Ohio: Oldest Brand-New Appellation in America
July 24, 2009
The wine regions of Ohio have provided us with overwhelmingly convincing proof that their venerable status as world class players is well deserved. If your taste runs to classic vinifera wines of aromatic intensity and good acidity, I cannot name a region in the New or Old World which offers such varietal and stylistic diversity, whether you’re in search of a special collectible for your cellar or a jolly good drink that will amaze tonight’s guests.
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Grape growing goes back more than 150 years on tiny Isle St. George, situated off the south shore of Lake Erie, just two miles from the Canadian border. This AVA covers a mere 700 acres and is only a mile long. However, over half of the land is planted with grapes. There are 15 families on the island. In winter, the island is surrounded by tiny wooden shacks – icehouses where fishermen come in hope of snagging a bass. The effects of the lake make this island appellation an excellent spot for growing grapes. Being shallow, Lake Erie is warmer than the other Great Lakes. Prevailing winds that continuously buffet the island are warmed by the waters, rendering temperatures during the growing season which are significantly higher than on the mainland. The climate is temperate and the growing season itself is quite long for the area - 200 days on average. Cool-climate varietals such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Delaware and Catawba thrive here, the last of which has been planted on Isle St. George for well over a century.
From initial vineyard plantings on Whitehall Lane in the 1800's the evolution to today's Whitehall Lane Winery has been a story of vineyard. The first 25 acre vineyard property is the winery site, yet the definition of multiple Napa Valley sub appellations is formed in a wide ranging set of vineyards all showing unique profile and character in their wines.
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