Ohio: Oldest Brand-New Appellation in America
July 24, 2009
The wine regions of Ohio have provided us with overwhelmingly convincing proof that their venerable status as world class players is well deserved. If your taste runs to classic vinifera wines of aromatic intensity and good acidity, I cannot name a region in the New or Old World which offers such varietal and stylistic diversity, whether you’re in search of a special collectible for your cellar or a jolly good drink that will amaze tonight’s guests.
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Historically known as the "Grape belt of America", the shores of Lake Erie have grown grapes in abundance for more than 160 years. There are over 42,000 acres of vines, most of which are the big-leafed Vitis labrusca, Concord. Though focused primarily on jellies and juices, there is also a thriving wine industry here. Traditionally, the industry was based on both labrusca and hybrids. After Prohibition began, grape growing actually increased along the shores and on the Lake Erie islands. Many growers made wine illegally and sold it across the lake in Canada, or sold grapes legally to home winemakers. It would seem that with its infrastructure, Ohio’s wine industry would boom upon repeal. However, vintners mistakenly chose to compete with California’s bulk wine producers. At the same time, New York wineries established themselves as the east’s premier wine producers. In 1937, four years after repeal, there were 160 wineries in the Lake Erie region. Sadly, by 1967 there were fewer than 20 wineries left. Today, a number of ambitious vignerons are redefining the region’s wine characteristics with substantial amounts of vinifera plantings.
From initial vineyard plantings on Whitehall Lane in the 1800's the evolution to today's Whitehall Lane Winery has been a story of vineyard. The first 25 acre vineyard property is the winery site, yet the definition of multiple Napa Valley sub appellations is formed in a wide ranging set of vineyards all showing unique profile and character in their wines.
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My varietal character can produce a candied muskiness which is described as foxy, but when I am made