GENEVA, Ohio - Winemaker Nick Ferrante brings the glass of wine up to his nose.
"I smell pineapple. I smell pear & peach."
And this veteran winemaker can't help but smile. For Nick Ferrante, of Ferrante Winery in Geneva, Ohio, this is pure gold in a glass. His 2012 wines, although still in the barrel, promise to be the best he's ever made.
"I think this is the greatest vintage this region is going to see."
Yes. He said GREATEST. In fact, all 140 plus Ohio Wineries are raving about 2012 grape growing season and the wines it has produced. You remember last summer, right? The DROUGHT. Twenty-eight days of 90 degrees plus. No rain for months. It turns out that's exactly what wine grapes love!
"Made for smaller crops with smaller berries with really intense flavors." added Ferrante.
The drought of 2012 meant horrible losses for many farmers. While other crops, like corn and soybeans withered away in the fields, Ohio-grown wine grapes thrived. The intense heat and lack of rain prevented each grape from filling with too much water. Instead, the vine pumped the berries full of sugars and bigger flavors.
The reason great wines are made in California is because its hot and dry all summer long. During Ohio's 2012 summer, we had the exact same growing conditions as California.
"Grapes like dry feet." said Donniella Winchell of the Ohio Wine producers Association. "They like to struggle. They like shy yields."
Winchell said the buzz is building around the state and beyond about Ohio's 2012 wine vintage. Even though the wines are still two to three months away from official release. She said the white wines like the Chardonnays and the Rieslings will stand up to the best in the US. Quality red wines are harder to produce in Ohio's usually cool climate. But, not in 2012. Even the more temperamental reds, like the Cabernet Francs and the Pinot Noirs are big and bold.
"We are not longer your grandmother's wine." proclaims Winchell. "We are producing things that will satisfy the connoisseurs' pallet. We produce things that will satisfy the entry level pallet."
The Spring 2013 release of many of these wines will mean that local wine lovers will not have to travel far to get West Cost quality wines without the West Coast price tag. The majority of Ohio wines are still value price between $8 and $20 per bottle.
"We will find a way to tell the world." concluded Winchell. "The winemakers of Ohio are going to have the world come and taste!"
In fact, the best of America's wine producers are coming to Ohio this fall. The annual Wine America Convention will be held in Northern Ohio this November. Some of the biggest names in US wines will be right here to taste what Ohio Wineries have to offer.