A Hometown Wedding: *Print Goes to Catawba

{Courtesy *Print}

As soon as the weather begins to warm and the sun shines bright in a clear blue sky, my mind immediately goes to my childhood. I grew up in a small community on Lake Erie, so the coming summer meant a huge influx of tourism (it IS the Walleye Capital, you know..), cute vacationing boys, lots of swimming, bike riding, roller skating (oh we miss you Gem Beach Roller Rink), fish frys, fresh sweet corn and peaches and the Catawba Island Fire Department Chicken Dinner. Nothing, to this day, makes me smile more than coming in over Sandusky Bay Bridge on a sunny, summer day, rolling down the windows and smelling deep the fresh Lake air.

My lovely D. happened upon these shots from Christa, our wedding photographer at *Print (holla!) and lo and behold -- they were shot at Mon Ami Restaurant & Winery on Catawba Island (and not too far from where D. proposed!)

How cool is that?!
This is one of my favorite shots...with the huge wine casks. Gorgeous. The limestone barrel arch of the ceiling makes for a great shot, too.

A little bit about the history of Catawba Island, as it relates to wine:

Grape growing became an important part of Catawba’s economy when Nicholas Longworth, of Cincinnati, brought the first Catawba Grape vines here from North Carolina. The first commercial grape business was started in 1860 by Mr. Henry Ellithorp and Mr. H. Newton. Others followed, and in 1862 the largest number of vines were owned by P.E. Andrews. In 1871 there were 345 acres of vineyards, and by 1874 there were 6—acres producing grapes. The Catawba Wine Company had a cellar of 130,000-gallon capacity.

The Mon Ami Winery was built in 1871, and has had many owners. Norman Mantey converted the first floor of the winery to a restaurant, which he called The Mon Ami Champagne Company."

And a bit more about the crazy popular peach crop that started after the grape phenom:

"Apple and peach orchards were started commercially in the 1870’s. Fruit was shipped out by boat and railroad in huge quantities, and Catawba produce enjoyed a fine reputation in the cities. There are still many acres planted in fruit trees, but now many of the buyers come to the area to make their purchases."

This paragraph doesn't really do it justice, so here's a bit more:

"A seeming misnomer lurks in the appellation “Catawba,” as applied to the island when its surface was covered with vineyards - the Catawba grape figuring most prominently and suggesting the name, once appropriate; but having passed through an evolutionary period, the island is now transformed into a paradise of peach orchards, such as can be found in no other portion of Ohio. Few, indeed, are the vineyards found at the present date on Catawba. The few that still remain show many peach trees planted between the rows. When these come into bearing, the vines will be dug out.

J. W. Gamble and A. S. Reynolds each planted about 1000 peach trees on Catawba about thirty-five years ago, this being the first attempt there to raise peaches for market, and their neighbors called them “crazy.” The experiment worked so well, however, that hundreds of vineyards were subsequently uprooted to make room for peach trees.

J. W. Gamble had been engaged in orcharding for quite a number of years in Highland County, Ohio, previous to 1861 and left a fine peach orchard just coming into bearing to enlist in the 2nd O. V. I., which was later engaged at the battle of “Bull's Run.” The two men above mentioned were the pioneers of peach culture on Catawba Island."

{Text found here and here}

So, here's what I suggest. This summer, when you're planning your next "staycation" in or near Ohio, pack your swim suit and head up to Lake Erie, stay in Port Clinton, feast on amazing fresh fish, swim in the lake (and don't be a sissy about it), visit Bergman's Orchard for the best peaches you'll ever eat in this lifetime (and support a local farm), grab a glass of wine and dinner at Mon Ami and grab some beers on Put-in-Bay. There isn't a better way to spend a weekend, I promise!


Anonymous said...

Indeed! Whoo hoo! You should get a big time nod from their Chamber of Commerce - but you are sooooo right on about that perfect weekend!

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