Friday, June 27, 2014

South River Vineyard

Photos by OHventures

6062 South River Rd.
Geneva, OH 44041
(440) 466-6676

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!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Fuel Up Your Adventures With NOW Foods

Photos by OHventures

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of NOW Foods.

In order to maximize an adventurous active lifestyle full of running, hiking, biking, canoeing, and rock climbing your way through Ohio and the world, it's essential that you fuel your body in the right ways to give you the energy and nutrients to keep chugging along. 

Thanks to a fantastic campaign opportunity as a Fitfluential ambassador, I had the chance to try some quality natural products from the NOW Foods "Sports" line. When my box arrived in the mail from NOW Foods, it was like Christmas morning! I opened up the package and discovered five exciting items from the NOW Sports Nutrition line in bright orange containers! Pictured above, the items I was given to sample were (from left to right):

1. L-Carnitine Liquid - 16 fl. oz.
5. MCT Oil - 32 oz.

I was anxious to begin testing out the products, some of which I was completely unfamilar with. But that was about to change!

L-Carintine Liquid
For starters, L-Carnitine Liquid was certainly something I had never heard of before, but was intrigued by its description. According to the bottle, L-Carintine is a non-essential amino acid that helps to maintain overall good health by facilitating the transfer of fatty acid groups into the mitochondrial membrane for cellular energy production. You can find L-Carintine naturally in red meats, but for those who are vegetarian, or may not eat red meat every day (like most people, I hope), a supplement is helpful.

The recommended use is 1 tablespoon twice daily, preferably on an empty stomach. Easy enough. I started out by pouring the L-Carintine Liquid onto a tablespoon each morning before breakfast along with my other supplements and vitamins. Taking it by itself was not bad at all - the citrus flavor is bold and tasty. It is rather sweet, however, so sometimes I would add it to an 8 oz. glass of purified water to dilute the taste and transform it into an orange sports drink of sorts.

The L-Carintine is a refreshing addition to my morning line-up, and the bottle has an easy pouring spout that makes things quick and easy! I feel that the supplement helps wake me up and puts a spring in my step. 

Vanilla Toffee Pea Protein
I am a huge fan of protein powders. As any avid gym-goer would know, protein helps build muscle, and the magic formula I often hear if you are looking to build muscle mass is consuming 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight. But regardless of whether or not you are looking to grow into a muscle man or woman, everyone needs protein in his or her diet. 

Unbeknownst to me, peas are a huge source of protein! Usually, one thinks of chicken, turkey, eggs, and cheese as high protein sources. But peas? Yes, peas! Give peas a chance! The beauty of protein derived from peas is that it is vegan, and according to NOW Foods, it is highly bioavailable and virtually allergen free. Another perk of this NOW Foods product? The added flavor! Vanilla toffee is a protein flavor I had never tried before, so I was pretty pumped!

It is suggested to use the pea protein as a pre-workout or post-workout supplement. I added it with ice and skim milk and blended it into a protein shake! It tasted pretty awesome, I must say. I applaud the flavor, consistency, AND the high amount of protein - 25 grams per scoop! 

One item of caution I must express is that this protein powder does contain the sugar substitute xylitol. Xylitol is actually a fantastic sugar subsitute for humans, but it is incredibly toxic for dogs. My dog once got a hold of a piece of gum containing Xylitol and nearly died. Therefore, I had to take a moment to advise all users of this product to keep it FAR out of reach of any dog! I will now get off of my soapbox! 

Men's Extreme Sports Multivitamin
Everyone should take a multivitamin. This package came just in time for me, as I just ran out of my multivitamins. Plus, the fact that these multis were marketed as being "extreme sports" multis made them right up my alley! Since I often participate in Extreme Thrills through OHventures, anything geared toward extreme sports is a perfect addition to my diet.

So what makes these multi vitamins so extreme? Let me count thy ways: the vitamin is chock full of minerals, free-form amino acids, ZMA®, tribulus, MCT Oil (more on that later), herbal extracts, and MORE! I think it's important to read up on all of the ingredients and to learn what each one of them does to benefit you. That's how you can discover what the best multivitamin is for you. The NOW Sports Men's Extreme Sports Multivitamin jives with me, and I wholeheartedly approve.

Sprouted Brown Rice Protein
More protein! Yay! But just like I had never heard of pea protein before, I had never heard of sprouted brown rice protein either. The people at NOW Foods keep proving they have really unique products, and I like that. Unfortunately, this protein wasn't quite my style - at first, that is.

