Stoney Ridge a fun, easy trip from the city

By Dan and Krista Stockman

Shortly after we moved to Fort Wayne nearly five years ago, we took a trip touring wineries in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

On our last day, as we got closer and closer to home, we knew there was one more winery where we were considering stopping. We were tired and just wanted to get home, but we also knew we’d regret not stopping at a winery just an hour away from our house.

So we took a slight detour and stopped at Stoney Ridge Winery in Bryan, Ohio, and boy, were we glad we did. We visit a lot of wineries, but it’s rare that we can remember what wines came from where.

Stoney Ridge stood out, though. At the time we visited, it was only a year old, and they were making some great wines, including what Krista calls the best blueberry wine she’s ever had. Unfortunately, the cost of blueberries has skyrocketed since then, making the Blueberry Crisp cost prohibitive, but in the past five years, Stoney Ridge has grown as a winery both in size and quality.

Even though Stoney Ridge is only an hour away, it always seems farther, maybe because you have to cross the state line to get there. That’s a silly excuse, of course, but for one reason or another, we hadn’t made it back to the winery until last month.

Let us tell you, the trip is definitely worth it. This is a fun and easy day trip, and as we always tell you, it’s a great way to learn about wine.

Phil and Pamela Stotz opened Stoney Ridge in 2002 after their wine-making hobby grew out of control. They were both professionals in the real estate business, but Pamela, especially, was yearning to do something different. She came from a family of dairy farmers and felt called back to agriculture.

So they bought 10 acres and started what would turn into a 6,000-vine vineyard with 28 varieties of grapes. They didn’t know whether anyone would ever show up, but they had to give it a shot.

Because they wanted an agricultural business, growing their own grapes was key. About 60 percent of their wines are estate grown, and they hope to someday grow their own grapes for their Vidal Ice Wine, which has become a great source of pride for the Stotzes. Ice wine is difficult because you have to leave the grapes on the vine long enough to freeze, without letting birds get to them and without letting them rot because it doesn’t get cold soon enough.

Many people say great wine is made in the vineyard, not the cellar. Pam runs the vineyards, and Phil is the winemaker; Pam puts it this way: “I grow the wine for him.”

The winery makes great wines from grapes they have to buy, as well. Their earthy pinot grigio would be great with a summer cookout. The Proprietor’s Blend, which is a blend featuring the rare Geisenheim grape, is fabulous. And the winery calls its Traminette (a more common Midwest grape) the “margarita of wine” because of its liminess. It truly is a yummy wine, and different from other Traminettes we’ve had.

The winery is working on strengthening its reds and is well on its way. Stoney Ridge is growing its own Frontenac, a red hybrid developed in Minnesota, and we expect the Stormy Nights wine will only get better as the years go by. The shiraz and marechal Foch are good and will especially appeal to those who are just discovering their taste for red wines.

For wine beginners, the winery has a great trio called Barn Dance. The Barn Dance White, Blush and Red will appeal most to those who know they like white zinfandel or Oliver soft red, white and rosé. And for fruit wine drinkers, Stoney Ridge has a great selection. The Golden Apple is aged with a cinnamon stick to give it just a hint of spice. The Country Rhubarb is interesting, and would be great when you’re looking for something different from the traditional fruit wines. Our favorite was Raspberry Patch, which is just like drinking raspberry nectar and goes great with chocolate. The winery is also known for its elderberry wine, which is made with handpicked wild elderberries. We didn’t get to try it, but we hope to next time we go back.

Many people who are new to wine are afraid to visit a winery because they think they’ll be intimidated. Not at Stoney Ridge, which, like most wineries, is the perfect place to learn about wines. And we can almost guarantee they’ll have something you’ll like, no matter what your tastes.

“I don’t care what they say, the clientele in this area is sweet-wine drinkers,” Pam said. “It’s OK to like sweet wine; don’t let California tell you you can’t.”

When you visit, there are plenty of places to lounge and enjoy the scenery. And if it’s warm, the winery encourages people to bring a picnic and stay awhile.

“We really want people to come out, enjoy the wine, sit by the pond,” Pamela said.

That’s what wine is all about: taking time to enjoy life and make memories.

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