A trip to West Virginia resulted in a happy detour to Viking Vineyards in Kent, Ohio. Co-owned by Jeff and Dana Nelson, the winery is a short hop from I-76 or the Kent State campus. Not only are tastings available, but entertainment is featured. For example, On Sunday, November 8, from 5 to 7 p.m., Tequila Bob and the Flip Flops will be performing. A menu featuring sandwiches, cheese plates and snacks is also available.
The winery is off the beaten path and accessed via a one-lane private drive. Directions are available on the Web site, but our GPS enabled us to zip from Kent State to Viking Vineyard in a matter of minutes.
We arrived just after the sun went down, but there was still enough light to see the beautiful grounds, which includes a small lake with a fountain and plentiful lakeside seating. The tasting room is a good size and nicely decorated.
Tastings are available for 50 cents each, but I would suggest the flights. There are two dry flights (white/red and blush/red), a semi-dry flight and a semi-sweet/sweet flight.
Viking will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on Friday, November 6th with an open house. Grapes were first planted in May 1999 and the winery opened on November 5th of the same year. In addition to the tasting room, a private party room is available for rent for parties and meetings.
The winery currently bottles 4,000 gallons of wine and there are 17 wines on their wine list, including Vidal Blanc Ice Wine and Late Harvest Vidal Blanc. Jeff has also won numerous Gold, Silver and Bronze medals over the past 9 years at both the Ohio Wine Competition and at the Indy International Wine Competition.
We started our tasting with the Dry Riesling. This is an Alsace-style Riesling with a hint of citrus. This was satisfying, but not our top pick.
The Midnight Sun dry blush is a combination of Chardonnay and Chambourcin. This was very good with a flavor of fresh berries.
My wife and I enjoy Vidal Blanc and have sampled Ohio Vidal Blanc at the Quarry Hill winery. Viking’s Vidal is a simple wine with flavor notes of peach and stone. This wine won a silver medal at the Ohio Wine Competition. It is enjoyable.
The Cabernet Sauvignon has an earthy nose and flavor. Green Dragon is not a fan of wines with high tannins, but this Cab was very enjoyable. Ohio wine judges agree with me, by the way, as this wine has won an Ohio Wine Competition gold.
North Star is a tasty blend of Syrah and Sangiovese with a deep, rich color. It is a fruit forward wine with smoothness and a scent of strawberries. This is very nice.
There were two “aha” moments during our tasting. The first was when we tasted the Chambourcin. This was soft, smooth and with the interesting blend of vanilla and cherry flavors. It is aged in French oak and is just a very nice and interesting wine. The cost is only $13.49 and is a great buy (which is what we did). We stopped on our way to a cabin getaway with friends, but Green Dragon gave me instructions that we were to make sure that we saved the wine until we returned home!
As we were preparing to hit the road, Jeff provided a sample of Red Kiss, one of their most popular wines. This is a blend of red wine and chocolate. The aroma alone is like a box of candy. This is best enjoyed as a dessert wine and special treat.
April through December the winery is open 5 to 9 Tuesday through Thursday, Noon to 11 on Friday and Saturday and 1 to 8 on Sunday. Viking Vineyards and Winery is a gem you will certainly enjoy. Plan on a visit soon.