As with the pea protein, I went with the same basic recipe of protein mix, ice, and skim milk. The taste was unbearable to me and I couldn't finish it. I discovered that this is because the sprouted brown rice protein has one single ingredient - sprouted brown rice. That's it! So, the taste is pretty bland, if not a bit earthy. The pea protein had an advantage in that it already had an added flavor of vanilla toffee. So, I thought I would spruce up the sprouted brown rice protein by adding additional ingredients to my smoothies. These varied, but included vanilla extract, almond milk, natural peanut butter, bananas, strawberries, and any combination of these and other ingredients. This boosted the flavor (or, rather, masked the flavor) but still gave me the added benefits of a natural, pure, non-GMO, soy-free, dairy-free, smooth, and easy-to-mix protein powder!

Last but certainly not least was my good friend MCT Oil, yet another supplement introduced to me by NOW Foods! For those who are unfamiliar with MCT Oil, it is a weight management  amino acid derived from coconut oil and palm kernal oil that helps spare lean body tissue. MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides, which are more easily and rapidly digested than other types of fats or oils.

I have to say that this is probaby my favorite of the products I received, mostly due to its versatility! Pictured above, you can see that I combined MCT oil with organic red wine vinegar to create a flavorful and healthy salad dressing! I also added the MCT oil to some of my other meals, including in a homemade spaghetti sauce and in a summertime pasta salad! I felt at ease knowing I was using an oil much more healthful and beneficial to my diet than anything else I had been using!

All in all, my stint with NOW Foods Sports products has been an exciting adventure that is helping fuel my body for all of the exploring and exercise I will be experiencing throughout the summer. I highly recommend you check out to read more about their products and to find a retailer near you!

About NOW Foods
NOW Foods, a family-owned company since 1968, is a leader in the nutritional supplements industry and dedicated to providing customers with a comprehensive approach to wellness by offering a variety of high-quality, natural and affordable products. Founded on the belief that natural is better, NOW Foods is proud to offer more than 1,400 natural products that are specifically formulated to help support optimal health through good nutrition. NOW Foods product offerings range from nutrient-rich foods and supplements to personal care and sports nutrition items.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake Photo Blog

Who: You and your significant other; or you and a set of some wine-loving friends!
What: An overnight stay at The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake
Where: Geneva-On-The-Lake, Ashtabula County
When: Any time of the year, but preferably in spring or summer
Why: To escape reality and bask in the beauty of Lake Erie
How: Book a stay by visiting The Lodge's website, and be sure to request a sunset view!

Photos by OHventures

Pierogi Dash 5K Recap

Photos by OHventures

On June 8, 2014, Slavic Village in Cleveland hosted its annual Pierogi Dash 5K. Despite pouring rain and an early start time, runners came out in droves so they could get a taste of the glorious little potato pockets waiting for them at the finish line!

Hearing the word "pierogi" would leave some people scratching their heads in confusion. In fact, my college roommates at OSU freshman year had no clue what pierogies were when I brought them up in conversation, likely because they were from Central and Southwest Ohio. My mom remedied that situation by whipping up a batch of pierogies for me to take to them. They were forever changed once they had their first taste of pierogi. To those of us who are from Northeast Ohio, hearing the word "pierogi" leaves us hungry and salivating!

I take pride that I introduced pierogies to some fellow Ohioans who had never had the pleasure of tasting these delicacies before. 

So, for those who do not know, pierogies are an ethnic food that are largely part of Eastern European cuisines, such as Slovakia, Romania, the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, to name a few. Essentially, the dish is a small dumpling made of dough that is filled with mashed potatoes and fried in butter and onions. There are many variations, however, including pierogies with additional fillings to accompany the potatoes, such as bacon, broccoli, cheese, sauerkraut, or meat. They are usually semi-circular in shape, and nothing short of perfect.

The Slavic Village in Cleveland took the popularity of pierogies to task by naming its annual 5K after the famous food. Previously named the Morgana Run, the folks in charge knew that adding "pierogi" to the title would attract more particpants - and they were right! 

This year, over 500 runners showed up to run for pierogies, some even dressed in pierogi-related garb (such as the two Polish women pictured above, carrying wooden spoons and decked out in costumes made to look like a dish of pierogies). There was another man who had a costume that resembled one giant pierogi, much like the artwork for the t-shirts. It was definitely a light-hearted event, as they awarded "golden pierogies" to the best costume (which happened to be the ladies in the photo).

