The Island Wine Festival was held October 5th & 6th, 2013 on the grounds of the Put-In-Bay Winery in Put-In-Bay, Ohio. Put-In-Bay is on South Bass Island in Lake Erie and is only a short ferry ride from Port Clinton. The festival was set up under several large tents where vendors and local wineries displayed more than 400 wines that were available for tasting and purchase. I was disappointed that more Ohio wineries were not represented because I wanted to taste a variety of their wines and see how the industry was progressing . I did taste a dry Traminette offered by Chateau Tebeau Winery from Helena Ohio, one of the few Ohio wineries in attendance. Chateau Tebeau grows a variety of grapes and owner Bob Tebeau told me this years harvest was excellent, with the Brix as high as 26. Chateau Tebeau didn’t suffer the frost that hit many of the vineyards in Western Pennsylvania this spring. It was the end of the season at Put-In-Bay but we all had a good time enjoying the party atmosphere that this destination is famous for, the only thing
missing were the in season crowds. When visiting Put-In-Bay I suggest stopping by the Put-In-Bay Winery and Heineman Winery to get a little taste of island wine. You can walk between the wineries or make the trip in a rented golf cart, the preferred mode of transportation of tourist on the island, but always remember you can be charged with D.U.I. even when driving a golf cart!
When Rich Ripepi, owner and winemaker of Ripepi Winery and Vineyard in Monongahela, Pa invited us to take part in the harvest at his vineyard we gladly accepted. It was a beautiful early fall day as we walked from the winery to the rows of Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the adjacent vineyard. We picked up our clippers from the tool bucket, located a section of unharvested vines by the empty bins laid out beneath them and went to work. It wasn’t too long before Rich came by and his excitement about this years harvest was written all over his face. He talked in glowing terms about how well the grapes had ripened during the month of September because of the warm weather and plentiful sunshine from the nearly cloudless skies. I asked Rich how he determined when it was time to pick and he told me he uses all the traditional methods like Brix (these berries were 23), acidity and other factors but what it really all comes down to is if he tastes the grapes and they taste ripe to him then it is time to pick. After a very wet summer which called for a more robust spraying program and more cultivation than normal there was an amazing turn of events that lead to this being one of the best harvest ever. We took a break and walked with Rich to the winery where the pressing of the Traminette grapes which were picked earlier that day was nearing completion. After being destemed the grapes were mixed with rice husks to make it easier to press out the juice. Rich grabbed a glass and said “Do you want to taste it?” as he fills it with the freshly press juice that flows from the press, it was sweet and full of flavor. While walking back to the vineyard to finish picking, Rich relates the most interesting stories about his evolving journey as a winemaker which makes the time pass quickly as we strip the last vines of their fruit. We would like to say “Thank You” to Rich Ripepi for inviting us to share this experience with him and his family. More information about the Ripepi Winery and their award-winning wines can be found at www.Ripepiwine.com