COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WKBN) – The Ohio Wine and Grape industry has exploded in the last 10 years.
Ohio wineries now contribute more than $1.3 billion to the state’s economy every year, according to Ohio Grape Industries Committee.
That means more people are getting into the industry, with the number of wineries in the state doubling in just 10 years.
“They’re now ranking in the top 20 in the country in wine production, which has come a long way from where it used to be in the bottom. Ohio is starting to get a lot more credibility now as a winemaking state,” said Joe Glista, a winemaker at the Vineyard at Pine Lake in Columbiana.
That’s despite overcoming numerous obstacles, like Mother Nature.
It turns out that Ohio isn’t the best place in the world to grow grapes.
Farmers have to overcome everything from soil to picky palates to earn a national reputation.
“The soil is not very good for grapes. It’s a heavy clay, poorly-drained soil — acidic,” said Gene Sigel, owner of South River Winery in Geneva.
Farmers have developed systems to make up for the bad soil, but there’s one thing they can’t control, and it’s the very reason grapes do so well here.
“What makes it is the air,” Sigel said. “The air that sits back on these ridges away from the lakes.”
The Grand River Valley now has a special “wine region” designation. That brings tourists from all across the country.
More tourists means more wineries are popping up.
“It’s doubled just in the last 10 years,” Sigel said. “There’s been more wineries here. There’s been more people here, more traffic to share among all of us. It’s helped us as a farm to become a destination.”
Just to the south, a Mahoning Valley winery cluster is developing.
The Vineyards at Pine Lake opened last year in Columbiana. Vats turn out hundreds of bottles of wine a year.
“It’s developing, but I think it will develop as we get more wineries coming into the industry,” Glista said.
Winemaking requires a lot of money to purchase equipment, buildings for tasting rooms and grapes to grow or juice to buy.
Industry growth doesn’t look like it’s slowing down any time soon, however.
“As far as I can tell, there’s no such thing as too much wineries,” Glista said. “It doesn’t matter where people love wine.”