A guide to local wineries

The Winery at Versailles vineyard at dusk.

By Dr. Mike Rosenberg

Ever wake up one morning and say, “I think I want to head to a winery and go tasting today?” Of course you have. You’re a person of culture and taste.

We don’t live in Sonoma or Bordeaux. Large wineries don’t really dot the hills. But that doesn’t mean you can’t scratch that particular itch. Dayton has the good fortune of being ringed by smaller wineries.

Dig out the old Twister game you’ve got in the back of the closet, climb in your car, and give the spinner a spin. Then just start driving in whatever direction it points, and you’ll run into a winery within an hour. Consider these places:

Left Hand Green (Southwest)
Hanover Winery, Hamilton

Beth and Eddie McDonald, owners of Hanover Winery, got their inspiration for winemaking from an unlikely source—an infomercial. “Eddie saw a wine making program on TV and thought it would be interesting to try to make wine, although we didn’t drink any wine at that time,” said Beth, “He didn’t like the idea of a wine kit so instead he started going to the groceries to get any excess fruit they would sell at
a bargain.”

Hanover produces 26 different wines, running the gamut from a reserve Cabernet to a sweet peach wine. A favorite: Dog-themed wines, with labels featuring their chocolate labs, Mason and Annee Grace. These wines are moneymakers for animal rescue operations, just as their “Pink Toad” blush earns proceeds for breast cancer research. Their wines have earned local and international accolades at various wine competitions.

The winery hosts a wine & chocolate night the weekend before Valentine’s Day, a Pink Toad Party fundraiser, and a farmer’s market. Tastings are available—$7 for 7 wines in their tasting room.

“We love the diversity of people that we meet here at the winery—they have so many interesting backgrounds and stories,” explained Beth, “We are close to Miami University Oxford, we meet a wide range of folks, some who are familiar with wine and some who are enjoying their first wine tasting experience. We do our best to make everyone feel comfortable and we want guests to enjoy the property and have a great
experience here.”

Hanover Winery is located at 2165 Morman Rd, Hamilton, Ohio. For more information, call 513.863.3119 or visit hanoverwinery.com.

Left Foot Red (West)
Olde Schoolhouse Winery, Eaton

“I’ll be honest. I didn’t expect the demand. People are buying many of these wines as quickly as we can make them.” Mark Zdobinski and Jim Meeks purchased the late 1880s vintage “Oklahoma Schoolhouse #4” in 2014.

Preble County’s first winery opened to the public in 2015. “In 2014, I was still considered an amateur, and our wines took a silver and a double gold at the Indy International wine festival. In 2015, we entered nine wines across two competitions, and came away with eight medals, including two ‘Best in Shows.’ We got six more silvers and golds last year.” Zdobinski is particularly proud that both his sweet and dry wines win awards. There’s a slate of 13 wines. Their best seller is a sweet blackberry
dessert wine.

The Olde Schoolhouse offers regular tastings, as well as glass and bottle sales. “Wine and canvas” happen monthly. There’s a party room available for private events as well. They also offer free tours, depending on staff availability. The winery has an open food policy, with many local restaurants delivering to the tasting room. They have cheese and crackers available, but the ongoing renovation has not yet included the kitchen.

“It’s a fun place to come,” says Zdobinski, “I hope people will come out and see what we’ve done. We try to make sure everyone enjoys themselves.”

Olde Schoolhouse Winery is located at 152 State Route 726 N. in Eaton. For more information, please call 937.472.WINE or visit oshwinery.com.

Left hand Green (West-Northwest)
Kennedy Vineyard, New Madison

Wine is a family affair for the Kennedys. Louise Kennedy, who owns and operates the winery with her husband John, explained: “The winery is on the site of the Kennedy family farm and John grew up there. Wine runs in the family. John’s sister has a winery outside of Grove City, and his mother began making wine in 2002 on the property for friends and neighbors.” John and Louise eventually purchased the family farm and opened the winery in April 2014.

Kennedy Vineyards produces 11 wines. While the Kennedys don’t have enough grapes to source all their production, their first estate wine, “KV Sunset,” a Chambourcin-based red, sold out quickly. Their best seller is a sweet red called “Redneck Girl” which “just flies off the shelves,” according to Louise.

“All of our grapes and juice comes from Ohio and immediately surrounding areas. We really love teaching people about wine, and about how good Ohio wines can be,” said Louise, “People don’t need to travel huge distances to try quality wine.”

The winery hosts “Wine and Swine” hog roasts. Rent the winery for weddings, birthdays anniversaries, and fundraisers.

When heading to the winery, Louise suggests, “Be ready to come out and enjoy our wines in a relaxed atmosphere. This is not a place where you need to dress up. Come as you are.”

Kennedy Vineyard is located at 3911 State Route 722 in New Madison. For more information, call 937.273.8381 or visit kennedyvineyard.net.

Left Foot Yellow (Northwest)
Old Mason Winery, West Milton

Visiting wineries is a family activity for the Clarks. In April 2013, they decided that they would give their hobby a permanent home—Old Mason Winery.

