Uncorking the Spirit of the Wine Trail

Let the Good Times Flow
Along The Three Rivers Wine Trail
in Coshocton, Ohio 

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler – Your Tour Guide to Fun!

Over the rivers and hills to spirited places you shall go, all along the Three Rivers Wine Trail. But it’s not just wine on the menu, so whether you want a stem, stein, or shot, follow the ribbons of country road connecting vineyards, woods, and farms to villages and towns, all ripe with homespun tales and drinks in the making.

It isn’t only the desire to wet your whistle that makes a wine trail worthy of trekking, although this is an essential ingredient. Perhaps just as important are the strangers who become friends along the way.

There’s nothing like a familiar smile and a, “Hey, we just saw you back at…Come join us!”

This journey isn’t always about the destinations. You’ll sense sweet Mother Nature breathing open the essence of a blooming joy across this unique wine country. See a hawk soar overhead. Pause before century barns and all their charm. Pass an Amish horse and buggy. Get passed by a motorcycle. Oh, and then there are the mom-and-pop shops with storefront windows straight out of Yesteryear.

The best part of the Three Rivers Wine Trail is its diversity. These aren’t overly commercialized wineries. They have personalities, each a reflection of its owner. Don’t be surprised to arrive and see an outstretched hand to shake and a friendly smile to welcome you.

Just how friendly are these places? Consider this: a lady lost her souvenir tee shirt during a special event. One of the winery owners noticed this woman’s search and promptly gave away the one she had been wearing over another shirt herself. That’s right, the folks out here are so kind that they’ll literally give you the shirt off their back.

If you are seeking that Napa Valley, California-type atmosphere in Ohio, Raven’s Glenn Winery is the place for you.  The adventurers will want to retreat to the well-hidden Rainbow Hills Winery. A cozy gathering place with an intimate setting is at Heritage Vineyard Winery. The only stop with both craft beer and wine served, along with seclusion, is Indian Bear Winery. A most unusual setting is at Wooly Pig Farm Brewery, where pigs are part of the package. If tranquil views and Alpacas are your things, then Yellow Butterfly Winery is a must. And for those who want a splash of history with their experience, tour Baltic Mill Winery where photo ops abound.

The oldest winery on the Three Rivers Wine Trail dates back about 30 years, but the earliest known winery in the world dates back to 4100 B.C. in Ancient Armenia. Wine grapes have since taken root on every continent except Antarctica. Even there, they are being explored for their ice wine possibilities. Imagine penguins in the vineyard!

Around 500–1200 B.C., the wine was traded in ceramic jugs around the Mediterranean. In the first known case of someone who got a bit too tipsy, Noah (as in Noah’s Ark) became drunk off of wine and subsequently exposed himself. Winemaking was perfected through the ages, starting with the Phoenicians, the Greeks, and then the Sicilians. Then, the Romans planted vineyards in what is now present-day Italy, France, Spain, Germany, and beyond. Wine reached the Americas in the 1400s then spread, along with Christianity, to the Asian Pacific in the 1500s. Spanish Missionaries brought it to California in the 1700s. The gold rush brought with its Zinfandel to areas that would include Napa Valley in the 1800s. However, before Napa Valley became known for its premiere winemaking, Virginia, New York, and Ohio were the most popular sources for American wines.

Wine production in Ohio dates back to the 1820s. By the time of the Civil war, Ohio had become one of the largest wine producers in the nation. When Prohibition was enacted in 1919, the wine industry in Ohio and across the country was brought to its knees. However, in the decades since Prohibition was repealed, Ohio has grown as a top wine producer in the United States.

Today, Ohio ranks as one of the country’s top 10 states for producing wine, and Coshocton is in the heart of it all!

Winding along the roads through patches of wildflowers, sometimes past a band of bicyclists, the anticipation of each nearing winery will make your heart flicker — along with the rows of leafy greens, twisting browns, and bunchy purples — much like an old movie reel.

So, with that, let’s stop at a few of the more intimate country settings.

Probably no place is as tucked away as Rainbow Hills Winery.

