Northeast Ohio wineries offer ever-increasing wine lists, experiences

Tony Kosicek and Bob Matus are wine grape growers and winemakers separated by northern Ohio’s geography but united by unwavering belief in the quality of their wines.
At Kosicek Vineyards in Harpersfield Township, on the eastern edge of Lake County, Kosicek and his wife, Mauri, tend to seven wine-grape varieties growing in an 8 1/2-acre vineyard. They planted wine grapes in 2010 and bottled their first vintages in 2012 for sale in 2013. The tasting room also opened in 2013.

Today, there are 23 wines listed on the board in that tasting room.

“When we started, the goal was to have wines for everyone and every taste. I’m proud to say we’ve done that ,” Kosicek said.

Winemaker Wes Gerlosky of Harpersfield Vineyard is one of many Northeast Ohio winemakers making a mark on the wine scene. {Image credit: News-Herald file}

Matus and he and his girlfriend, Kelly Foster, “take care of just about everything” with 10 varieties of wine grapes growing in the 8-acre vineyard at Matus Winery in Wakeman, on the western end of Lorain County. There are 21 selections on its current wine list.

“We’re kicking butt here and making great wine.” Matus said. “This is a no-frills business. We plant the vines, grow the grapes, tend them through the growing season, harvest in the fall and make the wine. We have a passion for doing this.”

Ohio has six wine trails. Kosicek Vineyards is in the Vines and Wines Trail, spanning the shore of Lake Erie in Lake, Ashtabula and Geauga counties.

Matus Winery is in the Lake Erie Shores and Island Trail covering Lorain, Huron, Erie, Sandusky, Ottawa, Lucas, Wood and other counties stretching to the Indiana border.

There are 286 wineries currently operating in Ohio, according to the January 2018 census of 9,091 U.S.wineries.

Kosicek and Matus cited what they regard as business-savvy atmosphere of collegiality among Ohio wineries on local and state-wide levels.

“We want to make good wine in Ohio so people are not going somewhere else to get it,” Kosicek said. “The new wineries that are opening in Ohio … we want them to make good wine and maintain the tradition.”

Matus was asked if he could pinpoint a characteristic shared by his winery and other wineries in the agriculture-rich area of northern Ohio sometimes referred to as the Firelands.

“It’s not so much the lay of the land as an attitude,” Matus said. “It’s family, friends, good food, good music and good times. We are relaxed out here. We’re a destination. People turn off their cell phones. They smile. They enjoy each other. They enjoy life.”

At Kosicek Vineyards and Matus Winery, the presentations of wines often are accompanied by live music, other entertainment events and food preparations.

Donniella Winchell, founder and director of the Geneva-based Ohio Wine Producers Association, said these accompaniments are key elements in the marketing efforts of the state’s wineries.

“We are in the business of making and selling wine, of course, but these additional attractions help people fall in love with the experience of going to wineries,” Winchell said.

Ohio’s other wine trails are the Capital City, Canal Country, Appalachian and Ohio River Valley trails.

“These wine trails are not homogenous at all,” Winchell said.

”The differing climates lend themselves to ideal growing conditions for different varieties of wine grapes,” Winchell said.

“And with 286 wineries, the experiences people have there are as unique and eclectic as the winemakers and their wines.”

David S. Glasier likes to relax with a glass of Ohio wine.

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