Wineries in California, Washington state and Oregon tend to get a lot of press in the tourism industry.
However, there are a lot of lovely getaway vacation opportunities for oenophiles in the Great Lakes region, some in unexpected areas.
Here are three wineries in this bustling region encompassing the United States and Canada.
1. Gervasi Vineyards, Canton, Ohio.
Most of Ohio’s winemaking regions are clustered along the long Lake Erie shoreline, so visitors may be surprised to hear about this world-class winery located an hour south of the lake.
Gervasi Vineyards is located on 55 wooded acres north of Canton, and wandering the lush grounds feels like you’ve stepped into a secret Tuscan getaway. On a recent overnight stay, we were blown away by the quality of the finishes on everything from the public spaces to the rooms—not a dollar was spared when the designers chose lights, fixtures, artwork, etc.
Brand Manager Jeff Hicks explained that Gervasi recently opened its new 24-room boutique hotel addition, The Casa, on May 1st.
“So, we now have 48 luxury guest suites to offer our visitors,” he said. “The Farmhouse sleeps six to eight comfortably and is ideal for families or groups—and it offers a state-of-the-art kitchen. The Villas are six standalone buildings that have four private guest suites and a common center space that is shared.”
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The Casa is constructed in a large C-shape, and each room features a spacious patio that looks out across a courtyard area and lake. An on-site guest experience manager can assist with having wines delivered to your room. Water, sodas and juice in the minibar are complimentary. Breakfast is included, too—you select from 5 entrees and your meal, along with fresh fruit and croissants, is delivered to your room in a beautiful vintage wood wine box.
There are several dining options on property here. The Crush House is a lovely modern wine bar and restaurant with a bustling patio area and a stunningly appointed bar. The Still House serves as more of a coffeehouse during the day, but in the evenings, guests can come here to enjoy wine, craft cocktails and small plates—often with live music provided. The Piazza is a seasonal outdoor patio (overlooking a large lake) that’s a casual dining spot for lunch or dinner.
The dining pièce de résistance here though is The Bistro, where rustic, upscale Italian specialties are served in this lovingly restored circa 1820 barn. The pricing is quite reasonable for the exceptionally high quality of food. Everything was a delight at our dinner, from the pear salad to the chicken piccata to the warm crostini served tableside. And the flourless chocolate cake with peanut butter mousse was the best dessert I’ve had in quite some time.
And did we mention the wines? Gervasi grows its own grapes on-site and produces wines, as well as buys grapes and produces different wines from those. Our waitress deftly explained the different options, across both red and whites, along with a number of Italian wines that the vineyard imports—so no matter your preference, you’re likely to find something you’ll love here.
There’s plenty more to do while at Gervasi, including yoga, distillery tours, culinary classes, tastings and food pairings, shopping, vineyard dinner experiences and concerts. This hidden gem is definitely worth an overnight visit, whether you’re in Ohio or anywhere east of the Mississippi.
2. Two Sisters Vineyard, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.
This whole region is a heavenly destination for oenophiles, with dozens of wineries scattered around this scenic 19th-century village—and located a stone’s throw from the bustle of Niagara Falls. One of the most popular and prettiest is Two Sisters Vineyards, which conducts tastings and tours of its Italian-inspired estate grounds.
The on-property restaurant, Kitchen76, features a rustic Italian menu that changes with the seasons and is complemented by the vineyard’s award-winning wines. Pizzas and pasta are made fresh on-site using authentic Italian influences.
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Here, they produce a variety of wines, which are labeled as Two Sisters, Stone Eagle (the flagship brand) and Lush (a pink sparkling wine). Visitors will also find rosé, riesling, sauvignon blanc, merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and more.
The winery was recently awarded Double Gold for its 2016 Blanc de Franc at the 2019 All Canadian Wine Championships; the vintage was also named Best Sparkling Wine of the Year. After a trip to Champagne, France, Adam, the resident winemaker, said he was inspired to create a truly unique sparkling wine.
3. Bonobo Winery, Traverse City, Michigan.
The northwestern corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula is a scenic wilderness that has long been one of the cherry growing centers of the U.S. Visitors to this area can enjoy an assortment of nautical adventures, bountiful hiking and even the nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, home to 400+ foot high sand dunes.
But this region also boasts some lovely wineries, and one of the most talked about is Bonobo Winery, founded by the Oosterhouse family. Bonobo offers a range of tastings, from standard to VIP, and has won dozens of awards for its wines, including sauvignon blanc, pinot blanc, pinot gris, chardonnay C, Riesling, rosé, pinot noir, Bonobo red and cabernet franc.
According to Bonobo’s Wine Club/Marketing Manager, Caryn Chachulski, the family purchased land on Old Mission Peninsula—40 acres initially, in 2009, added 10 more acres in 2013. “Roughly 18 acres of that was planted in 2010, and since it takes a few years for grapevines to produce a crop, the first harvest was in 2012,” she said. “More vines have been added and we currently have close to 22 acres in production. The winery was built in 2014 with a focus on repurposing local material. Carter and Todd collected three old barns from the area and have used the reclaimed wood throughout the building.”
“The winery has a relaxed feel, and we want people to come and spend time here. In addition to wine tasting, we also offer wines by the glass and a small plate menu that we change periodically. If the weather is good, our large deck has views of our rolling vineyards and Grand Traverse Bay in the distance, and if not, feel free to cozy up by the fireplace,” added Chachulski.
She explained that ultimately, wine is made in the vineyard and they take great care in not just their vines but the soil they grow in. Bonobo does not use herbicides or pesticides in the vineyard and takes advantage of cover crops and composting to keep the vineyard healthy. Their wines are made in a dryer European style and express the vintage with which the grapes were grown.