It’s certainly the only destination where you’ll take dirt and gravel roads to get there, but that’s part of its allure. If you want to rejuvenate, this is the place. Their vineyard cascades down a hill, with the long driveway arching past it like a waxing crescent moon. On cooler evenings, you may see the fireplace smoke rising above the treetops before you turn the corner to see this rustic retreat.

Spacious and covered wooden decks dot the hillside along with groups of people whose laughter echoes down to the lush, beautifully landscaped pond. In the middle of the water is a fountain known to create mini rainbows when you look at it just right.

Inside the winery, past the long bar, is a spacious but cozy room with a vaulted ceiling. Comfortable wood tables and chairs are set up around the old stone fireplace. This beauty has big rocks jutting out from it in a pattern that carries across to an interior wall.

Here, you’ll want to try a variety of dinner and sipping wines made from American grape and French hybrid varieties grown on-site.

No matter which way you take to Heritage Vineyard Winery, you’ll notice a sprawling vineyard. At around the same time, you’ll see an inland lighthouse stretching into the sky, perched on a hilltop. On most days, the lighthouse is open. Visitors may climb the staircase to the lamp room. Outside there is a 360-degree walkway and a view that you may have only thought possible from a hot air balloon. Fittingly, Coshocton skies often come with the bright colors of hot air balloons. It’s magical like that.

When you drive by the vineyard, look for the big golden dog, Abbey, watching over her land with care. If she isn’t there, she’s inside, taking a nap.

“Most of our guests don’t know our names, but they always remember the dog’s name,” laughed Tina Endsley, who owns this family operation along with her husband, Randy. “When we make mention of someone we haven’t seen for a while, sure enough, they soon show up. It’s kind of freaky, but it happens more than you think.”

Almost all of their wines are made from grapes grown on the property. They offer a variety of estate-grown American and French hybrid wines. Their signature offerings range from sweet fruit wines to dry reds and whites.

They have many peaceful places to enjoy a glass, inside and out. It seems that every time you arrive, people are on the front porch to greet you. Through the backdoor is a park-like setting with tables and chairs perfect for taking in Mother Nature with plenty of shade to spare. From this patio, there’s a soothing breeze to go with each sip. If the weather is a bit too hot or cool, there’s a nice room to enjoy the air-conditioning or the fireplace.

On the short drives between the trail’s stops, a variety of things seem to pop up out of nowhere in contrast to the wide-open spaces. It may be an old one-room schoolhouse, a church just as small, herds of cattle or horses, or deer gracefully hopping a four-foot split rail fence as if they float in the air, if just for a short time.

Then an odd creature appears by the dozens: alpacas.

That’s when you know you’ve arrived at Yellow Butterfly Winery. It’s impossible to miss. From miles away, you’ll see a harmonic combination of a stark yellow barn cutting through green grassy waves touching the ocean-blue sky.

Even though the owner is often asked, “How did you come up with the name?” His warm smile and attentive answer will make anyone feel like they’re the first.

“The second car I ever owned was yellow, and I love butterflies,” is his surefire response.

From the deck seating, guests can relax and gaze at sweeping views of the alpaca farm, a Vidal vineyard, then, when the sun goes down, every star in the sky. It’s what gathering places are meant to be.

Inside this grand old barn is a mix of laughter, live music, and the clanking of glasses with 19 wines ranging from sweet to dry. During summer, the aroma of barbecue ribs, chicken, and pork dinners will make your mouth water and your taste buds sing. And all of it can be enjoyed with picture-window views of this unique setting.

Michael and his wife, JoAnn, seem to serve smiles with every drink, which is what this wine trail is all about.

The wineries on the trail have a variety of pastimes that people enjoy. A couple of friends — or strangers fast becoming friends — may be seen sipping silently from across a chessboard. A small group may be having laughs while playing a board or trivia game. Outside, folks may be tossing bean bags in a game of cornhole or throwing a beanie in a game of bocce ball. No doubt, the biggest pastime of all is a good card game, whether it be poker, euchre, or pinochle.

The next few wineries are bigger venues but with that same personable touch that makes you feel that everyone knows your name along the Three Rivers Wine Trail.

