If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love Ice Wine. And in Ohio, there is a burgeoning industry that I am very happy to enjoy and help promote. Last year, my friends and I ventured out to the far East of Cleveland to enjoy the Ice Wine Festival, if you click on the archives for March 2012, you’ll find pics. But I have a conundrum: to get to any of the events from where I live, you have to travel at least an hour, through a variety of possible weather conditions ranging from snow to snow | wind to snow and freezing snow | rain | slush | yuck mix. I think you see where I’m headed.
The way the North East Ohio (NEO) Ice Wine festival currently works, patrons travel from one winery to the next, sampling the latest offerings and pairing with specialty appetizers or desserts. It can be a lovely afternoon, if the weather gods are smiling. If they’re not, you can find yourself navigating some fairly tricky roads both on major freeways and the unplowed back roads to get to your destination.
I understand that having the Ice Wine festival at the individual estates is a great way to bring people out to the wineries during the off-season; and that’s good for business. I also understand that there are many who live on the East side and so the drive isn’t too difficult. But how about a little love for those of us on the West side or downtown?
An additional Ice Wine festival downtown, perhaps on E4th ~ where the area is closed to all but walking traffic, would bring visitors to the resident restaurants that also experience a bit of a slowdown in the winter months. It could be done as part of the annual East side festival ~ three weekends dedicated to Ice wine and the promotion of NEO wineries. The first weekend could be as it already is; with trips out to the participating wineries. The following weekend could have a more urban flavor, at E4th, and the third at Crocker Park, providing greater access to downtown and West Side dwellers, respectively.
I know, it sounds a little like putting up a barn and having a floorshow. But I really like the NEO wine industry and the wines they are producing can be really terrific. In September, Crocker Park in Westlake sets up a premier wine event promoting the industry and recent vintages. Their attendance is usually quite high. Downtown wine events are also well-attended.
It’s just a thought but it might be a great way to bring in some other unique wineries from the surrounding regions as well as the East. And it might be a way to open up the NEO wine market to all of North East Ohio.