Granted, it was a paid advertisement but, my, how times have changed. “America’s wine grape paradise,” the Lake Erie Islands, has been eclipsed, not least of which by the entire state of California, let alone Sonoma’s own centuries-and-half foray into the biz. I’m convinced that I could cultivate my own wine grape paradise in my unkempt backyard, ignore it for a season, crush the resulting fruit with my boots on and still end up with a better wine, even after I’ve bottled it in plastic one-gallon milk jugs, which I might even neglect to rinse.
Why would I do such a thing? To prove a point that the best wines are Sonoma wines (and to poison my enemies).
If one didn’t know any better, you’d think Ohio’s bustling wine industry had all but evaporated. They probably import more wine from, say, Uruguay – like, one case – than is presently produced in the entire state.
You might ask, “En Uruguay hay buen vino?” The reply, at least according to the Uruguayan Wine Guide, is “Increíble!” What does this mean? We may never know, although, I know implicitly that Uruguayan wine is vastly superior to whatever might be moldering in some mid-western cellar, which is not a cellar as we might know it but a musty basement that wreaks of two-stroke oil and laundry products. I know because I’ve been there, or least I’ve flown over it whilst sipping a single-serve bottle of Sutter Home intended for the palate populi and still felt a justifiable airborne arrogance over Ohio wine, even after I dropped a peanut in my plastic cup (full disclosure, the wine juggernaut is a client).
“The smallness of the district limits the supply,” the ad continues. That statement has less to do with supply and demand than it does with containing a threat to the public.
Any larger and then-Gov. John W. Bricker would have been morally obligated to declare a state of emergency. I’m surprised they haven’t erected a memorial on the banks of Lake Erie to commemorate the taste buds lost when bottles began shipping from their Wine Grape Paradise. I may not be up on my biblical studies but it seems to me that whenever something leaves paradise it’s been exiled because it affronted the natural order, you know, like tasting something it shouldn’t.
The ancient LIFE advert also boasts that its purchaser, E&K Ohio Wines, has “America’s only woman wine steward, Josephine Molera” who “deems it a privilege to recommend E&K Ohio Wines!”
Sadly, 70 years ago, they probably thought it was a privilege for her to have a job at all. Wine, however, has long been a refuge for women, who have made historic inroads into the industry since the 19th century. Now, according to the Wine Institute, women represent about 20 percent of the industry.
Presently in Ohio, there’s one woman winemaker – Kelly Harvey of Signature Wines, “a boutique, urban micro-winery located in Columbus, Ohio.” Yep, there’s one, lone Buckeye chick making wine in a place where it not only snows but her state’s official beverage is tomato juice.
And Sonoma’s wineries thought they had it tough with a sagging economy, depressed tourism and schizophrenic weather. It could be worse, you could be a minority in your industry in a rustbelt state where ordering a Virgin Bloody Mary would likely result in public shaming.
Perhaps I should be more circumspect – in another 69 years, some cad writer might pull up this article on his data device du jour and have a haughty laugh about the erstwhile Sonoma wine industry and the hubris with which we celebrated it, you know, before the ice caps melted and our Wine Grape Paradise became an underwater theme-park. Times will change. Until then, we can only try to save it in a bottle.
Daedalus Howell has never been to Ohio and has no idea what’s talking about – but he’s willing to learn… Originally published in the Sonoma Index-Tribune.