Years ago, Raven’s Glenn Winery impressed a visitor so much that she declared it to be “Ohio’s Crown Jewel of Wineries.”

The tagline stuck. Now it’s trademarked. Its Tuscan style came with Carmine and Louise DeRose from Italy, along with their signature wine and meal-making recipes. Today, their great-great-grandson, Beau, and his parents serve their family traditions to the delight of everyone who enters. These traditions have produced numerous gold medal winners from their selection of over 20 wines. Step inside the California-style tasting room and sample the tastes straight from their Vidal Blanc vineyard.

The atmosphere and setting are both stunning. The old-world interior design, highlighted by the magnificent picture windows, is interrupted only by a massive fireplace. The dramatic vistas span from the Tuscarawas River with its Goose Island to the River Greens Golf Course, all of which are accented by a pristine white ranch rail fence that wedding photographers adore as a backdrop for their shining brides. The reception hall and conference center, married together by a sprawling lawn, attract indoor and outdoor weddings alike. But even with all its elegance, the day-to-day attire of the winery is always casual, which goes with the easy listening of live music heard inside the restaurant and nature’s whisperings heard outside on the dining patio.

When you head to the next stop on the Trail, be sure to stop in at Unusual Junction, just a stone’s throw away. Look for the old railroad cars leading to the depot. Once you set foot inside, you’ll know how it got its name.

The Coshocton area has small towns, and quaint boutiques and is chock full of the All-American Heartland experience. Rolling into the small town of Baltic is an experience few and far between. Here, you’re at the doorstep of the world’s largest Amish Country, so be careful to see what’s on the other side of the hill while cruising the countryside; there may be pedestrians, scooters, and bicyclists where you least suspect it.

Right down Main Street is a 110-year-old flour mill turned Baltic Mill Winery.

Its red brick walls extend several stories upward and cover the front walk, inviting people up to its white stairs to the wooden porch. In the upper levels of the old mill, you’ll see many chutes and old machinery that will transport you back to the early 20th Century. Its nostalgic shadow casts itself across the tiny town where old-fashioned hospitality seems to be the order of the day.

Just like the old mill, the main floor winery has plenty of nooks and crannies to retreat and hide or gather. An island fireplace divides the main bar from a cozy love nest. From there, there are three rooms in opposite directions. They accommodate parties large and small with plenty of tables and chairs. The backroom is often alive with musical entertainment, which may either serenade the crowd or infuse foot-stompin’ and dancing in the aisle.

These fantastic winemakers offer a wide variety of handcrafted, delectable wines, which go great with their meat and cheese plate selections. But heck, the Garvers encourage their guests to bring their own picnic or even have a pizza delivered. And they’ll match that pizza with Rosso Del Baltico.

Now it’s time to blow along with the weathervanes back into the rural foothills of Appalachia.

When you see what looks like a grand two-story lodge with old timbers, blackened barn walls, and a beautiful red tin roof, you’ll know you’ve arrived at Indian Bear Winery.

“Repurposing an old barn that was originally on the property lends to the rustic setting of our winery,” explained Coralea Collins, one of the owners. “We couldn’t have done this without the help and support from amazing family and friends.”

As cozy as it feels, it has a lot of space and is perfect for a variety of gatherings and events.

They offer wine, craft beer, and something that goes perfectly with the atmosphere: horseback riding. Open year-round, there are live music weekends, seasonal food trucks, and full menu dining with specialty dinners. The two-story back deck and patio overlook a scenic landscape with mature trees and a large pond with a fountain. An outdoor grilling area brings the same warmth as the enormous indoor stone fireplace — the perfect place to be on a crisp night. Don’t leave these sprawling grounds until you get a photo with the massive wooden bear and American Indian carvings.

With visitors coming for events ranging from weddings to anniversaries to reunions, Coralea said, “It makes us happy to know that we have shared a small part in their lives!”

Again, the Three Rivers Wine Trail is in the friend-making business. As with a couple of the stops already mentioned, man’s best friend steals the spotlight at many wineries. Vineyard or winery dogs are a breed of their own. They may be found scanning their vineyard from an elevated perch, stretching across a winery floor to allow loving hands to rub their bellies, or greeting guests at the door in a quiet manner as if to nod and say, “Mi casa es tu casa.”

