History of Ohio Wines
Ohio has a long tradition of growing flavorful grapes that produce quality wines.
It first began in the early 1800s when Nicholas Longworth, a pioneer in the commercial
wine industry, planted Catawba grapes in Cincinnati above the Ohio River. Unlike the
stronger-tasting wines of that era, Longworth's Catawba grapes produced a semi-sweet
wine that quickly won the praises of consumers. His initiatives proved so successful,
that by 1859, Ohio had become the leading producer of wine, boasting more than 3,000
acres of grapes along the river between Cincinnati and Ripley, Ohio.
But by the late 1860s, when crop disease destroyed grapes and the Civil War reduced
the labor force, winemaking in southern Ohio was virtually non-existent. However, German
immigrants brought their traditions of winemaking to the Lake Erie Islands in northern
Ohio. This area's unique climate and its surrounding waters were ideal for growing
grapes, and wine production prospered once again.
By the turn of the century, dozens of wineries inhabited the islands of Lake Erie,
and thousands of gallons of wine were produced in this area. Its reputation for
flavorful wines led to the addition of more vineyards along the entire southern
shore of Lake Erie, which soon became known as the "Lake Erie Grape Belt."
Although Prohibition virtually obliterated winemaking in Ohio, the post-Prohibition
years of the 1960s marked a time of resurgence for Ohio's winemaking industry. It was
then that hardy, disease-resistant French-American grapes were planted in Southern
Ohio. These grapes produced popular wines similar to the less-sweet European varieties,
and before long, these grapes were thriving in the Northern Lake Erie Grape Belt
Today, Ohio is one of the top 10 wine-producing states with more than 1.1 million
gallons produced every year. Ohio's grape portfolio now includes vinifera, the type
of grape from which Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Riesling wines are made.
So, while consumers still enjoy the old favorites like Catawba, they also satisfy
their palates with European-style wines made right here in Ohio. In fact, Ohio's
Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris/Grigio, and
Pinot Noir wines have gained favor with wine lovers far and wide. Numerous Ohio
wines have been selected as "Best of Show" winners in well-known national