Like other wine lovers, I’d prefer to travel to places known for their established vinification methods such as the Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy, the Alpine landscapes of Trentino, Italy or New World vineyards of California, but what is a person to do when nuances like money and lack thereof, a job, family and other adult responsibilities get in the way?
While pondering a solution to my predicament, an environmentally friendly message entered my mind with a tender nudge and a wink as if to say, ‘think globally, act locally Terrah.” It was that “aha” moment and clever marketing message reminding me that less than 150 years ago, the state of Ohio was the wine mecca of our country, producing almost 570,000 gallons a year – 200,000 gallons coming from the Ohio Valley region, according to the book “The Wines of America,” authored by Leon D. Adams.
I’ve appreciated the effort many local wineries have put forth, but continued to long for a post-prohibition wine that could satiate my pallet for more European flavors.
6 wineries, 842 miles and countless tastings later, I’ve found THE ONE at an inconspicuous winery called Kinkead Ridge in Brown County, Ohio. A place that, time and time again, my trusted wine friends promised I would enjoy.
It took me about an hour to drive to Kinkead Ridge, winding my way along the Ohio River, through sleepy little towns, and past miles of cornfields. My destination was marked with corrugated plastic signs that read “Winery Open.” The “winery” was located in a garage off a gravel road surrounded with well-kept trailer homes. I agreed silently with myself that It would serve me well to leave my inner critic at the door and let my pallet be my guide. A tiny sign at the entrance read:
As I entered through a garage door, the unmistakable scent of musky wine and malolactic fermentation entered my nostrils and two smiling brunettes greeted me. The owner Nancy was expecting me, only because I had called several times over the last week. Once to find out what her hours were, second to ask if I could get a private tour and a third to ensure she was open on the 4th of July holiday, when I finally made my journey. Each message I left was returned with an immediate phone call from Nancy answering all of my questions.
“Just come in,” she said, “our summer tastings are every Saturday from 11am to 5pm. I will be here to answer all of your questions and take you on the tour. “
The inside of the smallish garage was filled with oak barrels, giant plastic containers cases of wine and a table with delicious appetizers. The tasting table resembled the scene of an Olympic ceremony where Kinkead’s lineage of award winning wines stood tall and proud with metals of valor dangling from each bottle’s neck.
After introducing myself and sharing the dream of having my own winery someday, we got right down to business. I purchased the “premium” tasting package, which provided me with an etched Kinkead Ridge souvenir glass and a sample of each wine for an affordable $5. The alternative was the $3 package, which also offered a sampling of each wine, only from plastic cup. Not a bad deal, either way you go. Unlike Indiana liquor laws, Ohio wineries are required to charge for their tastings.
The best way to explain my first sip of Kinkead’s wine is to digress to a statement my husband, Adam made soon after we began dating. He told his father that was sure he’d just experienced his last first kiss when he kissed me.
Hardly as romantic, but equally delicious, this is how I felt with my first Kinkead wine, a 2008 Revelation White wine, predominantly Sauvignon Blanc. This crisp well-balanced wine had a mineral and herbal nose. It was everything I’d been looking for in a local wine and like nothing I’d tasted before.
2008 Revelation White:
Production: 147 cases. Alcohol 14.0% by volume. $13.95.
My pleasurable experience offered a refreshing bode of what was to come from this unassuming Ohio winery. The remaining flight included a Riesling, triminette, Viognier/Roussanne 57% Viognier/43% Roussanne; Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon; Syrah.
Kinkead’s success undoubtedly comes from the incredible care that the owners Nancy and Tom have placed into the art of winemaking. When looking for a location to grow their vineyard in 2002, they ultimately chose Kinkead Ridge because of its unique soil composition consisting of broken limestone, fertile soils and ideal 450-degree elevation overlooking the Ohio River. Geographically speaking, the farm lies on the same latitude as a famous winegrowing region in France, resulting in a beautiful crop.
In my search for an exceptional Ohio Winery, Kinkead has exceeded my expectations and given me great hope that I might be able to share wine equally wonderful from our family farm in Okeana, Ohio. I am sure you will agree. http: http://www.kinkeadridgewinery.com
“Rest assured, the quality at Kinkead Ridge is very high, and I would argue represents the best in Ohio and possibly the eastern US. I would also add that yes indeed their terroir is worth expressing! A good sniff and a quick taste will prove that to anyone. The important thing to me is that these are not wines of ego; rather they are clearly wines of place. Ron and Nancy have worked hard to express the virtues of their vineyard, and have given the wine drinking public something rare indeed… an entirely new wine region, with its own unique combination of flavors and aromas. To me this is exactly what fine wine is all about.” Click here to read this stunning review. –Chuck and Ann Boucher, Serendipity Wine Shop, Columbus
“The truth is that some of wine’s most thrilling acts — the ones you want to shout about from the rooftops — are small scale. They’re barely even commercial. But not to hear of them isn’t merely to miss out on a buying opportunity. Indeed, it would mean missing out on something more important yet, because simply knowing that these efforts are being made in today’s hyper-commercialized world is an inspiration. —Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator.
A note about Ohio’s wine history:
Around 1859, there were 3,000 acres of vines along the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Ripley. But soon fungal diseases such as black rot and powdery mildew took their toll, and many of the vines began to die. (Modern growers avoid such diseases by using wire to keep plants off the ground.)
In his book, “The Wines of America,” Leon D. Adams wrote that while vines in southern Ohio were dying, the wine industry was growing along the shores of Lake Erie. In the 1940s there was a brief grape-growing renaissance near Cincinnati after Henry Sonneman purchased a grape juice plant. Sonneman’s son began growing grapes for wine in the 1960s, but he left to start vineyards at Lake Erie. Market forces drove farmers in the area to other crops, and tobacco became king.