drove to Cleveland, checked into the hotel and conference center, and saw loads of wine people from the state so professional and intent on wine, I was more than a bit ashamed of myself for having such haughty feelings.
Then, I had my session, and met some of the sweetest people I had ever met.
Having worked in the Heartland selling wine for over three years with Belvedere, I came to realize the following about Americans, and I tell people the following quite freely, whenever I’m back there. It always breaks the ice:
I’m from the East Coast, where we tell it like it is. (Ow! You stepped on my foot!)
I’m now living on the West Coast, where we tell it like it isn’t. (I’m sorry. You and I are in the same space right now, and if you could take one step to the right, it would be so lovely, because my foot is under yours right now. Smile)
I love coming to the Heartland, because you just tell it from your hearts. (Honey, you’re on my foot. Do you mind?)
Also, while in Ohio those many years ago, I learned that there’s an American wine history that’s exclusive to Ohio and it’s very national in importance. It’s an industry that makes Ohioans all very pleased to call it their own.
Fast forward to today…
I received a copy of Ohio Wine Country Excursions, by Patricia Latimer (Suggested retail is $24.95). She asked in advance if I’d be interested in a copy… Heck yeah, after all that I had experienced in Ohio, including being humbled (because I needed it).
This book offers travelers a thorough history of the Ohio wine industry, and it also profiles more than 80 beautiful, quality wineries and vineyards. Included are detailed maps, hours of operation, ongoing events, and types of wine that you’ll find at each destination.
Author Patricia Latimer has her own historical interest in Ohio, as her forefathers came from the Connecticut area, moved to Ohio, onto San Francisco, then back to Ohio to replenish their dreams. Patricia came back to California in the mid-twentieth century, where she remained for decades. When her father became ill in Ohio, she returned back to her roots. Having lived as a writer and entrepreneur in California, she because very interested in what was around her in Ohio, and continued her wine writing career. This book is that manifestation.
Let me say this… This book belongs in any serious wine library, because Patricia has captured every detail of each era, from the very beginnings to today. Whether it’s a private wine library or a public one, you’re library isn’t complete if it’s missing this book: Ohio Country Excursions, Updated Edition.
First, imagine Lake Erie as a backdrop and climatic influence for Ohio’s viticultural endeavors. Rollings hills and gentle plains with fertile land make Ohio a land of breathtaking vineyards. As early as 1788, when settlers came to Ohio, the desire to farm this land was paramount to survival. By 1813, horticulturalist Nicholas Longworth began grape trials with the Catawba grape, producing very successful sparkling, methode champenoise Catawba wines. Understanding promotion, he would send a letter and a sample to writers… (Sound familiar?) This prompted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to write, “Ode to Catawba Wine.”
Follow the history of its heyday of the 1850s with Latimer’s stories to the days of powdery mildew and black rot (all very familiar terms with any vit program) in the 1860s and the Civil War (1861-1865), into the 1900s, Prohibition, decline and recover, to today.
Latimer’s writing is engaging, educational, and impeccable with details. The romance is there, the aura is what we all know and love to be wine country, regardless of the location, be it Europe, California, or Ohio… It all makes sense for its regionality.
“As wine lovers travel any of the three north-south corridors, I-75, I-71, or I-77, they pass through some of the most gorgeous farm county in America, the heart of Amish County, where horse and buggies are de rigueur and huge barns, tall silos, well-manicured crops, and herds of cattle catch the imagination. Here the wineries and vineyards are tucked among hills and valleys or grace the flat plains in towns like Versailles, Dover, Nowcomerstown, Coshocton, Aurora, Valley City, West Lafayette, Wooster, Kent, Navarre, and Norton. Father to the southwest, wine towns include Manchester, Ripley, Bethel, Cincinnati, Morrow, and Silverton.”
Ohio’s importance in America’s grape growing history cannot be underscored enough, and Patricia Latimer’s work is a most modern version of an old-fashioned region. Consider that although Vitis vinifera is not as much at home in Ohio’s cold winters, indigenous varieties of the following Vitis are: labrusca (Catawba, Concord, and Delaware) and aestivalis (Norton). Today, however, Chardonnay and Rieslings are thriving. The regions in Ohio also held great promise for German immigrants, because the climate was very similar to their homelands, and Patricia does a great job of bringing it all together.
After her journey back in time, Patricia offers all of the AVAs, with the Key players in each region. This is a delightful and important book to have…. as I wrote, in all wine libraries.
To order this book: University of Akron Press.