While a relatively new operation, Old Mason already has notoriety. At the Indy International Wine Competition, it started modestly—picking up a bronze medal for their raspberry-flavored Cayuga and a silver for a Concord blend. Later, it struck gold—specifically a double gold for their LaCrescent white, and golds for the new vintages of the raspberry Cayuga and Concord and Old Mason produces 17 different red, white, and fruit wines with tastings available by the flight, glass, or bottle. The winery hosts karaoke and painting classes.

Old Mason Winery is located at 4199 S. Iddings Rd. in West Milton. For more information, call 937.698.1122 or visit oldmason.com.

RIGHT hand blue (north)
The Winery at Versailles

While not actually a palace, this winery has built up a royal-sized regional clientele. “About 90% of wineries in Ohio produce less than 5,000 gallons per year. Last year, we made 60,000 gallons of our Rodeo Red alone,” explained Lisa Heidenreich, daughter of owners Mike and Carol Williams.

Rodeo Red is a Concord blend, nestled among a lineup of 30 unique wines. Along with the winery’s slate of still and sparkling reds and whites, the “Blue Bottle” late harvest series changes annually. The chocolate cherry wine, Lisa says, “tastes like the candy.” She added that the winery was named “Winery of the Year” by Ohio Magazine for two consecutive years.

The winery enjoys a great deal of community support. There’s a small kitchen for gourmet pizzas and specialty dinners, as well as regular “grill your own” parties during the year. Craft classes happen regularly, as does a social club called,
“The Wine-ee Women.”

Before visiting the winery, Lisa suggests that people call ahead or check their Facebook page. “Reservations for events are recommended. We try to accommodate everyone, but we get booked up, especially on weekends.”

The Winery at Versailles is located at 6572 State Route 47, Versailles, OH. For more information, call 937.526.3232, or visit wineryatversailles.com.

Right Hand Yellow (Northeast)
Brandeberry Winery, Enon

Brandeberry Winery is the brainchild of Jim Brandeberry, former Dean of the College of Engineering at Wright State. “It’s a great job for an old engineer. I get to tinker all the time,” says Jim.

Brandeberry stocks 20 varieties, and the “Lil’ Olde Winemaker” continues to experiment with new wines and blends. His sweet wines are still his bestsellers, and the new wines in the catalog include a merlot sweetened with blackberry he dubbed “Not Your Mother’s Red,” a new sweet wine called “Party Girl,” which is a Cayuga/Riesling blend, and their best seller, “Black Dog,” a blend of 80% Cayuga and 20% red raspberry.

Jim started growing a new kind of grape from Minnesota called LaCrescent. He decided to try that out after the polar vortex did serious damage to his crops last year. His first attempt at making wine from that grape took a double gold in the Ohio commercial
wine competition.

In addition to a fundraiser for humane societies (dubbed “Dogtoberfest”) and one for veterans’ charities like Honor Flight, the winery is available for private parties
and meetings.

Brandeberry Winery is located at 5118 W. Jackson Rd. in Enon. For more information, call 937.767.9103 or visit brandeberrywinery.com.

Right Foot Red (East)
Caesar Creek Winery, Xenia

Patricia Chalfant, winemaker at Caesar Creek, says that she loves the process of making wine. “I get to use my horticulture degree in the vineyard and my chemistry background to make the wines. I enjoy getting feedback from guests in the tasting room when they taste what we’ve created. I get to be part of the wine’s full life cycle.”

Caesar Creek is one of the few estate wineries in the region—meaning the grapes for all of the wines are grown on the property. Their most popular wine is a semi-sweet white called Creek Stomper, but Chalfant takes particular pride in their dry rosés—Caesar’s Rosé and Frontenac Rosé—made in a French style.

Chalfant says visitors to the winery are encouraged to bring food, as she doesn’t have a kitchen for the tasting room. The winery hosts regular 5Ks through the vineyard as fundraisers, hosts a “Cork and Canvas” once a month, and guests can make an appointment to paint a wineglass or hold private parties.

Caesar Creek Winery is located at 962 Long Rd. in Xenia. For more information, call 937.952.9388 or visit caesar-creek.com.

Right Foot Blue (South)
Valley Vineyards Winery & Brewery, Morrow

Sometimes Joe Schuchter has to go in on his day off. “I didn’t expect to get a big order just after New Year’s, but a wine shop in Columbus wanted a bunch of our Cabernet Sauvignon, and I’m not one to say, ‘No!’” Joe’s family winery was a happy accident. His grandfather ordered grapevines to plant 2-3 acres. Instead, he received enough plants for 20 acres!

Valley Vineyards has produced estate grown wines since 1970. It has 20-21 “line wines,” plus seasonal releases. “We’ve got plenty of variety—sweet to dry. There aren’t many people who can’t find something they like out here,” said Joe. He says it’s difficult for him to single out a wine of which he’s proudest. “We take as much pride in our Concord as our Cabernet.” He said that their most awarded wine is their Cabernet Franc.

The winery is open year-round. There are grill gatherings, grand tastings, and cookouts. It seeks a “family tone.”  In fact, a local man who was raised in England stops in for a pint regularly because the welcoming Valley Vineyards environment is similar an
English pub’s.

Valley Vineyards is located at 2276 East US 22 & 3 in Morrow. For more information, call 513.899.2485, or visit valleyvineyards.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Rosenberg at MikeRosenberg@DaytonCityPaper.com or visit his blog at TheNakedVine.net.

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