Ohio State vs. Michigan: That’s Right, I’m Talking Wine

The middle of November is rivalry time in the world of college football.  It is also the time of year when the retailers and restaurant start blaring “Le Beaujolais est Arrivè”.  For many, there is no connection between the two, but not for my friend and wine lover Andrew Hall.  You see Andrew lives in Columbus, Ohio.  There may not be a city in the country more crazed over its college football team, in his case, the Ohio State Buckeyes.  And, there may not be a more storied or bitter college rivalry than Ohio State vs. Michigan.  So bitter is the rivalry, that the word Michigan is rarely uttered by the denizens of Columbus, euphemistically referring to them, as did former OSU coach Woodrow Hayes, as “that school up north”.  The last game of the Big Ten football season always features these two teams. 

I am not sure why or how, but the idea came to Andrew that during the madness that ensues in the week before the big game, this would be a great time to focus on the wine industries of these two states.  Andrew, being the gourmand and wine lover that he is, also observed that this would be a great time to take the focus away from Beaujolais Nouveau.  Neither I nor Andrew wants to give the impression that we don’t like wines from this often maligned region near Burgundy.  Far from it, there are some hard working producers making great wines capable of ageing that are absolutely worth buying.  It is the Beaujolais Nouveau wines, made from grapes that were hanging on the vines just two short months before and now flood our grocery stores every November, that were the target for this assault.  Wouldn’t it be great, Andrew thought, if instead of these banana and cherry juice flavored wines, the restaurant and grocery store communities of Columbus and Ann Arbor, and even the whole state of Ohio and Michigan capitalized on the excitement of the game and used that week to promote the local wine industries? 

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A quick word about the local wine production of these two states is in order.  One might be tempted to call these fledgling industries.  All across America wineries are popping up.  Wine is now produced in all fifty states.  Yet as far back as 1850, Ohio led the nation in wine production.  The Civil War and it resultant lack of manpower devastated the wine industry.  A death knell came as Ohio never recovered from Prohibition.  In the 1960’s and 1970’s a few dedicated and hearty souls began to make wines again.   In the last twenty years, however, there has been a rebirth with new wineries popping up all the time.  There are two main geographical hubs for wine production in Ohio now.  Many wineries are located close to the southern shore line of Lake Erie.  The lake provides a moderating effect on the temperatures.  It also holds heat late into the fall.  The other area is along the Ohio River Valley.  A bit farther south, the climate is somewhat warmer and the vineyards in close proximity to the river also enjoy the moderating effects of the water. 

Michigan also takes advantage of its position near the water.  There are two main areas that produce wines.  At the top of the glove (the tip of the ring finger) shape of Michigan are the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas.  The waters of Lake Michigan help keep the wines grown here healthy during the long summer days and cool summer nights.  The other productive area is the southwest corner of the state, across Lake Michigan from Chicago.  Again, the lake has the supportive significance. 

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.