Photos by OHventures
Geneva, OH 44041
There is a literal plethora of wineries to choose from when visiting Ashtabula County, and more specifically, Geneva and Geneva-on-the-Lake (and technically, Harpersfield).And since you can't visit all 20 wineries located in this part of the state (I have taken the liberty to determine that a "plethora" means 20) in one single visit (please don't try to prove me wrong, or else you might not live to tell the tale), then how on earth do you decide which one(s) to visit??
It's easy! Just take a tip from your trusty friends at OHventures and place South River Vineyard at the top of your "to see" list! Why is that? It's simple. South River Vineyard has transformed an old southern church into a winery. We love the wineries that have taken on a new identity from what they previously were (School House Winery having been an old school house, and Old Firehouse Winery having been an old firehouse, for instance), but what makes South River Vineyard special is the sheer irony behind its story. A place that was once completely and utterly holy, is now a spot for winos to come and imbibe on merlots and rieslings.
But I suppose it's not completly unheard of to find wine in a church. Just think of your visit to South River Vineyards as an amped up version of communion! When you arrive, the exterior of the winery will leave you breathless. When I arrived (thanks to my wine shuttle tour from The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake), I gasped at the sight of the large steeple soaring into the azure sky, inviting me inside to drink from the chalice!
The winery itself was originally situated in Shalersville Township in Portage County, Ohio, in the early 1900s. The over century-old Methodist church (built in 1892) was taken apart and transported piece by piece in 2002 to its current location near Lake Erie. Entering, you'll find an interior full of pews (the ORIGINAL pews, that is) and stained glass windows, juxtaposed by a full service wine bar!
The wine bar offers a tasting flight, which I ordered immediately - shocker! And in true Mike form, I chose my four wines for all the wrong reasons - they all had really fun names! The wines in my flight were named Creation (sweet white), Temptation (blush), Exodus (a red wine with hints of chocolate and herbs), and Karma (red with hints of ceder and tobacco). While that may have been a silly way to choose my wines, it ended up working in my favor because they all tasted pretty darn good.
We went to the veranda to drink the wine and enjoy the Lake Erie breeze. It was serene and peaceful. While many or most of the wineries in the area have live entertainment (singers, guitar players, etc.), the South River Vineyard prides itself in not having any such entertainment - making it a very relaxing environment.
Oddly, the veranda had an ancient Roman or ancient Greek decor, which did not mesh well with the Methodist American church decor found at the rest of the site. That would be my only criticism. It was still beautiful, nonetheless. The patio overlooked the vineyards, which you are encouraged to walk through (although we did not).
Again, this was my favorite winery of all of the wineries in Ashtabula County. And I have only visited 25% of the wineries in the area, so that says a lot! I left after purchasing a bottle of Exodus - which I intend to save until I need to do a great deal of repenting!