(1) Meranda-Nixon Winery (Brown County), (2) Viking Vineyard (Portage County), (3) Matus Winery (Lorain County), (4) Laurello Vineyards (Ashtabula County), (5) Slate Run Vineyard (Fairfield County), (6) Hermes Vineyard (Erie County)

Ohio Wine: Perfect Pairings in the Kitchen

Hold a glass of Red Oak Creek wine from Meranda-Nixon Winery in Ripley to the light. Do you notice the luscious red color with rich purple tones? Swirl the wine, sniff, sip and savor. Surely you recognize the scent of sun-warmed raspberry and the slightly tart flavor of cranberry throughout this semi-dry wine.

Winery owners and Farm Bureau members Seth and Tina Meranda suggest pairing this particular wine with beef tenderloin – locally raised, of course, and prepared to a rare finish. Tina, the cook of the family, also uses this luscious wine in a reduction sauce to accompany the tenderloin.

“They belong together,” she said. The character of the wine and that of locally grown foods reflect the geography and climate where they are grown. They share the same growing environment and naturally work together.

During Saturday night dinner events at the winery, the Merandas pair their world class, award-winning wines with courses throughout the meal and frequently use them as ingredients. “We’ll pour a splash of Traminette over roasting turkey or chicken or use our Chardonnay to marinate shrimp for a dip,” Tina said.

Meranda-Nixon Winery
sits on a ridge north of the Ohio River that for five generations of the Meranda family was farmed for tobacco. When the market for tobacco collapsed, Seth and Tina began planting varietals, which are grapes used to make particular wines. “We’re revitalizing the land one vine at a time,” Seth said.

Of their 100 acres of farmland, nine are dedicated to the vineyard. “The same conditions that made this an ideal place for growing tobacco make it equally suited to growing a wide variety of grape varietals,” Seth said. That includes Catawba, Cabernet Franc, DeChaunac, and Norton, a popular, winter hardy American varietal that grows well in the southern reaches of the state where higher elevation, good drainage and mineral rich, glaciated soil exist.

For the Merandas, the winery is not just their business, it’s their life. “I am the winemaker, the vineyard manager, and delivery system,” said Seth, an Ohio State University graduate. “I also make purchasing decisions and work the tasting room.”

“Our sons, Austin, and Preston, know what it takes to make our wine and sometimes conduct tours of the winery,” he proudly shared. “Not tastings, though.”

Tina performs a lot of the vineyard work. “I prune, pull brush, tuck and train the vines as they grow and pull the leaves on the east facing side of the vine to give them light,” she said. “When it comes to harvesting, I’m there 100 percent.”

In the kitchen, Tina is in charge, and lives by the cardinal rule when it comes to cooking with wine. “Only cook with wine you would drink,” she said. So she reaches for a glass of Meranda-Nixon wine to sip while she cooks. She’ll use some to finish a sauce or add to a simmering stew – an easy and delicious way to infuse genuine local flavor all year round into food she brings to the table.

Marilou Suszko is a food writer from Vermilion. She is the author of “Farms and Foods of Ohio: From Garden Gate to Dinner Plate” and hosts “From My Ohio Kitchen to Yours” on the Our Ohio TV series.

Wine & Dine

More than 144 wineries exist throughout Ohio – and more keep popping up every day. Here are just a few estate wineries – those that grow their own grapes for their wines – that are operated by Farm Bureau members. They all agree it makes perfect sense to not only pair these local wines with local foods, but to use them as an ingredient in all types of cooking. Visit their Web sites for more information about the winery or to purchase wines. Also visit the Ohio Wine Producers Association at ohiowines.org and see their listing of Ohio wineries by region or visit  tasteohiowines.com for a complete list of wineries in Ohio.

(1) Meranda-Nixon Winery (Brown County)
Seth and Tina Meranda, owners
6517 Laycock Road, Ripley

(2) Viking Vineyard (Portage County)
Jeff and Dana Nelson, owners
268 Old Forge Road, Kent

Dana Nelson likes to pair the winery’s Traminette, a semi-dry wine with hints of honey and spice, with Asian cuisine to balance the kick of spicy foods. Not often seen as an ingredient in this style of cooking, she recommends that cooks swap out some of the water used in steaming rice with this wine.

(3) Matus Winery (Lorain County)
Robert and Mary Beth Matus, owners
15674 Gore Orphanage Road, Wakeman
440-774-WINE (9463)

Bill Haney is the “cook” among the Matus family winery staff. His favorite Matus wine to use as an ingredient is Outback, a sweet and full-bodied fruit wine pressed from handpicked, estate-grown elderberries and blackberries. He uses it to create a thick, fruity pan sauce for seared pork chops.

(4) Laurello Vineyards (Ashtabula County)
Larry and Kim Laurello, owners
4573 State Route 307 East, Harpersfield
Township | 440-415-0661

The Laurellos host a lot of special events at their winery that revolve around their 2007 Cabernet Franc. Not only is it a frequent pour, full of plum and spice notes, it’s a regular “splash” in herbed reduction sauces that accompany steaks and other fine cuts of beef.

(5) Slate Run Vineyard (Fairfield County)
Keith and Leslie Pritchard, owners
1900 Winchester Southern Road, Canal Winchester | 614-834-8577

When the Pritchards make a classic beef stroganoff, the winery’s Premblage is always part of the ingredient list. A Bordeaux-styled red wine, Premblage’s peppery character is a perfect choice for long simmering dishes featuring earthy ingredients such as beef and mushrooms.

(6) Hermes Vineyard (Erie County)
Millicent Estep, on-premise winery manager
6413 Hayes Avenue, Sandusky

Estep calls Nebiolo the “king and queen” of Italian varietals. A rare find in Ohio, Nebiolo is a robust and tannic wine, which gets along well with fats and proteins in cooking. It’s a good choice to add to hearty tomato pasta sauces simmered with meatballs or sausage

Tip of the tongue
When choosing which wine to use as an integral ingredient in your next recipe, consider the following guidelines and always pair Ohio grown foods with Ohio grown and produced wines. Avoid wines labeled “cooking wines” which are usually flavorless and contain salt.

Full-bodied red wines
Including Cabernets, Merlots and Pinot Noir

  • Add to hearty dishes featuring beef, lamb or duck, rich spaghetti or fruit sauces

Light-bodied white wines
Including Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc

  • Use to flavor sauces, fish, poultry, veal and cheese dishes

Thick and sweet fortified wines
Including Port and Sherry

  • Best used in recipes featuring fish and shellfish, pork, poultry, veal, cream sauces and salad dressings

Sweet and fruity wines
Including Ice Wine and late harvest wines

  • Use to flavor sweet desserts and dessert sauces

Marilou Suszko is a food writer from Vermillion, Ohio.