“Exciting Time” For Ohio Wine

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Donniella Winchell says "It is an exciting time" for the wine industry in Ohio.

Winchell is the executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association.

She's not just talking about this year's grape crop, although she's upbeat about that, too.

She says, "2012 – if we have an extended season and a dry fall – should be a very, very good year…"

During an interview recently at a wine festival near Cleveland Winchell's real enthusiasm was for the wine business in Ohio, which she characterizes as fast growing.

"In 1978 …there were 13 wineries," she says.  "(Now) we're pushing 170.  And I'm expecting by 2015 we'll break 200. That is phenomenal growth."

Why is the wine industry here growing as it is?

There are several reasons, says Winchell.  "First of all, people have begun to discover wine. The second factor is that we have really figured out how to grow grapes."

Winchell says research has made a big difference. Growers now know how to cope with Ohio's cold temperatures.

Ohio's wine industry began in the early 1800s along the Ohio River around Cincinnati and by the mid-1800s, Ohio led the nation in wine production. But prohibition and disease wiped out the industry in the 1920s.

Then, in the 1960s wineries made a comeback along the shores of Lake Erie. Today's growth is all over.

Ohio wineries sold more than a million gallons of wine last year and it's esimated that more than 4,000 people are employed at the wineries.