Isle St. George

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Tuesday as it turns out, is a much better day for trying to find an open winery. At least it is in Ohio.

Firelands WineryTuesday morning, bright and early I pulled into the Firelands Winery parking (please note if using GPS to find this location, there is construction in the area and you will be rerouted).

I was excited to visit this winery as I had actually tasted the wine from here before. Back in 2007, when VinoVerve was young, Rory, Kevin and I had dinner at Salpicon in Chicago and drank wine and chatted with Henry Bishop. During that dinner, while eating great Mexican food, we drank wine from all over the world. This included wine from Missouri, Quebec and Ohio. This is one of the reasons that I have become so passionate about local wine. The Ohio wine was the 2005 Firelands Winery Gewurztraminer, Isle St. George, Sandusky, Ohio.

I have to admit that I was curious about the locations listed for the wine. Isle Saint George is on an island (duh) in Lake Erie but is the name of a community, not the name of the island, itself. It is located on North Bass Island and is part of the Put-in-Bay Township in Ottawa County, Ohio. The township consists of 7 of the 31 Lake Erie Islands (some of which are now just reefs) that are shared between the States of Michigan and Ohio and the Province of Ontario. Several of the Lake Erie Islands, including North Bass Island are known for producing wine grapes. In many cases these wineries declined after prohibition but have resurfaced since the 1980s.

484px-Bass_Islands_map

Created by NormanEinstein, June 23, 2005. Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike (CC-BY-SA)

In the case of Isle Saint George, the community was designated an AVA in 1982. By law, the AVA must be listed “St.” instead of “Saint” George (government often confuses me to the point of creating a headache). The weather in the area is milder than the surrounding mainlands as the waters of Lake Erie are the warmest of all the Great Lakes. As a result, vitis vinifera grape varietals are able to thrive. The island is famous for producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Riesling far more north than usual.

However, the Firelands Winery wines also list Sandusky, Ohio (home to Cedar Point) on their labels. This is because the grapes are grown in Isle St. George but are produced at the winery in Sandusky.

Confused yet? Wait until you hear about the rest of the history of the winery.

I will give you a hint: It has something to do with Marguerite’s VinoVerve posts! The first person to most fully explain the connection (correctly, obviously) will win a Locapour T-shirt. Entries must be received before Thursday, October 22th at midnight CDT (yes, we are on Daylight Time).

Firelands Winery
917 Bardshar Rd.
Sandusky, OH 44870
(419) 625-5474

Destination Sommelier

Some of us choose a restaurant based on the wine list. Quality of food, of course, is a factor, as is the friendliness and efficiency of service, but, if you are like me, it is the wine program, or the Sommelier responsible for it, which matters most.

Henry Bishop is a name I had heard more than a year ago from a trusted member of the Chicago wholesale community. The name Henry Bishop surfaced again last week, when a new colleague of mine mentioned that she had dined at a mexican restaurant called Salpicon. She spoke highly of Henry Bishop, specifically a sense of humor and a penchant for the esoteric. I looked at the restaurant’s website, www.salpicon.com, which has the wines organized by country, and in some cases by producer. At that moment I had decided that I was going to eat there. I was not phased by the quixotic combination between a serious wine program and a mexican concept, and didn’t even look at the dinner menu.

I met Kevin and Maman for dinner at Salpicon last Thursday. We started with guacamole and chips, and three ‘Salpicon Margaritas’ (when in Rome…). It felt like a typical mexican restaurant experience. We asked if Henry was in, he was. Henry Bishop approached, introductions were made, common acquaintances referenced. We asked him to pair wines with our ‘tasting menu’ (always order the tasting menu). What happened next turned our typical mexican restaurant experience into a stimulating and thoroughly unique adventure into the [other] world of wine.

Henry Bishop’s Wine Pairings
1.Pere Ventura Brut Nature NV Cava, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Spain
2.2005 Firelands Winery Gewurztraminer, Isle St. George, Sandusky, Ohio
3.1997 Villa Guntrum, Oppenheimer Schützenhütte, Kabinett Halbtrocken, Rheinhessen
4.2006 Dubaril Gamay Romand Rosé, Cave de La Côte-Uvavins, Morges, Switzerland
5.2005 Summers Winery Charbono, Villa Andriana Vineyard, Calistoga, Napa, California
6.2006 Emilio Bulfon Piculìt Neri, Valeriano, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
7.La Face Cachee de la Pomme, Neige, Apple Ice Wine, Quebec, Canada
8.Mount Pleasant Tawny Port, Augusta, Missouri

Each of the above wines delivered quality and balance and would have been acceptable under any circumstance. But what occurred that night was special, an adventure through six countries, two forgotten but important historical wine producing states, and french canadian apple orchards that employ cryoconcentration and cryoextraction to produce a unique and exotic ‘wine’. Henry had us in the palm of his hand. Each time he arrived at the table with a new wine meant a new surprise and new fork in the road of our conversation.

If you are like me, you choose a restaurant because of it’s wine list. And if you are like me, and enjoy to place yourself at the mercy of a talented and intuitive Sommelier, visit Salpicon and ask for Henry Bishop. Or, if you have a Sommelier that has earned your trust as Henry has mine, then please share your story and contact us at Destination Sommelier.