Photos by OHventures
392 Bayview Drive
Put-In-Bay, OH 43456
978 Catawba St.
P.O. Box 300
Put-In-Bay, OH 43456
Put-In-Bay is an ideal location for wine production, as it is situated in the middle of Lake Erie on South Bass Island. The humid lake air creates rich island soil that helps it grow some of the highest quality grapes in the state. Admittedly, most of the grapes in PIB (and Ohio as a whole) tend to be on the sweeter end of the spectrum, which is not always the preference of every palate. But, there is no denying the extreme popularity of wines that originate from this tiny section of the Buckeye state!
As mentioned previously on OHventures, Put-In-Bay is home to one of our favorite and most unique wineries in Ohio: Heineman's Winery & Crystal Cave. It's not by any means fancy like those I've been to in Napa Valley, California or other parts of Ohio. It reminds me of a tiny home in the suburbs with a backyard full of picnic tables. It's very quaint, very cheap and very "Ohio." But that is all part of its charm.
When my friends and I made a recent visit to Heineman's, we had just finished kayaking for over an hour. We were sweaty and smelled like lake water. Most of us were still in our bathing suits, or in my case, wearing a tank top and camo shorts. None of this mattered when visiting Heineman's backyard winery. It has extremely laid back atmosphere and lacks a formal dress code, as it recognizes that many people are in similar situations, having come from exploring the island!
Without hesitation, I created a miniature tasting platter, as I always do when visiting wineries (pictured below). Heineman's has been producing wine since 1888, so they know what they're doing! There are more than 20 different wines of a wide variety. From this large selection, I chose Pink Catawba (the most popular wine, and the one that looks most like candy! It is a gold winning wine that is sweet and strong), Cabernet Sauvignon (always my go-to wine, since I prefer dry reds), Island Chablis (a blend of white island-area grapes), and Niagara (had to get it based off of its name that is reminiscent of Niagara Falls - another white with a medium sweetness).
We all had our fair share of wine in the backyard, but also made note of another great feature of Heinemans: "Crystal Cave" which is attached to the building! As its name suggests, it is a cave full of "crystals" (a blueish mineral called celestite) and is the largest geode (a rock cavity with crystals inside) in the WORLD. Most geodes you can not even put your hand inside, yet this one you can WALK inside. You can get tours of this while also touring the winery. This, along with the island grapes, makes Heineman's Winery & Crystal Cave one of the most unique wineries in the whole state!
But after all of this, our group was not quite done with Put-In-Bay wine! Luckily, a new winery was established here in 2009, fittingly called Put-In-Bay Winery. Half of us decided that we HAD to pay the extra cash to be led on a guided tour of the Doller House Estate (pictured below), which is an Italianate residence preserved over many decades from its original owner, Valentine Doller, who was one of the wealthiest residence in PIB history.
The tour takes you initially through the Doller Estate, where you learn more and more about the very eclectic family that used to live there, all while tasting a different sample of wine in each room. The tour guide was awesome - she did a great job keeping everyone's attention with the captivating tales of runaway daughters, giant fires, and mysterious family dynamics. It was like hearing about a Put-In-Bay soap opera!
The tour moved from the house to the grounds of the estate, where we saw the rest of our group hanging out and sipping on wine in a gorgeous gazebo. We were then led into the last remaining icehouse on the island, and the Island Life Museum where we learned about the 100 year evolution of winter travel across the frozen Lake Erie ice! Again, throughout the icehouse and the museum, we got the chance to taste more wine! (and that's what we came here to do, after all)!
After all of these tastings, I managed to find a favorite - American Merlot - of which I bought a bottle of to take home with me! The Put-In-Bay Winery was an idyllic locale to sip island wines and varietals grown around the regionn while relaxing in the wine garden or on the front porch of the Doller House Estate with its wonderful view of the Put-In-Bay harbor.