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Ohio: America’s First ‘Napa Valley Region’

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

Ohio: America’s First ‘Napa Valley Region’

Ohio was the birthplace of America’s commercial wine industry. Nicholas Longworth perfected the making of sparkling wine from Catawba grapes in Cincinnati, Ohio. This led to an explosion of vineyards and wineries in the greater Cincinnati area from 1820-1860. In fact, the Ohio River’s banks became known as America’s Rhineland.

Migrating to the Lake Erie Coast

However, in the early 1860s, the Civil War and a fungal disease, known as black rot, took hold and destroyed the wine industry in Cincinnati. Some grape growers migrated north to the Lake Erie islands and Sandusky area. It was discovered that the microclimate from Lake Erie was enough to prevent black rot.

Grape fever took hold, and an even larger growth explosion of vineyards and wineries commenced. By the mid-1870s, the local area truly became America’s first Napa Valley region. No where in North America was there a denser concentration of vineyards and wineries. At that time, there were thousands of acres of grapes under cultivation and over 50 wineries in operation along the Western Basin of Lake Erie.

Catawba Island Wine Company’s Beginnings

A small group of local grape famers pooled their money together and created the Catawba Island Wine Company cooperative. The building construction was started in 1870 and was completed in 1872. This year commemorates the 150-year anniversary of our magnificent Catawba Island treasure, Gideon Owen. We look forward to future blogs and conversations with you so that we can collectively tell the history currently known and perhaps uncover some exciting new revelations that have been buried with the past.

Join the conversation! When did you first start visiting the area or Gideon Owen? What family traditions do you celebrate while here? Share your stories in the comments below.

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My husband and I started coming here over 40 yrs ago,when we dated. After building our family and several moves, including the Northeast and Central OH, we decided to retire here, as we loved it so much! We love what Catawba has to offer and what you and others have successfully built in our community.


Love the history, and live our “G.O”.♥️

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