With busy family and work schedules, my girlfriends and I rarely get a chance to spend quality time together. When our planned girlfriend getaway weekend was upon us, we could hardly contain our child-like excitement. Autumn’s crisp air, bountiful colors and fewer crowds during the week beckoned us to visit during harvest season, the perfect time to explore the wineries of the Grand River Valley.
As wine lovers, my friends and I couldn’t wait to explore Ohio’s Wine Country. Ashtabula County produces 50 percent of all the grapes grown in Ohio and boasts 31 wineries. Each winery differs from the next, producing an array of superior Ohio wines. During the fall harvest, the air smells sweet with the scent of grapes and the wineries have creative offerings to empty their barrels. What better time to visit?!
Ashtabula County boasts 31 wineries
Turning onto Vineyard Woods’ gravel driveway, acres of lush vineyards greet us, immediately making us feel welcome. Our grand villa awaited. Tucked in the woods and overlooking 40 acres, the three-suite Vineyard Villa was to be our home away from home for our first night in Ohio’s Wine Country. From the private walk-out patio we spotted Kosicek Vineyards, just a short walk next door, and decided to kick off our weekend getaway with a glass of wine.
Owner Tony Kosicek invited us into the wine cellar for a tour and even let us taste grapes off of the vine in the vineyard. After sampling some of the latest vintages and toasting to our girls’ weekend, we purchased the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Estate Stainless Chardonnay to add to our home wine collections. Our plan was to spend the next day exploring wineries, so first we took a short drive for dinner to the historic Ashtabula Harbor that we’d been hearing so much about.
Charming brick buildings line Bridge Street in the Harbor. Once one of the busiest ports in the world, today visitors can still watch large ships dock and unload their cargo just a few feet from Bridge Street. Giving ourselves plenty of time to explore the locally owned boutiques and shops, we especially loved Carlisle’s Home in the Harbor, and the handmade body products at Heartmade Boutique. One of my girlfriends picked up unique spices, olive oils and handmade pasta at Market Provisions, and another couldn’t resist purchasing a few bags of yummy Ohio-made popcorn for her kids from Popp-A-Razzi Gourmet Popcorn.
We walked across the street to dine at Rennick Meat Market and snapped a group selfie in front of the charming cow print wallpaper. Our group went straight for the entrees: three grilled-to-perfection tender filet mignons and one order of homemade spaghetti and meatballs. We couldn’t help but laugh when we noticed that the non-stop conversation went silent while each of us savored every delicious bite.
That night we sat in the cozy living room and reminisced over a bottle of our Kosicek wine: the perfect accompaniment to late-night girl talk!
We enjoyed a rare, leisurely morning taking in the view from the back patio and then ventured to Harbor Yak where owners Brandon and Alexa Hart rent kayaks, canoes and paddle boards to water enthusiasts. A peaceful feeling washed over us as our paddles glided through the calm water and birds flew overhead in the sweet autumn air. It was the perfect way to start the day!
We drove along the shores of Lake Erie, through the summer resort town of Geneva-on-the-Lake, passing charming cottages with stunning lake views and checked into The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake for our second night. When we booked our rooms, we purchased the Wine Excursion shuttle package so we didn’t have to worry about which member of our group would be the designated driver.
The shuttle stops for an hour at four wineries, enough time for wine tastings, a brief tour and a glass with the company of friends. Each was gorgeous and we loved how different each place was. Ferrante Winery & Ristorante serves an impressive amount of award-winning wines and we loved the Pinot Grigio Series. Grand River Cellars has a full calendar of events and we took note to return for one of its “Brushes and Lushes” art and paint classes.
Debonné Vineyards is the largest grape-growing vineyard in Ohio with more than 175 acres of vines. Since it serves more than 25 wines, we loved the tasting trays that let us sample several. As the first Ohio winery to open a microbrewery on-site, Debonné also offers craft beer tastings from its Double Wing Brewing Co.
Ashtabula County produces 50% of all the grapes grown in Ohio
Our last winery stop of the day was South River Vineyard, a unique boutique winery housed in a century-old church. We admired the original pews, flooring and stained-glass windows before sampling several wines. Our group shared a bottle of Trinity wine on the spacious outdoor pavilion and laughed until our stomachs hurt. We knew that our girlfriend getaway to Ohio’s Wine Country was the perfect setting to replenish our friendship.
We returned on the shuttle in time for dinner reservations at Crosswinds Grille, a short walk from The Lodge, which allowed us to enjoy the crisp autumn air while watching the sunset over the lake. The farm-to-table restaurant features locally sourced ingredients. An appetizer of shrimp and grits was one of the best versions of the Southern favorite I’ve had, followed by sharing three entrees — the Rib Ragu with hand-cut pappardelle and preserved tomatoes, fried chicken served with cheddar mashed potatoes and Charlie’s Special Wood-Fired Pizza topped with melting brie, candied walnuts and grilled apples.
Needless to say, we all slept well that night and woke up early to catch the sunrise from the walking trails behind the lodge. After enjoying a hearty breakfast buffet at The Lodge’s Horizon Restaurant, we walked over to The Spa at The Lakehouse Inn, a full-service spa providing pampering and relaxation treatments. After relaxing full body massages, we walked back to The Lodge feeling rejuvenated.
We checked out and wanted to see one of the covered bridges that Ashtabula County is known for. Built in 1868, Harpersfield Covered Bridge is the third-longest covered bridge in Ohio. The historic bridge reflected beautifully upon the Grand River beneath it, while the trees, bountiful in colors, made us want to stay a little longer to enjoy the great outdoors and each other’s company.
Our last stop before leaving Ohio’s Wine Country was at Laurentia Winery for wine tasting, light lunch and one last group selfie next to its pond. Each of us purchased a bottle of their estate wines before heading home.
Our hearts were full of the new memories we created during our wonderful weekend together. We’re already planning our return trip for next year’s girlfriend getaway!
Situated along the Lake Erie shoreline, Ashtabula County is part of the Grand River Valley, producing 50% of Ohio’s grapes. Visit 19 covered bridges, including the longest in the U.S., and Geneva-on-the-Lake: Ohio’s first summer resort.
Chose from 150 accommodations including our award-winning state park at Geneva-on-the-Lake, hotels, B&Bs, cabins and guest homes.
Sample our award-winning vintages at 31 wineries and stop at restaurants on the Locavore Trail where you can sample the best this region has to offer.