JUST IN: Large-scale festival toasting Ohio wines coming to region

A new and potentially large-scale wine festival is coming to Springfield in May, and its organizers say they’d like to turn it into an annual event.

“Vintage Ohio South” will spotlight Ohio wines and wineries, especially those in the southern half of the state, according to Donniella Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association (OWPA), which is sponsoring the festival. This year’s event is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 12 at the Clark County Fairgrounds.

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In northeast Ohio, the OWPA has offered the Vintage Ohio Wine Festival for 23 years, and it has attracted thousands from the quadrant of the state that has a larger winemaking and vineyard presence than southern Ohio. The wine producers association has sponsored a wine festival in the Dayton-Springfield region before, but it’s been a while.

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From 2003-09, the wine producers association brought an annual Ohio wine festival to what was then the National City 2nd Street Market (now the Five Rivers MetroParks 2nd Street Market) in downtown Dayton. The event fizzled after National City Bank merged with another bank, but after a one-year hiatus, the OWPA brought an outdoor wine festival to the Boonshoft Museum that lasted a couple of years. Bad weather thwarted any chance for success at the outdoor events, but the Clark County Fairgrounds festival will be held indoors, rain or shine, for at least the first year, organizers said.

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Winchell said Vintage Ohio South will offer attendees samples of wine from all corners of the state, but the event is designed to showcase the wines of southern Ohio and make consumers aware there is a growing number of wineries in the region.

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“We are going to focus on how many new wineries are there in southern Ohio and how many really nice wines are coming from the region that are significantly different from the cool-climate whites up north,” Winchell said.

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Organizers chose the Springfield site in part because of its proximity to the Dayton and Columbus markets, Winchell said. They also were impressed with the lake behind the Clark County Fairgrounds that has electricity available nearby, green space and ample parking, with the idea of possibly moving the event outside in subsequent years if it proves to be popular, the OWPA executive director said.

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The fairgrounds — which recently re-branded as the Clark County Fairgrounds at Champions Park — will spend about $170,000 this spring to make improvements to its facilities, including installing air conditioning at one of its buildings. County and fairgrounds officials said last week the improvements will help them to more effectively market the site for local and national events.

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Organizers expect to have about 15 wineries at the inaugural Vintage Ohio South. Wineries that have signed up already include Valley Vineyards in Warren County, Meranda-Nixon Winery in Adams County, Hanover Winery in Butler County, Old Mason Winery in Miami County, The Winery at Versailles in Darke County, Olde Schoolhouse vineyard & Winery in Preble County, Caesar Creek Vineyards in Greene County, A.R. Winery in Darke County, Brandeberry Winery in Clark County, Meier’s Wine Cellars in Cincinnati, Debonne Vineyards in Madison in northeast Ohio, and TinCap Cidery in Clinton County.

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The event will include local craft artisans, restaurant vendors and food trucks, as well as live music, cooking demonstrations and wine-education events. Pre-sale tickets, which include 12 wine-sampling tickets, are $25 and will be $30 at door.

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Additional wine-sampling tickets will be available for purchase. Designated driver tickets are available for $10 and include four complimentary sodas or waters. Parking will be free. Tickets are available online at Ohiowines.org. For more information, call (440) 466-4417.

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