Southwest Ohio Winery Reviews
Harmony Hill Vineyards - A couple of years ago when Harmony Hill opened to the public, the owners faced a big challenge - their location. This hard-to-find winery is located in a very rural area outside Bethel, Ohio. An online map won't get you there and the mailbox numbers seemed to be randomly placed along the road in no specific order. We turned around twice, sure we were missing something - but we hadn't gone far enough. This winery seems to have surpassed this obstacle. When we finally found the winery, we encountered a huge number of visitors that turned out on a Saturday afternoon...plus several of their wines were sold out. This indicates one thing to me: success.
Once we found it, we pulled into the long drive back to the tasting room. I was immediately impressed with what I saw. The grounds were lovely and I noticed several seating areas as we drove to the parking area. The main parking lot was full, and we had to park in the overflow parking area - but it wasn't very far away at all. As we walked from the car to the tasting room, I could hear the sound of live music as we passed the vineyard. In the main seating area near the building there were many groups of people picnicking and listening to the music. Everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time.
It was a Saturday afternoon and the tasting room was pretty busy. We stood behind several people that were sampling wine at the counter wondering how long it would take for our turn to taste. We didn't have to wonder long - the staff at Harmony Hill is very observant and a nice woman saw us standing back there and motioned us over to a couple of wine barrels beside the counter. Everyone that walked in the door was being greeted and taken care of almost immediately. They do a great job of handling a large crowd without letting any customers slip into the cracks.
Some of their wines were sold out, but we did sample approximately seven - a few of which were in limited supply and only available by the glass at the winery. They offered both a red and a white that I liked very much. I enjoyed the 2006 Serenade - a unique blend of Chambourcin and Marechal Foch that I found dry, but not overly dry with a very smooth finish. I also very much liked the 2006 Ovation - a blend of Traminette and Cayuga making for a very light a fruity summer sipper. Harmony Hill also produces one of the most unique dessert wines I've come across - an orange dessert wine. We paid a little extra for this sample, but it was certainly worth it for the experience...plus it was actually pretty good.
Since it was a great summer wine (and only available by the glass at the winery) we each decided to order a glass of Ovation to enjoy outside. Even though the winery was fairly busy, there was plenty of seating available and we had our choice of which area to sit in. There was a large seating area right outside the tasting room, a smaller area near the band, and still more seating outside the "wine cave" where some of their wines will soon be stored. We chose the large, main area outside the door. We could still hear the entertainment...but we were not so close to the music that we couldn't talk to each other. The winery was hosting an adopt-a-dog event this particular day...and we passed the time watching a large number of dogs roaming around the winery grounds.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Harmony Hill Vineyards. The staff is so friendly and accommodating...and the outdoor atmosphere they have created is incredible. I don't know how anyone could resist staying for a glass of wine on one of their lovely patios. The wines were all very good - though I wish so many hadn't been sold out - but we sometimes come across this with small farm wineries. The only thing that went slighty wrong after our arrival is that the glasses of wine we ordered were served in little plastic wine glasses. I think everyone knows by now how I feel about plastic and that's always a turn-off for me. I would also suggest a few signs at key intersections, which would have been helpful so we knew we were driving in the right direction.
Henke Winery - Our visit to Henke Winery in Cincinnati, Ohio was an interesting experience. It's a charming place with a restaurant and small gift shop. We were greeted immediately and let the gentleman know that we were there for a tasting. He seated us a a table in the restaurant and started getting things prepared.
He set up several glasses and a spittoon in the center of the table (personally, I have never once spit during a tasting). He brought out several wines one at a time and told us about how each wine was made before he poured. It was probably one of our more "formal" tasting experiences. Most of the wines were dry varieties, but we did each have a glass of Riesling before we left (it was probably the least dry that they had). Drinking the Riesling gave us time to sit and enjoy the atmosphere of the restaurant.
