Our viticultural area has a long history of grape-growing. In 1823, Nicholas Longworth, "the father of American sparkling wine", planted a vineyard overlooking the Ohio River. He imported thousands of vines from Europe, but they did not survive; he then planted Catawba, and at one time had 1200 acres of vineyards. By 1859 Ohio was America's premiere wine state, producing almost 570,000 gallons a year; 200,000 of those came from our Brown County; there were 3000 acres of vines along the river between Cincinnati and Ripley. Around that time, black rot and powdery mildew took its toll, and the vines began to die. One reason for the rot was the fact that there was no wire, the vines weren't trellised, and they didn't get enough air and sun to prevent fungal diseases. Other reasons for the decline were the profitability of tobacco growing, and the fact that horses could farm the steep hillsides and tractors couldn't.
Our vineyard planting was carefully delineated by the steepness of the slope and what the vineyard tractor could handle. We now find ourselves overseeing a renaissance of this historic area. Ron has spent long hours answering viticultural and enology questions for the young growers we have encouraged in Ohio, and has also worked with growers in northern Kentucky. I've had the pleasure to work with them to design their web sites, and am currently also doing some label design.
Here we have the pencil drawing suggested by Seth and Tina Meranda for Meranda-Nixon Estate Winery, which should be built this coming year at Meranda Vineyards. We'll see what it morphs into after I've played with it on Adobe Illustrator for awhile. Here's my current favorite. Seth is a young local farmer, and one of his claims to fame is as a young boy he was on the David Letterman show because he grew the biggest watermelon in the state of Ohio that summer!
I've also worked with Brad and Armanda of upcoming La Vigna and Haible Family Vineyards of Higginsport, a spectacular 70 acre site overlooking the Ohio River. Brad has planted his vineyard on a lyre trellis, currently has Cabernet Franc in the ground, and will be planting Petit Manseng this spring.
In a few years, we may have a very nice wine trail down here, which also includes Harmony Hill of Bethel, Harmony Hill Estate Winery. We all have very different plans for varieties and marketing, but the current synergy is good. One phrase we all have in common is... "Ohio wines... not your grandmother's Catawba any more!"
To save time with the many questions he's fielded, Ron put together the Top Ten List of Viticultural Mistakes for our area (also relevant to other areas). Here is the link.