There are several wines of note on the Caesar Creek tasting menu. There was a dry, bright Seyval Blanc: the Cayuga had nice minerality with floral notes and crisp acidity; and the Traminette demonstrated all the best qualities of that grape. In my mind, however, the reds were the most interesting, partly because I was unfamiliar with some of the hybrids. The Caesar’s Red is a big, bold Noiret filled with dark cherry notes and structured tannins. The Frontenac is a medium bodied wine with cherry mid palate and a bit of complexity. All of the wines were exceptionally well crafted and quite surprising. I didn’t expect to discover wines of this quality, made from hybrid grapes in a little-known wine-producing area.
Caesar Creek is fairly new and some of the infrastructure is still being developed. The property is quite lovely and has a lot of potential. The tasting room, on the other hand, is functional but small. There are plans to convert the historic settler’s home into a museum and formal tasting room, which will exponentially enhance the experience and make this a more important regional attraction. If visitors can be drawn to this venue and introduced to the wine, it will have repercussions beyond Caesar Creek Vineyards. Southwestern Ohio is producing exceptional wines, it’s just a matter of educating the public. For my part, I was completely blown away by the quality of the offerings and strongly advocate supporting this winery. So make an effort to stop by. You’ve really got to find out for yourself and, when you do, let me know what you think.
A stunning view of the surrounding Ohio farmland.
Open to Public
Fri-Sat 2 to 7 and by appt.
Winemaker Trisha Chalfant behind the tasting bar.
Now let’s fast forward a couple hundred years. Walter Borda was planning to open a winery. He looked first in Virginia, but his mother in law offered acreage on her Southwestern Ohio farm. The price was right, it offered good drainage and a southwest aspect, but it also posed a serious challenge. The site is too far north to benefit from the warming influence of the Ohio River. This area east of Dayton is two USDA Cold Hardiness Zones colder than Virginia. International varietals can’t be grown in such climatic conditions.
In 2004, Walter began planting cold-hardy hybrids like Frontenac, Foch, Cayuga, Seyval Blanc and Traminette. Despite careful selection, the Polar Vortex of 2013 killed all of the Chardonnel. For the first eight years, while the vines matured, fruit was sold to other local wineries. In 2012, Walter took the next step. He procured a production license and Ceasar Creek began making wines under its own label.
To make the wine, a relative newcomer was retained. Trisha Chalfant had an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a graduate degree from Ohio State in horticulture with emphasis on viticulture. With only limited winemaking experience, she was something of a wildcard. Nevertheless, Trisha proved to be a brilliant investment. Today she is making about 1500 cases a year of exclusively estate wine and working magic with the hybrids. I’ve tasted wines made from most of these varietals, but none exhibited the quality I experienced at Caesar Creek.
Owner(s): Walter Borda
Winemaker: Trisha Chalfant
Caesar Creek Vineyards Profile
Written by Brian Jan 5, 2015
In the post-Revolutionary War era, before it became the seventeenth state in 1803, the area that makes up modern-day Ohio was divided among and governed by the original colonies. Northern Ohio, known then as the Western Reserve, was claimed by Connecticut. Virginia had its own reserve in what is now Southern Ohio and used it to provide land grants to Revolutionary War veterans. I tell you this, because The Virginia Grape feels that it is his manifest destiny, based on historical precedent, to expand his blogging empire into this original Virginia territory.
The other reason I provided that background was to give context to another fact. The tract of land, that is currently home to Caesar Creek Vineyards, was deeded by—then Virginia Governor—Thomas Jefferson (which, of course, strengthens The Virginia Grape's claim to Southern Ohio). The original settler’s home was a wooden structure, that no longer exists. It was replaced by a brick home, which still stands on the property, but was not built until well after statehood in 1850. In any case, the property and surrounding area are full of early-American points of interest.
A few of the wines and other offerings.
962 Long Road, Xenia, Ohio 45385
Promoting wine tourism opportunities in the Eastern United States
Looking out across the vines.