The menu looked wonderful and I wished we hadn't already eaten because there were several items I would have liked to try. We did not buy any wine to take home...if you've read the other reviews you've realized by now we like the sweeter varieties. We did stop in the gift shop before we left. They had some very unique cork sculptures for sale...which alone are worth a visit to this winery.
When taking in the Cincinnati area wineries...pencil-in Henke Winery during dinnertime so that you can try out this charming winery and restaurant.
Kinkead Ridge Vineyard and Estate Winery - Even though the tasting room location of this Ripley, Ohio winery is a little "iffy", their wines certainly are not. Kinkead Ridge is producing award-winning vinifera wines from their estate winery. Some of their wines have been favored by wine judges in blind tastings against wines from Europe and California. I figured they must be doing something right - and it was about time I went to see (and taste) for myself.
We arrived shortly after opening-time on a Saturday morning. The tasting room (which is not actually a tasting room at all - but the winery itself) is located a couple of blocks off Ripley's main road behind the McDonald's. Tiny streets led us there and when we pulled into the drive, Gary thought we must have the address wrong, but I pointed to a large rock with the name of the winery inscribed on it, so we knew we had arrived at the right place. I am told that Kinkead Ridge's long-range plan is to build a tasting room at the site of their vineyard, but for right now, the winery is where tastings are held.
We entered and found that two other people had arrived before us and were already sampling with co-owner Ron Barrett. He seemed pretty busy with them, so we wandered around the room looking at photos and news articles about the winery. After a few minutes, I told Gary we really needed to get the tasting underway. Since the room was also a wine storage facility, it was fairly cold in there and I was dressed for a very warm summer day. I was becoming very cold, very quickly and I wanted to get back outside to the warmth of the sun.
We waited by the table for two or three minutes while Ron was conversing with the other tasters. When he had a moment, he asked us if there was anything he could help us with. We told him we were in the area to do some wine tasting and he told us what the tasting fees were. We paid our fees and and he poured us the first of three wines we would be sampling. Kinkead Ridge was sold out of all of their red wines (which was very disappointing to me since I really prefer reds). The three wines we sampled were the 2006 Revelation (primarily a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion), the 2006 Viognier/Roussanne and the 2006 Riesling.
After our first sample, one of the winery employees appeared - her name was Gretchen. She acted as our hostess for the remainder of the tasting. Gretchen was so sweet and seemed like a very hard worker. We found out during our tasting that she is one of the fastest grape pickers that the winery employs. She poured the remaining two wines for us and kept us engaged with friendly conversation. The other two tasters had ordered a glass of wine to drink and they were keeping the winemaker occupied with questions. We didn't get much of a chance to talk with Ron during our visit.
My favorite wine of the three I sampled was the 2006 Revelation. It was dry, crisp, flavorful and refreshing. I normally go for something just a touch sweeter (I thought I would prefer the Riesling) and I was pleasantly surprised with the characteristics of this wine. I ended up purchasing a bottle to take home with me.
I've never been to the Kinkead Ridge vineyard, but I read where they do occasionally host events there. I hope that a vineyard tasting room does become a reality for them. The atmosphere when tasting in the winery tends to take a little something away from the experience...and when someone is producing such award-winning and sought after wines - they should make sure that nothing detracts from the entire winery experience. Favorite: 2006 Revelation.
Lakeside Vineyard and Winery - There are many well-established wineries in Ohio, as well as numerous up-and-coming wineries throughout the state. This Felicity, Ohio winery is one of the newer wineries in the state. We visited only six-weeks after their official opening. You won't find much there now, but I am told they have big, big plans for the future.
We drove down a long lane past vineyards before the winery building came into view. We saw a few long tables set up as a makeshift tasting counter outside the door. Since their tasting room isn't finished yet, the owners are conducting outdoor tastings on Saturdays. Three or four smaller tables were set out in the grass, and we saw two people at one of the tables sampling. After parking, we got out of the car and walked over to see what types of wine we would be sampling. The woman that was working outside (the winemaker's wife) informed us that we could sample individual wines for 50 cents each, or we could get a tasting tray with all seven wines for $3.00. We opted to share a tasting tray, and after all our wines were poured, we took a seat at one of the small tables to begin our sampling.
