NICHOLAS LONGWORTH, The Father of American Winemaking

In 1820, Nicholas Longworth, a Cincinnati lawyer, planted Catawba vines near his home on the Ohio River. Early German immigrants called the area their new "Rhineland" because the terrain reminded them of home. They had tried, with little success, to plant their traditional grapes. But, the hearty Catawba withstood cold Ohio winters and the wine gained consumer acceptance in this country and the salons of Europe. Well known poet of the time, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote a tribute to the Catawba (shown below). The sparkling, delicate, semi-sweet wine was different from other stronger wines of the time. By 1845, the annual production was over 300,000 gallons. Vines stretched along the river's edge from the foot of Mount Adams, in what is now, downtown Cincinnati, toward Ripley. By 1860, the Ohio River Valley led the nation in the production of wine. But, crop diseases, such as black rot and mildew, began to destroy the vineyards as the Civil war left the grape growers with little manpower. Winemaking in southern Ohio succumbed to nature before California began to be a commercial force.

In the early 1970’s the Ohio River Valley Appellation re-emerged when new species of vinifera, or European style varietals, were found to flourish in the region's climate and soil conditions. Ohio grown varietals include Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Gerwurztraminer, Viognier, Traminette, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Chambourcin, Catawba, Concord, De Chaunac, Syrah and many others. Ohio now ranks fifth in wine production in the United States. And, Ohio is now producing some of the nation’s finest ice wines.

Longworth's estate later became the Taft family home and is currently open to the public as the Taft Museum of Art in downtown Cincinnati. More tourist attractions

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There grows no vine
By the haunted Rhine,
By Danube or Quadalquivir,
Nor on island or cape,
That bears such a grape
As grows by the Beautiful River.

Drugged is their juice
For foreign use,
When shipped o’er
the reeling Atlantic,
To rack our brains
With the fever pains,
That have driven the
Old World Frantic.

To the sewers and sinks
With all such drinks,
And after them tumble the mixer,
For a poison malign
Is such Borgia wine,
Or at best but a Devil’s elixir.

While pure as a spring
Is the wine I sing,
And to praise it,
one needs but name it;
For Catawba wine
Has need of no sign,
No tavern-bush to proclaim it.

And this Song of the Vine,
This greeting of mine,
The winds and the birds shall deliver
To the Queen of the West**,
In her garlands dressed,
On the banks of the Beautiful River.

*At the time this poem was written,
Ohio was "the West."
**The word "Ohio" means "Beautiful River"
in the language of the Indians
who lived along it.

Ode to Catawba Wine
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(Written In Praise of Longworth's Catawba Wine)

This song of mine
Is a song of the Vine
To be sung by the glowing embers
Of wayside inns,
When the rain begins
To darken the drear Novembers. 

It is not a song
Of the Scuppernong,
From warm Carolinian valleys,
Nor the Isabel
And the Muscadel
That bask in our garden alleys.

Nor the red Mustang,
Whose clusters hang
O’er the waves of the Colorado,
And the fiery flood
Of whose purple blood
Has a dash of Spanish bravado.

For the richest and best
Is the wine of the West,*
That grows by the Beautiful River*,
Whose sweet perfume
Fills all the room
With a benison on the giver.

And as hollow trees
Are the haunts of bees,
Forever going and coming;
So this crystal hive
Is all alive
With a swarming and buzzing
and humming.

Very good in its way
Is the Verzenay,
Or the Sillery soft and creamy;
But Catawba wine
has a taste more divine,
More dulcet, delicious and dreamy.

THE VINTNERS OF
OHIO'S FIRST AND
MOST HISTORIC WINE
REGION CREATED BY
NICHOLAS LONGWORTH

__________________________

Woodstone Creek
Winery & Distillery
Cincinnati

Meier's Wine Cellars
Silverton

Burnett Ridge
Cincinnati

Harmony Hill Vineyards
Bethel

Henke Winery
Cincinnati

Meranda Nixon
Ripley

Kinkead Ridge
Estate Winery
Ripley

Valley Vineyards
Morrow

Vinoklet Winery
Cincinnati

Lakeside Vineryard & Winery
Felicity

Renascent Winery
Higginsport

Brandeberry Winery
Enon

Hanover Winery
Hamilton

La Vigna Estate Winery
Georgetown

McIntosh Winery
Bethel

Moyer Vineyards,
Winery & Restaurant
Manchester

Winery at Versailles
Versailles