I opened an email inviting me to visit Ashtabula County in Ohio and my first thought is: “Where?” If you’re like me then you probably never heard of Ashtabula but I can tell you from my recent personal experience this region of Ohio is totally worth a visit if you love wine. Yeah, you read that correctly. If you decide to visit this region then you’ll find yourself in the middle of Ohio wine country. Of course, there’s plenty of other things to do in the area but my favorite part, and the focus of the trip, is the plethora of wineries to visit and experience.
Ohio Wine Country Hospitality
I’m from the Southern United States where hospitality is part of the fabric of our culture. It’s a common perception that people in the South, outwardly, have great manners and are very hospitable. Whenever I travel north, I never really expect to have the same experience but in Ohio wine country it seems kindness and hospitality are just as ingrained as in the South. Everywhere we went people smiled and seemed legitimately happy we were there. It didn’t feel like we were meeting strangers for the first time. Instead, it was more like we were seeing old friends after a long hiatus.
Visiting the wineries was a fantastic experience and what made it better was just how excited the vineyard owners were about making and drinking wine. As they explained their inspiration, their processes, and their love for the land they work and live on, I could see sparks in their eyes. The people of Ohio wine country truly take pride in and have a passion for the place where they live and it’s palpable. You’ll visit Ashtabula for its wine but fall in love with Ohio wine country for its people.
Visit Ohio Wine Country
When you hear the word winery, you probably think of Napa Valley in California with its world famous wines and vineyards. Perhaps your mind takes you to France, Spain, or Italy. But there are other regions of the world where grapes are grown and wine is fermented. When you visit Ashtabula County, you’re visiting an area perfect for wine production because it sits in the Grand River Valley. It’s proximity to Lake Erie allows for the circulation of warm air and this, in turn, offers an extended growing season and a reduced chance of frost in the Spring. Not only that but it’s gentle slopes ensures proper drainage so grapes can grow better.
As a result, approximately 65% of grapes grown in Ohio are grown in Ashtabula County. In fact, Welch’s, an American company producing grape juices, jams, and jellies, buys many of its Concord grapes from the region. Nevertheless, a great variety of grapes are grown in Ashtabula County and put to the best use…wine production! There are approximately 103 wineries in Ohio and 24 of those wineries are located in Ashtabula County. The wines produced in this region have gained notoriety and won many awards and recognitions. I can definitely attest to the quality of the wine and tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed many of the wines I was served. And if you’re a fan of ice wines, you need to visit Ashtabula because the region is rapidly becoming a premier ice wine production area.
Visit Ashtabula: Where to Stay in Ohio Wine Country
One thing to remember if you plan to visit Ashtabula County is it is a relatively rural area. That means you won’t find tons of hotels but you will find quaint bed and breakfasts, cottages, and rentals. So, I will not make a big to-do about it. While I was exploring Ohio wine country, some of the locals did mention Ashtabula would be getting a couple new chain hotels soon. But those aren’t available quite yet. Here are a few options for lodging that’ll give you a nice comfortable place to rest after spending your day tasting wine and eating delicious food.
The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake: This is where I stayed during my visit to Ashtabula County. It’s a very nice hotel with fairly large room, nice bathroom amenities, and great views of Lake Erie. If a cottage is more your style, the hotel offers cottage rentals on its property right next to the lake. You can also book activities and even zip line at The Lodge. We slept comfortable…actually the bed was super comfy so we were well rested.
The Lakehouse Inn: This place is amazing and I really want to go back and stay here for a day or two. The Lake House Inn provides guest with the perfect setting for a getaway in an all-inclusive environment. You can rent one of the eight guest rooms, four lake front cottages, and a beach house. The property also features an incredible farm-to-table restaurant called Crosswinds Grill where the majority of items served are seasonal and local. It’s definitely a great place to relax and unwind.