Gary and I took turns sampling each wine from the little plastic cups on the tray. We tried their six grape wines along with their apple fruit wine. Of all the wines we sampled, I liked the red wines the best. The owner/winemaker is fairly new to this craft, but I believe the reds showed great promise. Both the DeChaunac and Crazy (an off-dry red blend) had nice flavor and showed excellent potential.
After we sampled the wines, I asked "Where's the lake?" at Lakeside Vineyard. I was told where it was going to be eventually, but they hadn't started on the man-made lake they were planning on. This question spurred a tour of the premises. We were taken into the tasting room, which was approximately half finished...but looked like it was going to be very nice when completed. We were also walked through the actual winery and were given a tour of the vineyard where we were given the opportunity to sample several grape varieties fresh off the vine. The owners also told us of big plans for a restaurant plus a facility for events - but I believe these ideas will more than likely come to fruition far in the future.
We probably should have waited a little longer before making a visit to this upstart winery. They have a lot of big ideas that I hope become a reality someday. If their vision does become a reality, it could really be a fantastic new winery in the Ohio River region. We will more than likely keep an eye on Lakeside Vineyard and revisit them in a couple of years to see how things are going. Favorite: Crazy.
Meier's Wine Cellars - A visit to this interesting winery, located in Silverton, Ohio, can be an enjoyable experience if you accept it for what it is....a wine factory. Meier's produces wine under the Meier's label, along with several others. Their gift shop/wine outlet is pretty large and full of many types of wines and wine making supplies.
Meier's has a large bar area where they offer tastings. They have so many different wines that you have no choice of which wines to taste. They have a daily tasting tray...and you try these wines or you try nothing. We each purchased a tasting tray and opted to take it outside to their "garden" area, which seemed more like an employee break area to me. Most of their wines are "average" tasting and can also be purchased in most Ohio grocery stores. The best thing about visiting Meier's is that if you purchase wine directly from them it is cheap... cheap... cheap. We left with more wine from this place than we have from any other winery, just because it was SO inexpensive.
There are no factory tours offered - only a video tape to watch if you are so inclined - but a visit to Meier's should be a definite stop for anyone needing to stock-up.
Meranda-Nixon Winery - WOW! When researching our visit to this Ripley, Ohio winery, I found myself wondering how much I would enjoy myself at this new winery with only three wines to sample. I've often heard that "less is more"...and this winery certainly proves this theory true. Meranda-Nixon may only be offering three wines right now - but there is so much more here than meets the eye.
We arrived at their charming tasting room early on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. When we walked through the door, there were no other visitors as of yet. The room was filled with cozy, intimate tables and the walls were beautifully hand-painted. The entire decor was very lovely brought to mind a Tuscan winery. A small tasting counter with tall chairs was in the back corner of the room. Behind this counter is where we found the owners Seth and Tina Meranda getting ready for one of their Saturday steak and salmon dinners.
We took a seat at the counter and Seth Meranda introduced himself and shook our hands. We told him we were in the area visiting wineries and he got us set-up to sample the three wines that they offer. The first wine we tasted was the Traminette - an off-dry white wine which I absolutely loved. Second was the Red Oak Creek - a semi-dry DeChaunac produced from grapes harvested from 30-year old vines. It was very flavorful with wonderful raspberry and cranberry flavors. The last of their offerings was a Catawba. Even though Catawba vines were growing all along the Ohio River from Cincinnati to Ripley in the 1800's until the vines fell to disease - I believe this is the only Catawba we've encountered in southern Ohio on our travels. It was great to see this historic grape growing again near the Ohio River. Meranda-Nixon's version is sweet, fruity and delicious - a fantastic summer sipper.
