Thanks to Ohio’s Lake Erie shores, the grape varietals grown here are nothing to sneeze at. The lake’s coolness in the spring keeps the vine from budding too soon, while the heat is kept in during the fall, thus extending the season. “The best wine regions in the world are going to be found along a body of water,” says Lauren Fiala, wine specialist at The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake. Here’s three common grape varietals grown throughout the state and what they’re known for.
Cabernet Franc: An ancient Bordeaux, this type of grape is a parent to cabernet sauvignon. Like any red grape, wineries are careful to plant it in the warmest spots because it’s difficult to ripen all the way every year. However, Ohio’s past two years yielded fantastic crop, generating promising red vintage. “I absolutely adore cabernet franc,” Fiala says. “When you start picking up those floral aromas, like violet and graphite, that’s when you’ve got something that’s really ripe.”
Pinot Gris: While it usually starts out with pink skin, two kinds of white wine are achieved with the same pinot gris grape variety. “Pinot gris is a cool grape,” says Fiala. “So we’ve got pinot gris which is the French name for it and pinot grigio is the Italian one. They’re the same grape.” Unsurprisingly, the wines made with these grapes go perfectly with Italian food, and the grape’s popularity has some advocates calling for our region to be nicknamed the “Pinot Belt.”
Riesling: A true shape-shifter, this white grape variety is one of Northeast Ohio’s most versatile grapes. While local vineyards have been ambitious, Fiala believes the region is just now tapping into riesling’s full potential. “You can have bone-dry, fierce minerality with high acid, all the way to ice wine and everything in between,” Fiala says. Plus, wines made with this grape age fairly well. “One of the most amazing wines I’ve ever had was a 30-year-old riesling.”