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Columbus has seen big influx of urban wineries

Legal News Reporter

Published: June 7, 2018

Wine drinkers in central Ohio won't have to travel far to celebrate National Wine Day today.

Although a majority of central Ohio's land isn't conducive to growing grapes, the region has a handful of urban wineries, including Via Vecchia Winery on Front Street in downtown, and Signature Wines and Camelot Cellars in Olde Towne East.

Janine Aquino became the third owner of Camelot Cellars in 2011. A Bucyrus couple opened the winery at a 2,200-square-foot location in the Short North before selling it to a Canadian company.

Aquino, who grew up on vineyard in the Hudson Valley area of New York, didn't mince words that the winery was "down in the dumps" with its second owners.

The Canadian company hired Aquino as a consultant to determine what to do with the winery and her findings lead to their decision to sell the winery.

"I kind of understood what needed to be done," Aquino said. "It needed a lot of help."

She made the huge overhaul of the winery from staffing changes to a rebranding. But Aquino kept a few things such as the name and the ability for customers to make their own batch.

Customers can now find Camelot Cellars wines in 200 stores, she said. The winery also relocated to the Olde Towne East to have more space.

The winery's current 3,600-square-foot home features nearly 100 seats, a full-service restaurant that serves Italian cuisine and a variety of regular events.

Aquino said the winery's Short North location seating was about 60 and didn't serve food, resulting in shorter customer stays who would leave to go somewhere else for dinner.

The winery also provided more space for production of juices and concentrate it receives from Washington, California states, parts of South America and Europe.

Due to the fact they can import grape juices and concentrate, urban wineries can open quicker than traditional wineries and operate year-round without any of the labor costs, Aquino said.

Central Ohio's urban wineries have to compete with the prevalence of craft breweries but wine is becoming the beverage of choice for millennials, Aquino said.

"People feel important when they drink it," she said.

Millennials are more adventurous when it comes to wines with 65 percent of them seeking out rare and unusual wines and vintages and 75 percent wishing they could spend more on wine, according to a survey Wine Access, an online wine discovery platform, released in January.

On the other hand, Gen X spends an annual $5,717 on wine compared with baby boomers at $4,900 and millennials at $4,163, according to the survey of 1,800 wine consumers. But it added that millennials were driving growth in the market.

"Our report findings further confirm the macro trend of consumers prioritizing experiences over things when it comes to fine wine and dining," said Matt Deller, chief wine officer of Wine Access, in a statement. "In the past decade, wine has become more enjoyable and the increase in quality is finally matching up with what consumers crave. Wine is also getting more interesting and more focused on connectivity, social media and travel. These trends are even more heightened among younger wine lovers.

Between the tourism boom in California's wine country and wine now being heavily covered in conventional media, it is more transparent and visible than ever."

But Aquino said it's difficult to say whether central Ohio can expect more urban wineries to appear in the future. People don't open urban wineries expecting to make a huge profit, she said.

"We do it because we love it," Aquino said.

Additionally, established urban wineries will expand because existing regulation requires a wine makers get individual licenses for each winery they open.

In Delaware County, Jeff and Gina Kirby opened his second urban winery, Oak and Brazen Wine Co., last year in the city of Delaware since he opened the Powell Village Winery in 2011, which is now under new ownership.

Ohio is the sixth largest wine producer in the United States and produces 1.23 million gallons annually.

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