The tasting room is surrounded by beautiful vineyards - and it was such a lovely day - we decided to stay for a glass of wine. We each asked for a glass of the Traminette and we went outside to find a couple of chairs where we could take-in the scenery for awhile. It wasn't long before one of the winery dogs came to visit us and fell asleep at our feet while we were chatting over our wine. We were completely relaxed in the little spot that we found - so relaxed that I didn't want to leave. Their vineyard is a little piece of Heaven in the southern Ohio countryside.
When we had finished our glasses of Traminette, we went back inside to purchase some wine to take home with us. After we made our purchases the winemaker, Seth Meranda, signed our bottles (so cool) and offered us a short tour of his winemaking facility in another building. On our tour we were given the opportunity to sample an upcoming new release, Meranda-Nixon's Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is absolutely incredible and I can't wait until it is bottled and released in 2008 so that we can purchase some.
The Meranda-Nixon Winery is a shining star in rural southern Ohio. Even though they have only been open for business for a few months, my gut-feeling tells me that great things are going to happen here. I am certainly going to keep my eye on this up-and-coming winery and see what develops. Gary and I have already discussed going back to attend one of their Saturday night dinners. Since Meranda-Nixon is located less than two hours from our hometown - they should expect to see us on occasion because we will surely be returning. I am eagerly anticipating all their upcoming releases. And if you find yourself in the Ripley, Ohio area, please don't pass up the chance to visit this wonderful new winery. Favorites: Traminette and Red Oak Creek.
Moyer's Vineyards, Winery & Restaurant - Our visit to this winery in Manchester, Ohio was the start of our journey. We had our very first tasting here...that's when wineries became part of our lives. This lovely winery is located on the banks of the Ohio River. We were seated in their full-service gourmet restaurant for a tasting. The atmosphere was wonderful with a view of the river and a pianist playing a grand piano in the dining room. We already had dinner this particular evening...so we ordered a tasting tray. Moyer's offers a nice variety of dry, semi-dry and sweet wines. We found several of their wines very pleasurable and we each ordered a glass of wine and a piece of cheesecake to share.
Moyer's offers indoor seating in their formal dining room, along with outdoor seating on their screened deck overlooking the Ohio River. This winery is only about 90 minutes from our hometown of Chillicothe, Ohio. We plan to go back their sometime soon so we can enjoy the whole dining experience and re-live our first tasting.
Re-Visit: Several years later we did re-visit this beautiful winery along the Ohio River. I decided that my birthday celebration would be the perfect opportunity and decided on Moyer for dinner. We were so excited about returning to Moyer, since we have tasted at close to 200 wineries since our initial visit. I found myself wondering if it would be as nice as I remembered.
When we arrived, we were seated promptly at what I considered one of the best tables in the restaurant. This was probably due to the fact that we made reservations well in advance and I assume those with reservations got preferred seating. Our table was right by the huge windows that overlook the Ohio River. We had a gorgeous view of raindrops falling on the river, the gazebo below and the houses on the Kentucky side of the riverbank.
Our server, Kelly, came to the table and introduced herself while pouring some water for us. She asked if she could get us anything to drink...and we told her we wanted to start with a small wine tasting. We wanted to sample a few of their wines that we might want to have with dinner. Gary and I chose three of the reds to sample, and Kelly said she also wanted to bring us a taste of the Cabernet Sauvignon because it was spectacular. After sampling all four wines, we found that Kelly was absolutely right and we ordered a bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany our dinner.
We had a terrible time deciding what to order for dinner, because everything sounded so good. They had a wonderful selection of steaks, chicken, seafood and more. It took us a long time to make our selections and we both ended up ordering filet mignon...mine with four shrimp. I had a lovely salad come before dinner and we chatted and looked at the scenery while I enjoyed it. Our steaks arrived and they were both cooked to perfection. Gary ordered his with a baked potato and green bean casserole (which was excellent) and I had a salad and portabella mushrooms. Everything was absolutely wonderful.