Bed and Breakfasts: If you want something a little more intimate and quaint then you should definitely go the bed and breakfast route while you visit Ashtabula County. There are a number of options in the area but I would definitely either stay in Geneva-on-the-Lake or in Ashtabula proper. For a complete list of bed and breakfast establishments and other lodging options, visit the official Visit Ashtabula County website.
Airbnb: If you’re like me, then you like living like a local and the best way to do that is to use Airbnb. There are a few listings on Airbnb in the region and many of them are located along Lake Erie’s shoreline. Plan to visit Ashtabula county and enjoy Ohio’s wine country with a bit of a down home flair.
Visit Ashtabula: Wineries
With 24 different wineries to choose from, you might find it difficult to visit all of them. I can’t suggest all of them because I have not visited them all. If you would like a list of all the wineries in Ashtabula County then check out this comprehensive list. However, I do suggest the following wineries.
Laurello Vineyards: This is Alfred’s favorite winery of all the wineries we experienced when we went to visit Ashtabula County. I have to agree with him because the wines here are excellent and the owner’s passion is contagious. She will answer any and all questions you might have about her wine and do it enthusiastically. It was lovely listening to her speak about the wine and tasting all of them. Many of the wines are names after Laurello family members to honor their memory!
Personal Favorite Wine: Simply Mad Habanero Ice Wine
Address: 4573 State Route 307 East Geneva/Harpersfield Twp., OH 44041
South River Vineyards: Located in a beautiful setting, South River Vineyards is probably one of the more unique wineries in Ashtabula County. Situated in a century old church, I felt as though I was about to attend my type of church service…heavy on the wine! The winery offers up a number of different wines and has a beautiful terrace overlooking the fields of grapes. It’s the perfect place to unwind and watch the sunset.
Personal Favorite Wine: Exodus
Address: 6062 S River Road W, Geneva, OH 44041
Debonne Vineyards: The largest estate winery in Ohio boasting over 175 acres of vines, Debonne offers tours of their facilities, a restaurant, and beautiful views. There are more than enough places to sit and enjoy some great wine. The vineyard also holds the distinction of being the first Ohio winery to open up a micro-brewery which is called Double Wing Brewing Company. So you can enjoy wine and beer in the same location!
Personal Favorite Wine: Chambourcin
Address: 7840 Doty Road, Madison OH 44057
M Cellars: This is one of the youngest wineries in Ashtabula County at only 6 years old as of the publishing of this article (2018). The great thing about this winery, besides its wines, is the fact that you can see the vines where the grapes for your wine came from immediately in front of you. I really enjoyed walking through the fields of grapes and even sampling some of them. The winery is small and family owned and includes a beautiful tasting room for relaxing and sampling wines.
Personal Favorite Wine: Meritage
Address: 6913 South River Rd Geneva, OH 44041
Ferrante Winery: Known for it’s award winning wines, Ferrante Winery offers a variety of red, white, and blush wines in an elegant setting. You can have dinner here and enjoy traditional Italian cuisine paired perfectly with some great wine. There is plenty of space to spread, relax, and sip on a glass.
Personal Favorite Wine: Gruner Veltliner
Address: 5585 Route 307 Geneva, OH 44041
Kosicek Vineyards: This winery offers an eclectic variety of wines for the discerning oenophile. A third generation endeavor, the winery traces its roots to the year 1929 grandfather of the Kosicek family planted the first grape vines. Offering food and wine, what more could you ask for? Well, the vineyard also hosts events such as a Tasting in the Vines which takes customers into the fields of grapes for wine tastings. If you stay at The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake, you’ll receive a voucher to pick a complimentary grapes at this vineyard during harvest season.
Personal Favorite Wine: Urban Cabernet Franc
Address: 636 ST RT 534 S Geneva, OH 44041
Grand River Cellars: This winery offers an excellent selection of wines as well as delicious dining. Hang out on the patio and enjoy the surrounding views of nature or book a special event in the winery’s wine cave.
