Great Expectations

When the frost is on the pumpkin, we usually have the mindset that summer’s fun is on the wane and we need to start battening down the hatches against old man winter. But I like to believe that there’s still a lot of fun to be had.

Here are two new venues that promise to bring a little mirth to the wine in your glass.

Athens Uncorked ~ Located close to Ohio University, Athens Uncorked is poised to become the ‘first grown-up’ wine bar in Athens. With over thirteen years of café and culinary experience, siblings Nate Hayes and Kathryn Blake’s vision is to provide Athens a quiet, ‘off the beaten path” adult lounge atmosphere. Avid wine students themselves, Nate and Kathryn have been hitting the books to research which wines will make up their flights and tasting menu. “We were red wine snobs,” confessed Hayes. “But since we’ve been sampling so many whites that we want to put on the menu, it’s opened our eyes to how many great white wines are out there.”

A variety of seven themed wine flights will range from organic wines, sweet to dry whites; bold and beautiful reds, to a ‘Home Sweet Home’ flight showcasing native Ohio wines. “We really want to hit all the bases with our wine flights,” said Hayes. “ And every two months or so, we’ll change and reset the menu to give our guests a new experience in what’s available.” Their Cellar collection will feature high-end wines sold by the bottle. To keep the focus on the wine, a small, simple tapas-style menu will be available.

Though they’re currently in the throes of construction, Hayes was kind enough to take me on a little tour; they had just finished painting the walls a gorgeous, deep purple color. We did most of our interview in the cosy loft area that will be used for monthly tastings and special events. He described the decor as “comfortable and relaxed” with couches, chairs and tables designed to keep the emphasis on their tagline of ‘wine, conversation and friends’.

Athens Uncorked has targeted the opening for mid-November and expect to be in full swing in time for the Thanksgiving holiday season.

Athens Uncorked, 14 Station Street Athens, OH, 45701

The Wine Mill ~ In the heart of Peninsula, Ohio, in a vintage mill dating back to 1846, The Wine Mill is a part of history re-imagined. Partners Steven McClellan and Patrick Cunningham have a vision of pairing a charmingly rustic setting with a wide variety of fine wines.

Dave Mazzone, Fine Wine Specialist at the Wine Mill, said the wine flight groups are at price points that are easily accessible. “We’ll have a wide array that will have an upscale regional and varietal interpretation. We want the focus to be on having people try things that are new to them,” he said. “The wines featured will be more boutique, and not the average wines that can be found anywhere.” In selecting featured wines for the tasting menu, Mazzone said the key is to offer the familiar as well as the new. “We want to maybe challenge people’s paradigms of what wine drinking ought to be but also still delivering, in a very high level, to what people’s expectations already are. So the vision is to be a blend of those two thoughts.”

The Wine Mill will also have their own label varietal wines. “There’s going to be a Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and a Cabernet available in the very near future. After that, a reserve Napa Valley red wine as well,” Mazzone said. “The Wine Mill will be exploring some relationships, through me, that I’ve got with some great grape growers and great wine producers to commission them to produce wines for The Wine Mill that they’ll put their own personal label on,” he said. “They’ll be Ohio wines that aren’t necessarily grown in Ohio. Even though it’s not locally sourced produce, it’s going to be a locally sourced business.”

As for eventual plans for full scale winery at The Wine Mill, Mazzone said that the original vision was to begin as a winery but since achieving licensing permits can be lengthy process, the thinking became more long term. “My advice to them was to open up their doors, offer a niche product at a fair price, and do it in a really well-serviced way, and build a following.” Producing their own wines will be a marriage of local and bi-coastal. Planting grapes on the adjacent property will be the next phase. “There’s a lot of room there to do a few select varietals,” said Mazzone. “And anything else produced would be grapes sourced from other wine growing regions.”

For the menu, food items will be unique in presentation but designed to serve two or more. “Just like the song says, ‘one is the loneliest number’,” joked McClellan. “Everything we offer will be in quantities for the entire table to share,” he said. “We’ll also be featuring a selection of high-end cheeses because the wine deserves it.”

The tasting area, including an upstairs loft, and outdoor patio, can accommodate groups of up to 150 guests. The bordering eight acre property will have winding trails leading to a natural, wooded ceremony | event area furnished with chairs, tables, and fire pit. “We want to keep a natural, not manicured, feel,” said McLellan of the outdoor space.

Progressing from concept to construction to opening has been “a real learning experience,” said Cunningham. Pending permits and finishing touches, he estimates that The Wine Mill should be set to “open in mid-November.”

The Wine Mill ~ 4964 Akron-Cleveland Rd. Peninsula, OH, 44264

It’s such an exciting time for the Ohio wine industry. These two new wine ventures both share a vision and enthusiasm for the grape, as well as offering visitors fun and unique wine experiences, any time of year.

I wish them both the best of luck and can’t wait to stop by again to check out how things are going!


©TheWineStudent, 2014

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