Awards & EventsWineries in Ohio

Wines of the Valley Wine Trail Kicks Off March 1

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Wines of the Valley Wine Trail returns for its second year with a longer season and a new addition.

The trail kicks off March 1 and runs through Sept. 29, offering more time to explore the trail than last year, which began in June, said Linda Macala, executive director of the Mahoning County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She hopes the earlier start will lead to more people visiting the wineries, she said.

“People have cabin fever and they’re looking to do things as soon as the weather breaks,” Macala said. “Hopefully we’ll have an even bigger response than last year.”

Visitors bring a special passport to participating wineries to get stamped for six exclusive wine glass charms featuring new designs for 2019. Completed passports receive a keepsake box and bonus charm.

In 2018, more than 700 people completed the wine trail and redeemed their passports, Macala said, 60% of whom live outside of Mahoning County. Of the total passports redeemed, 35% were from people who live outside of Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull counties. Overall, the wine trail drew visitors from 11 states outside of Ohio, she said.

“Our goal as a convention and visitors bureau is to get people outside Mahoning County travel here, so I am happy with those numbers,” she said.

Last year, participating wineries were excited about the trail and all mentioned that they met new customers coming through as a result, she said. Some local residents commented they didn’t realize how many wineries were so close.

“That’s what a wine trail does,” Macala said. “It forces you to experience all the wineries in the area. People have their go-to place, but this kind of makes them widen their circle a little bit.”

This year, participating wineries in include Mastropietro Winery at 14558 Ellsworth Road in Berlin Center, The Vineyards at Pine Lake at 14101 Market St. in Columbiana, Diletto Winery at 8578 Market St. in Boardman, Lake Milton wineries Halliday’s Winery at 2400 N.E. River Road and Lil Paws Winery and Brewery at 17574 Mahoning Ave., and the newest addition, L’uva Bella Winery & Bistro at 6597 Center Road in Lowellville.

L’uva Bella owners joined the wine trail this year because they saw how wineries came together to promote the local industry “and we wanted to be part of that,” said Marisa Sergi, chief financial officer at L’uva Bella, and CEO and winemaker for RedHead Wine. The third-generation winemaker’s father, Frank Sergi, founded L’uva Bella in 2001.

The wine trail is a boon to the area because it “offers something unique for our communities to do,” Sergi said. From a business perspective, it promote the wine culture in the region, which she said is a very “family-oriented industry.” Rather than nurturing a “cutthroat business attitude,” regional winemakers are open-minded and eager to share ideas and help each other grow and promote the area as a whole, she said.

“Yes, we are competing against the local wineries, but it’s more of a community effort,” she said. “We’re very excited to see what the impact is going to be, especially this year.”

Business at L’uva Bella has been “absolutely fantastic” as the company looks to hire 10 to 15 people this year to help promote and sell its wine throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Sergi said. By the end of the year, L’uva Bella looks to employ up to 60 people full time at the winery and bistro, all of whom are local, she said.

“Being able to not only share our wine locally, but have a sales force by hiring local people and sharing wine beyond Ohio is really exciting,” she said. “We’re just trying to onboard our employees in increments so we can give them special, undivided attention with it comes to training and providing them the resources to succeed.”

The Mahoning County Convention & Visitors Bureau, also known as Youngstown Live, will advertise and promote the wine trail throughout the season with print and digital media, blogs, digital and social media advertising as well as some editorial content in regional wine publications, Macala said.

For out-of-town visitors, local hotels offer special rates for guests who call to book rather than booking online. Those hotels include Bella Fattoria Bed & Breakfast at Mastropietro Winery, Sebring Mansion Inn & Spa in Sebring, Courtyard by Marriott in Canfield, Best Western Plus Dutch Haus Inn & Suites in Columbiana, Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center in Boardman, Fairfield by Marriott in Boardman, and Home2 Suites and the Hampton Inn in Austintown.

For more information on the Wines of the Valley Wine Trail and to download a passport, visit YoungstownLive.com/wine-trail.

Pictured: Download and complete a Wines of the Valley Wine Trail passport to collect six new wine glass charms plus a bonus charm.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.