Before dinner, Kelly had asked us if we were celebrating any special occasions. I was reluctant to let her know we were celebrating my birthday. Gary and I have always agreed there would be no fanfare, singing or clapping during our birthday dinners. I didn't want to tell any white lies...and ended up letting her know we were there because of my birthday. After dinner she surprised me with a hot fudge sundae - but thankfully no singing.
We also decided to do a little more wine tasting after dinner. We sampled some of the sweeter wines from the Moyer wine list. I particularly enjoyed the Valley Red - which was sweet, but not too sweet. It was simply a nice, enjoyable after dinner sipping wine. I also like their Peach wine quite a lot. This wine was also not overly sweet and it had such clean and crisp fruit flavor.
Our evening was fantastic from beginning to end. The entire staff at Moyer was incredibly friendly and accommodating - they really helped make our evening of celebration one to remember. If you're planning a special occasion...or if you simply want to plan a nice evening out...we highly recommend a visit to Moyer Vineyard Winery and Restaurant. They offer excellent food, incredible wine and the friendliest restaurant staff we have come across in a long time. Favorites: Cabernet Sauvignon, Valley Red and Peach.
Valley Vineyards - You will feel at home the minute you walk through the door of this Morrow, Ohio winery. We were immediately greeted and asked to approach the tasting counter at Valley Vineyards. I love it when a winery makes every customer feel special...and this one does a good job of it. We opted for a tasting tray and were seated in the dining room. The dining room was very cozy and had a large fireplace. It made me wish it was winter instead of summer so we could sip wine beside a blazing fire. Our tasting tray arrived and we were delighted with the tasty selections. This is one of the few wineries that actually puts a sample of ice wine on their tasting tray. I was glad to see this because I had been telling Gary how good ice wine is...and this was his first chance to experience it.
We finished our tasting and ended up ordering a bottle of champagne and some cheese and crackers. Champagne isn't our usual mid-afternoon treat...but this was the only winery we were visiting that day. As we sipped our champagne, a man was seated near us in the dining room. He commented that Valley Vineyards had the best lunch in the Cincinnati area, next to La Maisonette. This was an interesting comparison to me because I love La Maisonette. I'd like to visit Valley Vineyards again sometime for lunch or dinner.
Our visit to this winery was very nice and relaxing. Hopefully I'll get back there again soon to sample something from the kitchen. I highly recommend stopping at Vineyards when visiting the Cincinnati area. I get their newsletter and their always hosting special events and weekend cookouts that sound like lots of fun. Favorites: Sweet Champagne and Vidal Blanc Ice Wine.
Vinoklet Winery - WOW! "Come dream with us...". That's what the Vinoklet Winery website states - and I'm certainly dreaming of another visit. I can't believe this gem of a winery is just outside the Cincinnati outer-belt. We had an extraordinary time on our visit and we have been telling all of our friends they must drive to Cincinnati and take advantage of the Vinoklet experience.
Judging from the website, Vinoklet looked like a pretty nice place. We decided to make it our last stop of the day. We wanted to be free to stay for awhile if we wanted. It was a Saturday and the winery has steak cookouts on Friday and Saturday nights. Gary and I discussed making reservations for the cookout, but decided not to. Sometimes these cookouts are not as enjoyable when it's just the two of us. We arrived in the late afternoon before the dinner guests would be arriving.
There were no other cars in the parking lot when we pulled in...so we realized we timed our visit perfectly. We got out and started walking toward the winery and restaurant through a grapevine tunnel. A large, inviting patio with seating was on the other side...and from there we could take in the gorgeous view. We saw rolling hills, vineyards and a small pond...along with more outdoor seating. We entered the door to the winery which is also the restaurant entrance. We approached the counter and told a friendly woman that we had come for a wine tasting.