Right when the race began, the rain came pouring down. There was no escaping getting absolutely drenched. This is a rarity for me in races, so I don't have much experience running in the rain. Unfortunately, this made me not pay much attention to the scenery, which was through the streets of Slavic Village. From what I did see, however, were small ethnic restaurants and century-old houses that added a great deal of character to what I typically think of Cleveland.

Much of the race was on a multi-use trail (called the Morgana Run Trail), and some was uphill. Soaking wet, I made it to the finish line in approximately 23:38, placing 5th in my age group. I was pleased that I continually have been improving in my 5Ks as of late (Foxburg Nature Festival 5K was 25:25, and World Fit 5K was 24:00). 

A major perk of finishing in 62nd place overall was that there was barely a line for the pierogies! I went straight to the tent where the tasty treats were being dished out and was in & out in no time. In additon to the buttery aromatic pierogies, they were also serving up some jerky-like sausages called "smokies" and the traditional bananas and water. 

While enjoying my cultural brunch, the line began to grow exponentially. Even the rain couldn't keep the hungry participants away from the pierogies, which were provided by one of the local Polish restuarants. I had to take a picture of the monstrous line! 

I also had to take a picture of a cute golden retriever (named Maggie) who was wearing one of the Pierogi Dash t-shirts. I made a split screen graphic (above) to ask: who wore it better - me or the dog?! I think I know the answer (the dog of course).

Thanks Slavic Village for a 5K that was truly specific to Ohio, and only a few other areas of the country and world! We have pierogi pride in Cleveland!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Terminal Tower Observation Deck

Photos by OHventures

On a recent day trip to Cleveland, I met up with a friend and loyal OHventures reader, Fran, to have brunch at the trendy Latitude 41 and sightsee downtown! Fran has a passion and love of The Cleve, where she was born and raised, and she knew the perfect place that would be right up my alley! We headed downtown to Public Square where Fran revealed we would be taking a trip hundreds of feet into the air via the Terminal Tower.

Terminal Tower is 52 stories and 771 feet tall, making it the second tallest building in all of Cleveland (and the second tallest in all of Ohio, and the 114th tallest in the United States). For a small $5 fee, you can head up a series of elevators to the Observation Deck (which is entirely enclosed)! Here, you will get the most spectacular view of the CLE possible! On a clear day (not quite like the overcast day in June when I visited) you can see up to 30 miles in every direction. You get spectacular glimpses at everything from the Rock &Roll Hall of Fame to FirstEnergy Stadium (home of the Cleveland Browns) to every other skyscraper in the city (including the tallest in Cleveland and Ohio, Key Tower). You can also see miles into "Ohio's ocean," Lake Erie.

Added to the National Registrar of Historic Places in 1976, Terminal Tower was first dedicated in 1930 and has been a hotspot for tourists and locals alike ever since. The Tower consists mainly of commercial office space, but is also a part of what is known as Tower City Center, which is home to a shopping mall, the Horseshoe Casino, two hotels, the main hub of Cleveland's rapid transit lines. The observation deck itself was closed after the September 11 attacks, but was completely renovated and reopened to the public in 2010.

Another fun feature of Terminal Tower is that every single night, the top section of the tower is lit up in all of its glory. Most nights, the Tower glows in a golden hue, but on special occasions, there are exceptions. For instance, holiday-themed colors (such as green & red for Christmastime), or lights representing certain causes (such as pink for October, Breast Cancer awareness month) will temporarily replace the golden color.

As Fran and I stood in the Observation Deck that Sunday afternoon, she pointed out all of the landmarks in great detail (it always helps to have a knowledgeable local with you). It allowed for me to see the most of Cleveland in the shortest amount of time. If you ever have an hour to spare while driving through, just park at a meter or in the parking deck of Tower City Center and make your way to the top of Terminal Tower.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Discover The Lodge at Geneva-On-The-Lake

Photos by OHventures

The romanticism of Ohio's Lake Erie shoreline is encapsulated to perfection at the upscale yet affordable Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake. Immaculate views of the state's northernmost shore and an array of activities and attractions for folks of any age are at your fingertips when staying at the Lodge.

A tourist attraction for decades, the village of Geneva-on-the-Lake in Ashtabula County has long been known for its 1950s style "Strip" of arcade games and carnival foods along the coastline, and its impressive collection of more than 20 wineries spanning the countryside. It wasn't until 2004 that the Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake came into the scene, meaning that 2014 marks its 10th anniversary since it was first constructed!

Over the past 10 years, the Lodge has seen much growth and has become a staple to the local economy. I recently spent an enchanting weekend at the Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake and saw for myself all the fantastic pleasures that can be unearthed while staying at this hot vacation spot.

