Well, the secret is out. “Champaign” County, of all places, is now known as “wine country.” Yep, we now have three wineries in the county, with the Saturday, June 1, grand opening of the Dragonfly Vineyard & Wine Cellar. That’s not too shabby for a county that takes its name from a French word for “plain.”
Who would of thunk it? But, after pulling out my old geography book and digging a little deeper, it’s really no surprise. Come to find out, Champaign County lies within the 30th and 50th parallels of the Northern Hemisphere. So, now you’re wondering, what in the heck does that have to do with anything?
More specifically, the exact latitudinal coordinates of Champaign County are Latitude: 40° 06’ 30.20” N, which actually explains everything, believe it or not.
Most wine grapes, including the great vineyards in California and France, are grown in bands (belts) between the 30th and 50th parallels in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. We lie right near the sweet spot of those parallels, so watch out Napa Valley we’re just getting our feet wet here, (so to speak).
This winery and vineyard thing is a really big deal in Ohio and America. Many may not realize that there are already 6 established wine trails in Ohio and over 290 actual wineries. Across America, there are over 288 wine trails and more than 8,700 wineries.
And now with our newly established Champaign County Grape Belt & Winery Tour Trail (unofficially titled by this reporter, yours truly) we have 7 wine trails in Ohio. Who knows, maybe more wineries will continue to pop up in our Grape Belt in Champaign County and we could become a real mega tourist destination of local wineries.
Tour beautiful wineries across our local countryside, and engage in wine tastings. Sip, swirl and savor an assortment of unique wines expertly crafted right here in Champaign County, spanning the taste palate from dry to sweet including fruit-based wines and specialty wines.
Learn how grapes are grown and wine is made. Tour exhibits, shop for grape and wine-themed gifts, food products and local wines. It’s all here in Champaign County, right now, and all throughout Ohio also.
Ohio even has a cork collecting contest/game called “The Uncorked Trail” that you can participate in while touring wineries across the state. It’s pretty cool; you collect corks from each winery you visit.
You can even order free wine tools, a wine guide and Sip Magazine from the Ohio Department of Tourism at findhiowines.com. Yep, it’s all free!
Ohio’s “Crown Jewel” of wine trails is the “Lake Erie Wine Country Wine Trail,” which has more than 30,000 grape-bearing vineyard acres making it the largest grape growing region east of the Rockies. The area is commonly referred to as the Lake Erie Grape Belt.
So jump in your car on a lazy Saturday, hit the road and hop on the Champaign County Grape Belt & Winery Tour Trail. After all, you live in a county called Champaign that is a French word pronounced the same as the word “Champagne.” And Champagne, which if you didn’t already know, is actually a sparkling wine!
Dragonfly Vineyard & Wine Cellar
Champaign County’s newest winery grand opens Saturday, June 1 from noon to 9 p.m. Connie and Kent Eichenauer are the proud founders and proprietors of Dragonfly Vineyard & Wine Cellar, which is located at 710 W. Herr Road north of Urbana just west of U.S. Route 68.
This really cool winery got started as a one-acre garden/retirement hobby project that eventually morphed over the years into a bona fide winery and vineyard of 4 acres.
This new winery will offer a large selection of its own blends of wines from dry to sweet to semi-sweet to semi-dry. This is a true “estate” vineyard that grows its own grapes on its own land, nurtures them, harvests them and produces over 12 different wines.
The property has a wine production facility (wine cellar), a wine tasting room and outdoor seating. Patrons can also sit within the vines, in the vineyard right next to the grapes they are drinking. In the tasting room wines can be sampled per taste, per glass or full bottle.
After Saturday’s grand opening, regular weekly hours will be Thursdays from 5-9 p.m.; Friday from noon to 9 p.m.; and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. Special events and private parties will also be offered by arrangement.
Located on the Folck Family Farm in Mechanicsburg, this fruit-based winery makes wine out of the fruit they grow right on their own farm. The farm grows strawberries, blackberries and raspberries.
The wine is made in small batches utilizing elements of micro-brew. They offer varying degrees of sweet and dry strawberry, blackberry and raspberry wines.
The winery has a tasting room, an outdoor patio and is open 4-6 p.m. on Fridays and 2-7 p.m. on Saturday. They began making wine in 2018.
The winery and farm is located at 6843 N. state Route 54 about a mile south of state Route 4. The 17-acre Folck Family Farm also breeds award-winning pigs, sells show pigs and sells pork products. The Folck family has been farming since the 1800s.
St. Ives Winery
This cool small family owned winery tucked away at 6932 Cable Road in Cable is run by Ryan Hostetler and his wife Heather. Founded in 2014, they produce 10 different wines and also have meads and hard cider on tap for their tasting room.
Small batches are the name of the game for them and they have a variety of wines from dry to sweet.
The winery seats around 32 people and also has a porch and patio seating in warmer months. The winery building was constructed in 2016, which houses their production facility and tasting room.
The winery is open every weekend on Friday from 5-9 p.m. and Saturday from 2-6 p.m. and is also available to rent out for private parties. St. Ives’ wines can also be found at these local retailers; Mad River Farm Market, Freshwater Farms, Maple Lane Farm, Hometown Pizza and J’s Carryout in Mingo.
Ron Brohm is a regular contributor to this newspaper, specializing in the places and people that make our community unique.