Appalachian Wine Trail offers adventure, prizes for wine enthusiasts

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The 11-stop wine trail brings guests and business to region’s wineries and vineyards.

Lovers of the great outdoors (and fruit of the vine) visit independent wineries across southeast Ohio to sample local libations, enjoy live music and in a spirited twist — check off their trail cards.

There are 11 stops on the Appalachian Wine Trail. It begins in Warsaw at Heritage Vineyards Winery and ends with the Merry Family Winery in Bidwell. The Ohio Wine Producers Association (OWPA) designed the wine trail to create an interactive experience for customers and generate business for the wineries.

“People who like wine generally enjoy the exploration of wine,” says OWPA executive director Donniella Winchell. “… A lot of people will explore new wineries to see what else they can fall in love with.”

Traveling on the trail

In 1993, the OWPA established a membership program that linked several southeastern Ohio wineries together as participants in the Appalachian Wine Trail. The program was created to help increase visitation to the wineries during the winter offseason and introduce customers to wines of the region.

Since the vineyards on the Appalachian Wine Trail extend across southeast Ohio, the OWPA began having month-long events for wine enthusiasts who visit several trail wineries.

Participants begin their eleven-stop expedition by picking up a trail card and detailed brochure at any of the member wineries. Once the trail card has been validated at a few of the wineries on the Appalachian Wine Trail, participants are eligible to win prizes. For example, participants who visited all 11 participating wineries were entered in a drawing to win a free overnight stay at Salt Fork Lodge or Atwood Lake Resort through the Great Grape Escape event.

Each event typically draws more than one hundred people, and the majority of participants have completed at least half of their trail card.

“On a scale of one to ten, I’d say our success with the trail has been about a seven or eight, and there’s always room for improvement,” Winchell says. “Over the years, we’ve offered amenities, gifts, food to give to folks so the trail becomes a destination.”

Bringing business to the hills

Before Donna and Paul Roberts opened Terra Cotta Vineyards in 1999, the couple participated in many Ohio Wine events and volunteered at the Vintage Ohio Wine Festival in Kirtland. Since she was a part of the customer base before co-owning a vineyard herself, Donna understands how important the trails are for encouraging wine-lovers to visit wineries across the state.

“Trail events are good for wineries as it does bring customers to the winery that may not come otherwise — and they like to bring friends with them!” Donna says.