Upon arriving on Sunday morning, I stopped at Horizons, the on-site restaurant, which was serving an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet complete with made-to-order omelets, cut-to-perfection prime rib, and all the breakfast classics. I sat out on the patio where I reveled in the cool Lake Erie breeze and gawked at the elegant gazebo on the grounds of the Lodge.

With a full belly, it was time to hop aboard the much-anticipated wine shuttle tour which I booked for myself beginning at 1:00. The wine shuttle pulls right up to the front entrance and takes thirsty tourists to 4-5 wineries in the area, and returns to the Lodge approximately 5 hours later. Anyone is welcome on the shuttle (even those who are not staying at the Lodge), but reservations are required at $20 a person.

Our tour guide for the day was the delightful and personable Don, who led us to 4 wineries: the newest winery on the block, Kosicek Vineyards; one of the most widely known wineries in the area, Ferrante Winery; an old church which was converted into a winery, South River Vineyards; and Grand River Cellars, a spot with great live entertainment.

After being adequately wined and dined, we took advantage of the Lodge being located literally within walking distance of the "Strip" of Geneva-0n-the-Lake. Here, we visited The Old Firehouse Winery (whose name explains itself, grabbed some deep-fried snacks and rode the Ferris Wheel!

Upon returning to the Lodge, my party found that our room had a perfect view of the sunset over the lake and we were getting there just in time to watch it while sipping on even more wine provided by the Lodge (Grand River Valley Riesling)!

After a much-needed slumber, we arose the next day to cap off our trip by renting bikes from the front desk and taking a cycling adventure on a lakeside trail!

This was just the tip of the iceberg of what Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake has to offer. Go and you'll be the envy of your friends!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

World Fit 5K Recap

Photos by OHventures

This is the church, this is the steeple, I ran a 5K with all of these people.

Every now and then, people ask me why on earth I would ever pay to go running. Sure, it's an activity that can be done for virtually no cost at all just by stepping out your front door. And while you do get a snazzy t-shirt at most any race you sign up for, that's not the reason I do it. The reason I pay hard-earned money to run is, among other things, to help support a cause or charity that the registration fee will benefit (this is true for most races you've read about), and this time, it was no different.

This past Memorial Day weekend (on May 25, 2014), my brother and his wife were part of the committee for a 5K in which their church (North-Mar Church in Warren, Trumbull County) was hosting. The event was called the World Fit 5K and it was a benefit for World Associates, a community development and poverty alleviation non-governmental organization (NGO) providing women in the Middle East with empowerment through fitness, eduction, and nutritional counseling.

On top of proceeds benefiting World Associates, many of the parishioners (including my brother and his wife) were also taking part in the Run For God program. Run For God is a Bible study that parallels faith and endurance. Its goal is to take those who had never run to their first 5K while teaching them to relate the great sport of running to their walk with Christ. It is an admirable program that I

I ran to support my family, to contribute to a cause, and to Run For God.

My grandparents after walking their first 5K!

In doing so, I participated alongside my entire family (once again), this time with the addition of my 10-year-old niece, my 76-year-old grandma, and my 79-year-old grandpa (who walked instead of running). My great aunt Kay and grear uncle Rich also showed up for the event! It was a hot, sunny day, and I was ill-prepared on sleep since I had attended a wedding in Columbus the night before. Thankfully, however, it took place at 5PM rather than in the morning.

All-star family at it again!

Many of us placed in our age grounps (including me - 2nd in the male 20-29 age group) and to celebrate afterwards, we had a Memorial Day party at my parents' tiki hut. It was a busy and rather exhausting weekend, but it's always nice to go to bed at night knowing that you have helped the world become a better place. 

And that's why I pay to run.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Happy National Running Day!

Why do you run? 

If you visit our blog often, you'll find that we run constantly, and we share all of our experiences here in hopes to encourage you to get involved in the best sport on earth as well! There are plenty of reasons we love running, and National Running Day is dedicated to expressing those reasons for all to hear! 

We run to explore Ohio. 
We run to make new friends.
We run to stay healthy.
We run to challenger ourselves.
We run to live longer.
We run to feel alive.
We run to make memories.
We run to complete our bucket list.
We run for those who can't.
We run for charity.
We run for camaraderie.
We run for the after party.
We run for the hell of it.

And the list goes on! In honor of National Running Day, OHventures has created a brand new page on the header of our blog that will serve as an archive for ALL of the races we have participated in, and for all of the tips and tidbits we have shared along the way. Visit our new running page and be sure to let us know why YOU run!