Our first time attending an annual event

This was a COVID version of an annual event usually held over three weekends in March. This year year it was expanded to include longer weekends and it was held for a longer time.

I’m not a big fan of sweet wines, but that’s what Karen likes, so I couldn’t say no to her when she wanted to go on the Ice Wine Trail for the first time. I figured I would taste other wines while she was tasting the ice wines, but I changed my mind as soon as we started.

The annual Ice Wine Trail is hosted by a handful of local wineries in northeast Ohio. For $6 at each stop, you got a paired appetizer, a souvenir glass, and two tastes of wine. All of the glasses offered the featured ice wine. The other one was usually an ice wine, but not necessarily so.

I am so glad I decided to partake. I found a couple wines I will definitely go back to purchase.

For once, we decided to get out of bed on a Saturday early enough to accomplish our task. The trail was only open from noon to 5P.

We started at Laurello Vineyards, a place I hadn’t been to in many years. It’s got a nice homey atmosphere and the family that runs it has always been nice to me. Since it was early and even though there was already one of the first “limousines” we would see along the way that day, we got right in and had a comfortable place to sit.

The two ice wines featured were the Sweet Genevieve Vidal Blanc and Simply Mad Habanero Ice Wine. Even though it was sweeter than I like my wines, I enjoyed the Sweet Genevieve. Since Karen enjoyed it too, that can be one of those rare bottles we can share. Which means we’ll be back for that.

I was not a big fan of the habanero ice wine. Not that I don’t like that pepper, but the underlying wine was too sweet for me. However, Karen really liked it. She really enjoyed the peppery taste even when the heat hit a little later.

The appetizer was a creamy cheese with savory bacon and sweet, dried figs. It was served with short pieces of medium thick pretzel sticks. This was really delicious. They offered the recipe and we noticed that the Vidal blanc ice wine was part of the cheese. We will be attempting that recipe at home.

Next stop has been a favorite of mine and my family’s for decades, Ferrante’s Winery & Ristorante. Nick had a special place in his heart for my parents. They often volunteered for his tent at Vintage Ohio. We often celebrated family milestones and other events there. They’ve got great food along with their great wine.

They’ve got a beautiful outdoor patio and that’s where we were able to sit to sip our tasting and sample the appetizer.

Four of the six wineries offered a version of their Vidal Blanc as one of their ice wine samples. This is what we got at Ferrante‘s.

The appetizer was a peach, apricot, ricotta pursette. It was an extremely flaky pastry that we dipped into this cream cheese textured dip. The pursette might have been a little too flaky.

Neither of us really liked the Vidal blanc. I did not like, though Karen did like, mom‘s apple pie Riesling ice wine. Not sure why I didn’t because I like apple pie and Riesling is a dryer wine.

It reminded Karen of something syrupy with an apple-like taste.

It was then on to the newest Winery on the trail and one I had never been to. Cask 307 was a very clean and stylish winery. Really nice feel to the bar area and dining area upstairs. We were however downstairs in the garage to partake in the trail.

I will be back. In fact, I didn’t buy any wine so it would force me to go back to taste more of their wines.

I liked both of their ice wine samplings. Maybe because one of them was based on a dryer wine, a Chardonnay. Karen did not like that one.

We both enjoyed the cask blush. It had a really nice taste and a hint of something that we couldn’t put our fingers on.

Meanwhile the pistachio gelato crunch sundae was gone in mere seconds.

We will definitely be back to try more of their varieties and check out what else comes out of the kitchen.

Grand River Cellars was next. We also decided it was probably a good time to eat something more than just a sample of an appetizer. Once again we were able to sit outside this time on the beautiful deck at the winery.

This is another winery I have been to many times. I have had many great dinners here and seen many great local bands. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of their wines. But this was a day for experimentation.

We munched on our artichoke dip that filled the herb infused baked bread while watching others try to eat their ice wine marshmallow roast. My brother and sister-in-law told us that we should have tried it.

The ice wines served here were once again a vidal blanc and a maple ice wine. I really thought I would like the maple ice wine, but I did not. It was still too sweet for me. So was the vidal blanc.

Karen liked both of the ice wines here. Especially the maple ice wine because she really does do sweet.

The appetizer here was just OK. Asian bourbon meatballs with sesame seeds and white basaltic marinated cucumber slices. Sometimes restaurants try too hard to make up fresh sounding recipes.

They were really starting to fill up as we made our way out and to the last two wineries on the trail.

Debonne Vineyards has been a familiar place to go for many years. They not only have had great music there over the years, but hold an annual balloon festival where there is plenty to do for adults and kids.

As usual, there was no place close to park. The Ice Wine Trail was relegated to their party center. Which is a cool two-level building that I’ve been to for company events.

Once again one of the ice wine choices was a vidal blanc. It seems to be a popular wine in the region. And, once again, I did not like it but Karen did.

The other ice wine choice was cherry bourbon vidal blanc…gee I’m really seeing a theme here. While I enjoy bourbon infused drinks, the cherry, combined with the ice wine made it way too sweet for me. For Karen, it was right in her wheelhouse.

The appetizer was an apricot-pistachio cracker toast with a whipped cream cheese and hot honey spread. We ran out of the toast and could have used at least one more piece for the amount of spread they give us, but it was delicious.

And finally, to South River Vineyard. This was Karen’s first visit to this former church turned into winery. Here, we decided to sit outside in the magnificent patio area. It reminded me of an ancient Roman outdoor cafe.

Their one ice wine offering was even based on a historically local grape, the Concord. I appreciated that connection. The taste even made me think of some of the home made wine my dad used to make in the basement. However, it being an ice wine just made it too sweet for me. Which made it perfectly sweet for Karen.

The second ice wine offering was a blush. I was hopeful because I liked the blush at Cask 307 earlier. However, the blush here didn’t translate as well. Karen however finished hers quickly.

The appetizer was also finished quickly. It was a red maple rum brownie. Thick and rich and delicious.

Overall it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon in the pre-postcovid era. It was also a way to discover great local wineries and the beautiful area that surround them.