Exploring Vitis Vinifera at Vermilion Valley Vineyards #WinePW

Wine Pairing Weekend Writers Highlight the Midwest
America’s midwestern states are an unlikely home for Vitis vinifera, the traditional grape for wines we know and love. Bitterly cold winters are sufficient to kill the vines. Humid, rainy summers bring threats of all sorts of fungal disease. Hybrid grapes crossed between Vitis vinifera and native species are the most popular solution and winemakers are working to understand how best to turn hybrid grapes into delicious wines. Our Wine Pairing Weekend writers are sharing what they have uncovered this month as they investigated the midwest. Take a look farther down this post for links to all our posts.

Vermilion Valley Vineyards Finds a Way with Vitis Vinifera
Joe and Kristy Juniper are determined to show that Northwestern Ohio can produce top quality wines from Vitis vinifera grapes. At Vermilion Valley Vineyards, they have adapted traditional vineyard practices to the particulars of their sites within the Lake Erie AVA. This includes mounding up the soil around the base of their vines to cover the graft union. While this is necessary only occasionally, when it happens, the entire vineyard would be lost. They also have adapted vine training and trellising to the environment, creating ways to minimize the threat from some of the diseases common in this humid, rainy climate.

Joe and Kristy Juniper run the show at Vermilion Valley Vineyards

Prior experience with Vermilion Valley Vineyards
I first heard of Joe by his presence on Facebook. I was surprised to see a vineyard and winery within a stone’s throw of where I grew up. I contacted Joe and he sent me some samples of his wine which I covered here. I was so impressed, I followed up with a visit late in 2019 to see for myself. Joe and I walked their vineyard and he shared his approach and also the the challenges they face.

Visit Vermilion Valley Vineyards
If your travels take you to northern Ohio, you should stop in at Vermilion Valley Vineyards. They have a beautiful setting with a tasting room, outdoor spaces and plenty of events including live music in the summer. Joe also says they will be adding e-commerce to their website, so you may be able to order wines online!

VVV focus is on Vitis Vinifera, but they do have some hybrids planted as well

Vermilion Valley Vineyards Lake Erie Chambourcin 2016 ($16 at the winery) 13.5% abv
Eye: Medium Ruby
Nose: Medium plus intensity aromas of fresh ripe, blueberries, blackberries, black plums, black cherry pie filling, balsamic, rosemary, pine needles.
Mouth: Dry, medium plus tart acidity, medium minus tannins, medium plus body, medium alcohol, medium plus intensity flavors, medium plus finish. Ripe fresh dark fruit plus that cherry pie filling and herbal undertones.
Observations: A very good quality red wine just perfect for a summer evening. Not sweet, but plenty of ripe fruit with lively acidity.

Chambourcin may not be a familiar name, it is a hybrid grape first commercialized in 1963. As a hybrid, its parents include both traditional Vitis vinifera wine grapes and other Vitis species. It is relatively cold hardy and mildew resistant. Both these traits are valuable in the Midwest! While the focus at Vermilion Valley Vineyards is on Vitis Vinifera (traditional European wine grapes), they do a nice job with the hybrids they have planted.

VVV Chambourcin with Corn, Tomato and Bacon Orecchiette
When I visited Joe, I had space in my suitcase to bring a couple bottles home. I had never had a Chambourcin wine so it was a natural choice. As a lighter bodied red wine, it was perfect for a summer evening with a warm, summer pasta dish. The Corn, Tomato and Bacon Orecchiette recipe came from Meredith Deeds at our local Star Tribune newspaper. We’ll be making this one again!

We loved VVV Gewürztraminer with pork tenderloin

Vermilion Valley Vineyards Lake Erie Gewürztraminer 2017 ($18 at the winery) 10% abv
Eye: Medium lemon
Nose: Medium plus intensity aromas of lychee, dragonfruit, asian 5 spice, baking spices,
Mouth: Barely off-dry, medium acidity, full body with rich texture, low alcohol, medium plus intensity, medium plus finish. Exotic fruits and baking spices echoed the nose.
Observations: Gewurztraminer has such pretty aromatics, the trick is to keep enough acidity to avoid a flabby wine. Vermilion Valley Vineyards does a great job with their Gewurztraminer, it’s one of my favorites.

Gewürztraminer is a great choice with leaner meats like pork and chicken

Vermilion Valley Vineyards Gewürztraminer with Pork Tenderloin
We substituted pork tenderloin for the chicken called for in a Food & Wine magazine recipe featuring marinated tomatoes and red onions, here. This dish was another surprise hit, and the Gewürztraminer was a perfect complement, offering its own set of aromas to balance the garlic in the food.

Wine Pairing Weekend Writers Explore Midwestern Wines
Take a look at all our midwest discoveries below, then join our chat on Saturday July 10, 10-11am CDT. We’ll be on Twitter and you can find us by searching on #WinePW!

12 Responses to “Exploring Vitis Vinifera at Vermilion Valley Vineyards #WinePW”
  1. robincgc says:

    That Corn, Tomato and Bacon Orecchiette look delicious and it sounds like such a lovely pairing with the Chambourcin! The Gewurz also sounds delicious.

    • Thanks Robin, the orecchiette recipe was really good, we’ll be making it again. I’ve been impressed with the full range of wines from Vermilion Valley Vineyards.

  2. culinarycam says:

    Those wines look fantastic…and unique. I am so blown away by the breadth of wines available in the Mid-West.

  3. I’m looking forward to trying these wines when the weather cool’s off and shipping is possible again! And that Corn, Tomato and Bacon Orecchiette dish will be delish as soon as our tomatoes start coming in– and with grilled corn!

  4. wendyklik says:

    Well I get to northern Ohio quite often as we are neighbors. The next time I go I am definitely looking up this winery. The only winery I have been to in Ohio were on Put in Bay and we did enjoy our visit there

  5. terristeffes says:

    I am just aching to try that sparkling rose! It looks gorgeous. As always, I learned a lot from you on this post. I love traveling, what a good excuse to go to Ohio.

  6. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    This pairing look absolutely delightful. I’ve tried Chambourcin a few times, but it’s been a while. Clearly time to revisit! Also, those views with the lake in the background look amazing!

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  1. […] Exploring Vitis Vinifera at Vermilion Valley Vineyards by Food Wine Click! […]

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