Window on Pairings in Geneva, Ohio, opens to the public June 22.
East of the Rocky Mountains, most wineries are small family enterprises that sell their products directly to consumers. To be successful, they must have knowledge about grapegrowing and winemaking and marketing their wines—in other words, there is a need for educational programming and opportunities for people to develop the skills to work in their local wine industries.
At noon on June 22, the new Windows on Pairings
in Geneva, Ohio, will open to the public for the first time and begin to address some of those needs. Located in a recently renovated century-old barn in the center of this small town in northeastern Ohio, Windows on Pairings includes a tasting and sales room with a selection of wines from across Ohio, a special events area, a hands-on kitchen for culinary classes, a demonstration vineyard and an educational area for consumers, winemakers and vineyard staff.
According to Donniella Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association, the goals of Windows on Pairings include training skilled winemakers and grapegrowers as well as developing more local jobs and increasing tourism for the region. “An eight-row demonstration vineyard has been planted,” Winchell told Wines & Vines
. “The varieties are those that growers are planting in this region. There are the vinifera
varieties Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Riesling, but also two French hybrids—Chambourcin and Vidal—as well as native varieties Concord and Catawba.”
Jodi Creasap Gee, program director for the associate’s degree in enology and viticulture at Kent State University-Ashtabula, stated that she was looking forward to working with Windows on Pairings to plan workshops that would provide educational programming for both the wine industry and the general public. “We see the Windows on Pairings as a great opportunity for our students. They can work or volunteer there and get a broader experience with the wine industry.”
A series of day sessions focusing on the professional development of potential winemakers already is on the schedule. “We plan to bring in someone from TTB, a person from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, a professional winemaker and a professional grapegrower, university researchers, insurance experts, a marketing person and an experienced entrepreneur. It will be like ‘speed dating,’” Winchell explained. “We want families to come and talk with these experts, even briefly, so they can go into the wine business with their eyes wide open, and some names and faces they will know. We hope it will make the issues they will face easier to deal with.”
Upcoming classes include Farm to Table With Ohio Wine Pairings on June 28, Elements of Taste: the Essentials of Wine and Food Pairings on June 29, Palate Training Wine Tasting on July 18, and Ohio Wine for Skeptics with Claudia Taller on July 20. (Taller is the author of Ohio’s Lake Erie Wineries
The concept for Pairings dates back to 2008, when a group of business and community leaders in Geneva began to consider opportunities for economic and community development for the town and Ashtabula County. The idea for a wine and culinary center began to take shape, and in 2010 a feasibility study of the project was completed. When federal funding for the project did not materialize, the original 38,000-square-foot facility was put on hold, and the Pairings Board of Trustees began work on phase one of the Pairings campus, known as Windows on Pairings. Funding for phase one came from state dollars and donations, and the barn at 50 Park St. was renovated into a 3,800-square-foot space.
As additional funding becomes available, the Pairings campus will be expanded. “Our goal is more jobs, more activity, more tourism. We have an armory that could become a wine museum; we could develop a 35-unit inn,” Winchell noted. “We need serious development of cellar and vineyard workers, and skilled winemakers and grapegrowers, as well as incubator facilities for start-up wineries.”
The grand opening weekend for Windows on Pairings will include a VIP reception June 21 for donors, Pairings members and supporters; Melinda Huntley, executive director of the Ohio Travel Association, is the keynote speaker. On June 22, Windows on Pairings will be open to the general public from noon to 7 p.m. Subsequently the facility will be open Sunday-Tuesday from noon to 7 p.m. and Wednesday-Saturday from noon to 9 p.m.