Man’s second-best friend may be a good brewery or distillery, which leads to the last leg of the Trail.

Although Wooly Pig Farm Brewery has a couple of friendly pet dogs — Silky and Auggie — Hoppy Phils, a pygmy goat mix, steals most of the attention. Oh, and in case you were wondering, they do have wooly pigs. After all, the place is named after this type of curly-haired Mangalitsa pig, which you can see and hear in a nearby penned field.

As novel as that may be, people mainly come for beer.

“Customers frequently say, ‘I don’t like beer, but I really like Wooly Pig beer,’” said Kevin Ely, who owns this novel place along with Jael Malenke.

This independent craft brewery specializes in custom German lagers and fosters the German idea of making the brewery a center of community life. They even use on-site spring water to create a beer in the Northern Bavarian tradition. Kevin, who holds a degree in Brewing Science, is happy to show you his brewing process.

The setting is festive, with an open-air outdoor patio and a fire ring. You’ll usually find food trucks and barbecue grills next to the patio. Inside is a long and open room with tables and chairs on one half and a gorgeous bar stretching across the other half. There are interior windows that show the brewery operation on the other side.

So those are the stops on the Three Rivers Wine Trail.

However, no true Trail would be complete without overnight accommodations and shuttle services.

Three of the wineries have lodging options. These include a guest house at Heritage Vineyard Winery, a bed and breakfast at Rainbow Hills Winery, and cottage-type cabins at Indian Bear Winery.

The centrally located Coshocton Village Inn & Suites offers 64 rooms, including Jacuzzi suites with kitchenettes. A variety of restaurants are nearby. It’s a fine place to house any group, as it features an indoor pool, spa, sauna, fitness center, and bar. Live music plays in a couple of places inside, and if that still wasn’t enough, its banquet space and conference center can host up to 300 people.

The Coshocton Village Inn & Suites also offers wine trail packages that include a guest room and a variety of samples and souvenirs throughout the Trail. These also include several opportunities for wine tastings for two, a $25 meal voucher, two wine glasses and a corkscrew, a nosh plate for two, a meat and cheese plate for two, a bread and cheese tray, and three or four sample flights at multiple locations.

While you’re reaping the benefits of your wine trail package, you also have a couple of safe travel options. Brown Bear Totem is a shuttle service run by an amiable lady named Cindy Jackson. She can care for up to 11 people. Nikko’s Limo & Shuttle Service is another personable option, which offers both a limousine and bus service, seating up to 14 passengers.

These transportation and lodging services are in especially high demand during the wine trail’s special events that are offered throughout the year, so make your reservations early.

Every spring features the Spring Fling Wine, Beer & Spirits Tour. Ticket packages include tastings, a meet & greet at each destination, and a high-quality souvenir tee shirt. A special package rate is available at Coshocton Village Inn & Suites by calling (740) 622-9455. Throughout summer, each venue has its own activities and events to offer, such as the Red, Wine & Blue Fest at Raven’s Glenn or the St. Patrick’s Day environmentally “green beer” at the Wooly Pig, where they use maple sap from their trees for a signature maple cream ale. And on about any weekend, you’ll find live music and entertainment throughout the stops, cookouts, food trucks, and more. You can wine your way out of a giant corn maze at McPeek’s Mighty Maze during the autumn season. In it are wine-tasting stations plus cheese and chocolates. They also have a sister event featuring beer tasting in the maze.

If you seek to uncork rural sophisticates and enjoy wine, beer & spirits along the Three Rivers Wine Trail, be sure to get the latest updates on the area’s destinations and events at the Coshocton County Visitors Bureau. You may call 800-338-4724 or visit them at www.visitcoshocton.com/. If you’re in the area and want to stop by, they are located at Historic Roscoe Village at 432 North Whitewoman Street in Coshocton, Ohio.

So, to the great adventure ahead: Salute!

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler – Your Tour Guide to Fun!

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