Greene County winery part of growing trend

NEW JASPER TWP., Greene County — Walter Borda started planting vineyards in 2005 on his secluded, sloping property adjacent to Caesars Creek in eastern Greene County. For the last several years Borda cultivated his grapevines and harvested his grapes, selling his crop to other Ohio wineries and keeping a low profile.

All that changed Friday.

Borda bottled wines under his own label, built a tasting room and on Friday unveiled the Miami Valley’s newest winery, Caesar Creek Vineyards, at 962 Long Road east of Xenia.

“We know we’re not going to compete with the Napa Valley,” Borda said. “But we do want to produce fine table wines.”

Borda is part of a growing trend. Ohio has seen a surge in winery activity in recent years — there are now 175 in all corners of the state — but most of that growth has occurred in other parts of the state.

The Miami Valley’s wineries include Brandeberry Winery in Clark County near Yellow Springs, Valley Vineyards near Morrow in Warren County, The Winery at Versailles in Darke County, Hanover Winery in Hanover Twp. in Butler County, Bent Tree Winery in Mason, and at least one more in the works, Old Mason Winery & Vineyard (formerly slated to be called The Naked Grape Winery) in Miami County.

These wineries contribute to the state and local economy by generating sales taxes on tasting room sales and by bringing in travel and tourism dollars from winery visitors who stay in local motels and eat in local restaurants, according to Donniella Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association.

The winery will have a spinoff economic benefit to nearby Xenia, according to Steve Brodsky, the city’s development director. “When you have a regional draw like that, whether it’s inside the city or not, we can all benefit” from the tourism dollars spent nearby, Brodsky said.

“We’re excited about it,” said Larry Hensel, communications specialist for the Greene County Convention and Visitors Bureau. For groups that come to the county for conventions and military reunions, “This will give us another attraction to send visitors to,” Hensel said.

For Borda, Friday’s opening represents the culmination of a dream.

It’s a dream he shared with his late wife, Dr. Karen J. Stuck, when the two lived in the Detroit area. Borda still works there several days a week as a partner in a law firm. His wife worked as a radiologist at Henry Ford Hospital.

The couple was looking for a place to retire.

“I was a lousy golfer, so I didn’t want to retire on a golf course,” Borda said. Stuck had relatives in Ohio, and the couple discovered and purchased the Greene County property, and started planting grapevines together eight years ago.

Stuck died in 2008 at age 56 after a year-long battle with leukemia. Borda forged ahead with the vineyards and the plans for a winery.

The Ohio Wine Producer’s Association’s Winchell predicted Caesar Creek Vineyards will be a success.

“He has done his homework,” Winchell said of Borda. “He has planted grapes that worked in his microclimate and is releasing wines that were carefully researched and well made. He took his time, and he is an example of the direction our industry must take into the future: grapes-to-glass in an estate setting.”

Jim Brandeberry, founder and owner of Brandeberry Winery, also praised Ohio’s newest winery.

“It’s a really nice vineyard,” Brandeberry said. “I’ve been buying some grapes from him. It seems like he’s doing everything first-class.”

Brandeberry said he’s glad to have another vineyard relatively close by.

“I think this will help me, because it provides another destination for people to visit,” he said. “I’ve been telling my winery’s visitors about him and encouraging people to go visit him when he’s open.”

Caesar Creek Vineyards’ tasting room is open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. It is closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The winery has three wines for sale now, two whites and a rose, with several more from the 2012 vintage to be bottled soon. For more information, call (937) 479-4278.

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