Tracy and Laura Higginbotham are trying to bring a bit of Napa Valley to Buckeye Lake. They own Buckeye Lake Winery, which opened this month, at 13750 Rosewood Rd. in Thornville. It's set on a 17-acre parcel of waterfront farmland overlooking the lake.
Tracy and Laura Higginbotham are trying to bring a bit of Napa Valley to Buckeye Lake.
They own Buckeye Lake Winery, which opened this month, at 13750 Rosewood Rd. in Thornville. It's set on a 17-acre parcel of waterfront farmland overlooking the lake.
"We're trying to re-create a Napa Valley experience as far as quality of wine, food and the serenity of the property," said Tracy Higginbotham. "People can come by land or water, and the atmosphere is relaxing and unpretentious."
Higginbotham, a former manager with Nationwide Better Health, and his wife, Laura, have a longtime love of wine.
"Our affliction, addiction and love of the industry started in 1999," he said. One of his clients was a wine-bottle manufacturer supplying Napa Valley vineyards.
"I spent eight years going to Napa six to 12 times a year for work. I became a friend of the industry, which opened doors. I had been making wine, about 6 gallons at a time, at home because the process is fascinating."
He tapped the knowledge of the vintners and other industry insiders he met to improve his homemade wines. "I learned a lot," he said.
Wine-making probably would have stayed a hobby, but he and his wife had reached a crossroads and were looking out over Buckeye Lake, thinking about what they wanted to do in the next phase of their lives. They wanted to be closer to family, who all lived near the lake and in Granville, "so our children could see them more," he said. "I told Laura about my idea for a winery here, and she said yes."
Two years and a lot of construction later, they are open for business, serving food and their own wine, and operating as a venue for special events such as weddings.
The food menu is a simple, one-page affair with paninis, pizza and starters. The starters include pepper relish-stuffed brie, sauteed wild mushrooms with heavy cream over grilled polenta, corn and avocado salsa with toasted cumin and tortilla chips, and deep-fried green beans drizzled in bleu cheese, garlic butter and parmesan cheese. Prices range from $4 to $9.
Panini sandwich options include a smoked mozzarella caprese panini, spicy steak, a fajita melt, a flatbread panini and a pulled-pork poutine panini. Prices range from $8 to $10. The pizza menu includes a beef Wellington white pizza; a roasted corn with caramelized onion, thyme, and bacon pizza; and a fig, gorgonzola, caramelized onion and maplewood-bacon pizza. Prices range from $8 to $10.
Dessert options include chocolate peanut-butter mousse, chocolate cherry cordial and chocolate turtle torte for $5 to $7.
Although its grapevines are too young to produce, the winery has its own wines. It produces a Buckeye Lake Winery Lake View white, pinot grigio, chardonnay, Lake View red, zinfandel and two cabernet sauvignons.
Tracy Higginbotham contracted with 13 vineyards in Napa Valley, going there to harvest, wash, de-stem, and crush the grapes, then to ferment the wine.
"We then bulk-shipped the young wine back to Ohio for blending and aging, bottling and labeling," he said. "Starting this fall, we will do more of that on site."
Eventually, they will grow all their grapes on site as well. He has been planting the acres around the restaurant with grapevines, which can take about five years before they produce.
Buckeye Lake Winery probably involved more work than most restaurants to get up and running. "We had to do a lot of land clearing and road building, because this was pure raw land when we started," he said. "It had been farmed until 1992, then left to go wooded. We cleared 5 acres of trees and started building in September."
The couple also dredged the lake up to 90 feet from shore, and installed 36 boat docks so customers could reach them by water.
The result is a space that can seat 200 and be the site of wine tastings and special events.
Buckeye Lake Winery also has a "Wine Cave" retail store, and is selling its wines at a handful of local bars and restaurants.
It is also one of the newest stops on the Capital City Wine Trail.
Buckeye Lake Winery is open on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Higginbotham said they are considering staying open later to meet customer needs. The winery is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.