Sip your way through the harbor town of Vermilion and its area wineries ripe with character for every palate.
I quickly scan the wine list in front me. There are a lot of choices, and I'm not sure what to pick first: a dry cabernet sauvignon, a sweet honey wine or a semi-dry riesling. But wait — there's a semi-sweet rose that'd be just right for today's balmy temperatures as I explore Paper Moon Vineyards' 50-acre estate, carved into the lush landscape of the tiny harbor town of Vermilion.
After a brief glance around the 6-year-old winery's Tuscan-inspired tasting room, I realize I am not the only person pondering this very important decision. But Skip, the man behind the copper tasting bar who holds the bottle to my vino vacation bliss, has got my back. "Most people start with red and work their way up to the whites," he recommends.
Over the last 10 years, my palate has ripened from sugary-sweet moscatos to robust merlots, so I trust his methodology and select the Old Vine Zinfandel, a deep, full-bodied red made with grapes from Lodi, California.
He pours an ounce of the dark maroon liquid into my glass. Swirl, sniff, sip.
Hints of plum linger on my tongue. I take another sip. Then another.
At 50 cents a pour, I proceed through the winery's list of 15 varietals, even trying the blackberry sangria made on-site and stored in kegs.
Now comes the hardest choice of the afternoon: selecting a bottle to take out on the covered patio. Sitting at one of the tables fashioned from oak barrels, I pour myself a teeming glass of Sailor's Red, a blend of chambourcin, marquette and noiret grapes from Paper Moon's own vines.
With a few bottles secured in the backseat, I head about 9 miles west to Quarry Hill Winery in Berlin Heights. A small wedding party dances on the patio — the half-empty wine bottles scattered on the tables are a sign of merriment. I make my way inside and taste a few fruit wines, pausing over the strawberry and rhubarb one. It's so bright and juicy that I order a glass and walk out on to the wraparound balcony. While the views of the vineyards stretch for days, I'm running out of sunlight and I still have one more winery on my agenda.
If You Go
Quarry Hill Winery, 8403 Mason Road, Berlin Heights, 419-588-3179, quarryhillwinery.org
Vermilion Valley Vineyards, 11005 Gore Orphanage Road, Wakeman, 440-965-5202, vermilionvalleyvineyards.com
Sure, Dick Goddard knows how to forecast the weather, but he also calls on the assistance of some fuzzy little creatures to help him predict our long winters. The 43rd annual Woollybear Festival Oct. 4 honors the creepy-crawlers with a parade, food, entertainment and loads of guests — and pets — sporting woolly bear costumes. Downtown Vermilion, vermilionchamber.net
Treat yourself to a sweet piece of history at Brummer's Chocolates, a third-generation family confectionery. The cases are full of chocolate-covered goodies but go for the best-selling buttercrunch, made in-house by covering toffee in chocolate and rolling it in almonds. 672 Main St., Vermilion, 440-967-2329, brummers.com
It's romantic and fancy on the inside at Chez Francois, but make good use of the French restaurant's riverfront cafe during these last warm nights. While the atmosphere and dress code are more laid-back, the upscale dishes such as house-made lobster ravioli remain the same regardless of where you dine. 555 Main St., Vermilion, 440-967-0630, chezfrancois.com