Vinoklet grows five varieties of grapes and produces six different wines. Our hostess lined up the six wine on the counter so we could try them all. We sampled two reds, three whites and a blush. The unusual thing was that we really liked every one. All of Vinoklet's wines are very lively and full of flavor. We wanted to purchase a bottle of wine to drink while we were there and we had a hard time deciding which one we wanted. We opted for the La Dolce Vita...a sweet red wine...since we were not eating and we thought it made a wonderful sipping wine. We took our bottle of wine and glasses and headed outside to pick out a seat.
We chose a place behind the winery on the back patio. It was high enough that we could take in all the scenery. We had a very relaxing time drinking our wine and talking while taking in the charming atmosphere. We were there for about an hour when we smelled the grills being fired up and noticed that some of the cookout guests were arriving. We poured the rest of the wine from the bottle into our glasses and took a quick stroll down to the lake before leaving.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Vinoklet Winery. We can't believe that such a wonderful winery is less than a two hour drive from our home-base. We've been talking with some friends about going back with us and taking part in one of their steak cook-outs. Our visit was in the spring and we would love to go back when the vineyard is at its peak. If you have the chance to visit this beautiful winery just north of Cincinnati...we urge you to stop in. You won't want to pass up the wonderful wines and beautiful scenery that Vinoklet has to offer. Favorite: La Dolce Vita.
Woodstone Creek Winery - We easily found this winery located in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio. They didn't open until 1:00 and we arrived about ten minutes early. When Gary and I pulled up in front of the building, the "open" sign was already out, so we decided to go on inside. We didn't see anyone right away, so we wandered around the tasting room. We took this opportunity to look at all the bottled wine to see what varieties they produced. There were also paintings for sale on the wall, and I spent some time looking at them. We walked up to the tasting counter and attempted to make some noise hoping someone would hear us...but no one did. It was at this point that we stopped to read the tasting prices. Basically, it was one dollar per sample (which we thought was a little steep). We also read that there was a five dollar fee on top of the price of the wine if you consumed a bottle on premises. We thought this was really steep and decided we wouldn't be doing that.
We waited in the tasting room until just after 1:00 when I decided we would have to go looking for someone. There was a room behind the tasting counter, so I went in there...but still no one. There was another door marked "employees only" we had seen in the hallway upon entering. We went to that door and shouted "hello". Finally a man emerged from the back. He said he had been next door (there's another store attached to the building) talking to the guys over there. He was the winemaker and he welcomed us to his winery. It was finally time for some tasting and we took seats at the counter.
Since the samples were a dollar each, we both got busy looking over the tasting sheets marking which wines we wanted to try. There were many wines to choose from and I chose seven, with Gary choosing six. I started out with the Merlot and Gary started out with his usual Riesling. As we worked our way through the wines I could tell one thing...these wines were very unique and a lot of hard work and care must have gone into them. Their Niagara was different than any other Niagara I have tried. It had a very fresh flavor and didn't seem quite as sweet as some others. I also enjoyed Woodstone Creek's two Port wines. One is made with the Niagara grape and the other a blend of Ravat and Pinot Noir aged in a Sherry cask. Since this winery produced many Honeywines and Meads, I also didn't want to leave without sampling their traditional-style honey wine.
We still had an hour before we could check into our hotel, so we decided to order a glass of wine. This seemed like the most cost-effective thing to do since we had already spent $13.00 on sampling. We each chose the Rialto Red, a light red wine that we had previously sampled. The winemaker's wife had walked in during our tasting and had taken over at this point. She poured our glasses and talked with us about other wineries in the area. We leisurely enjoyed our wine until it was time to head to the hotel. There were several wines I might have taken home...but I limited myself to one bottle since we had already spent so much money at this one particular winery.
Although the atmosphere isn't the greatest, Woodstone Creek Winery does offer many upscale, hand-crafted wines that are sure to please even the most discriminating. But, plan your visit on a Saturday. The tasting room is only open four hours a week (Saturday from 1-5 pm). Favorite: Niagara.