Personal Favorite Wine: Cask 1017
Address: 5750 Madison Road Madison, OH 44057
Where to Eat in Ohio Wine Country
Rennick Meat Market: Set in a former butcher shop, Rennick Meat Market embraces this history serving up some tasty meals influenced by the old ways. Menu items include dry-aged steaks, homemade pickles, and cured meats! You can’t go wrong here as everything I tasted was delicious!
Address: 1104 Bridge Street, Ashtabula, OH 44004
Briquettes Smokehouse: Boasting Southern style barbecue with a Northern flair, Briquettes is a laid back restaurant with a great beer selection too. The barbecue is excellent and you can get a great view of the bridge in town here. It’s the perfect place for a fun dinner when you visit Ashtabula!
Address: 405 Morton Dr, Ashtabula OH 44004
Bascule Bridge Grille: This upscale-casual restaurant offers some pretty creative appetizers, entrees, soups, salads, and desserts. Bascule Bridge Grille also offers an excellent wine selection. Don’t skip dessert! I had one of the best panna cottas of my life here!
Address: 1006 Bridge St, Ashtabula, OH 44004
Crosswinds Grille at the Lakehouse Inn and Winery: With a heavy focus on local foods, Crosswinds Grille offers fresh dishes with a story. The majority of ingredients used at this restaurant are locally sourced and most dishes are seasonal. Once an ingredient is no longer available locally, it isn’t used anymore. You’ll love the upscale taste of the place and enjoy the incredible view of Lake Erie. It’s a must-do experience when you visit Ashtabula!
Address: 5653 Lake Road E. Geneva, OH 44041
Other Things To Do When You Visit Ashtabula County
Ashtabula County has a heavy focus on wine and delicious food. So if that’s your thing then you’ll feel right at home. But for those of us seeking just a bit more, there is certainly a plethora of activities to keep us occupied. The area sits along Lake Erie which means there are so many outdoor activities take part in. On top of that, agrotourism is a pretty big deal in the area so go visit a farm and see how it all works. This usually means tasting some great products at the source! Whatever your interest, your bound to find a more than a few things to keep you entertained. Here are just a few ideas for you to use as a leaping point.
Lake Erie Adventures: The lake provides outdoor enthusiasts with the perfect playground for exploration. Go kayaking, swimming, or hike along its shores. You can also charter a fishing trip and catch some nice walleye! Or you can just take a leisurely stroll along the lake with your lover!
If you’re interested in going fishing, check out Lucky Strike fishing charters!
Covered Bridges: Ashtabula County, Ohio is the covered bridge capital of the US boasting more covered bridges than any other place. With 19 covered bridges, Ashtabula also earns bragging rights because it is home to both the longest and shortest covered bridge in the US. These bridges are preserved remnants of a historic past when horses were the main source of transportation.
Check out this handy guide for more information on Ashtabula’s covered bridges.
Zip Lining: Are you a thrill seeker? Well, Ashtabula County has a great zip lining experience for you. Visit Ashtabula and fly through the trees! Lake Erie Canopy Tours will make sure your taken care of while you get that adrenaline rushing!
For more information, check out Lake Erie Canopy Tours.
Apple Picking: If you love apples and fall weather than why not head to a farm and pick your own apples. Enjoy some cider donuts, take a hay ride, and enjoy the fall colors.
Check out Brant’s Apple Orchard to plan your apple picking adventure!
Spa Time: Hanging out along Lake Erie is pretty relaxing already but we can all use a bit more relaxation. So head to the spa to maximize the laid back atmosphere when you visit Ashtabula County. The Lakehouse Inn has an excellent spa offering massages, facials, and nail treatments. Just lay back and let the excellent spa staff take care of you.
Check out the Lakehouse Inn’s website for more information on the spa.
: Take in a little history and learn something! The James A Garfield National Historic site is a great place to learn about the US’ 20th President who only served a little less than four months before he was assassinated.
Learn about Columbus, Ohio’s ethnic food scene!
Are you ready to go explore Ohio’s wine country?
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