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'Bringing back lost history': Winemaking returns to Catawba with new red blend

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

On March 14, 2022, the Port Clinton News Herald published 'Bringing Back Lost History,' sharing Gideon Owen's 150-year history and release of the G.O. new red blend. Special thank you to Sheri Trusty, Correspondent, for writing the article and taking the pictures.

CATAWBA ISLAND — Little by little, Quintin and Donna Smith have

pulled bits of Catawba Islands’ smoldering fruit and wine history from the ashes.

They restored and expanded an ailing fruit farm they renamed Quinstock, filling its fields with new fruit trees and grape vines. They built Twin Oast Brewing in the midst of a working orchard to create public attachment to the land. Finally, they purchased the former Mon Ami Restaurant and transformed it into Gideon Owen Wine Company, breathing new, modern life into the 1872 building and cellars while simultaneously protecting its historic significance.

This year, during the winery’s 150th anniversary, the Smiths restored another integral part of Catawba’s history, the return of commercial wine production. On March 1, Gideon Owen released its new 2019 Red Blend, a unique wine crafted from a variety of grapes by Gideon Owen Winemaker Margot Federkiel.

18 years of winemaking experience

“One of our goals was to bring winemaking back to Catawba,” Donna said. “Margot brought to the team the palette to do that.”

Federkiel has nearly 18 years of winemaking experience. She earned a degree in enology and viticulture from California State University, Fresno, where she had the opportunity to train in the university’s wine sensory lab. From there, she was able to grow and diversify her training by working in wine cellars in the Napa Valley and then through employment with one of Anderson Valley’s oldest family-run wineries. Next, she spent three years as head winemaker at a Carmel Valley winery before moving to Ohio.

Federkiel pulled together nuances of different wines as she crafted Gideon Owen’s Red Blend, which is a blend of 47% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 26% Cabernet Franc.

“I work kind of intuitively. I tasted from five barrels and three tanks and noticed one’s a little herbal, one’s a little spicy, one has a subtle complexity,” Federkiel said. “This is just an easy-drinking red blend. You can serve it chilled in summer or at room temperature in winter.”

Gideon Owen’s Red Blend was crafted from grapes grown at Debonne Vineyards, and this year is starting to work with Brad Verhoff’s vineyard in Bellevue. The Smiths are dedicated to utilizing Ohio-grown grapes until their own vineyard is ready for harvest.

Plan is to press grapes from own vineyard

“We’ll be pressing grapes from our vineyard possibly in 2023,” said Matt Leeland, general manager of Gideon Owen Wine Company. In the future, the Smiths hope that wine production will be contained completely on their grounds. In the meantime, they will produce wine like the Red Blend, which was aged in French oak barrels in Gideon Owens’ historic cellars.

“Our cellars are unique to the world, so to use the cellars to store the wine is a really special thing,” Donna said. “We’re trying to make the cellars more accessible. In the future, we want to offer tours of the vineyard and cellars so people can touch the grapes and walk in the cellars and experience the different stages of wine production.”

Customers can get a peek into the historic cellars by attending Friday night Cellar Bar Speakeasy events. The 1920s-model Speakeasy is one more way the Smiths are tying the past to the present. Catawba has a rich fruit and wine history that stemmed from the island’s distinctive microclimate influenced by its proximity to the lake.

“We’ve been digging into the history and learning how amazing this area was for grape-growing. It’s a very unique climate and soil,” Quintin said. “Now, to be able to replant with varietals they didn’t have in the 1880s is exciting.”

It is exciting for the community as well, which will be enriched by the Smiths’ efforts to intertwine the island’s past with its present and future.

'We're bringing back lost history'

“We’re bringing back lost history,” Leeland said. “Quintin is being a good steward of the land and the history.”

That stewardship could impact the public’s conception of winemaking in Ohio.

“Ohio is seventh in wineries in the country. You just have to do things a little differently here,” Federkiel said. “I think we’re going to put Ohio back on the map.”

The 2019 Red Blend wine is available on tap at Gideon Owen Wine Company in The Chalet and the Tirage Wine Bar. For more information on dining, wine, ongoing events and upcoming 150th anniversary celebrations, visit

*Picture at Gideon Owen was taken by Sheri Trusty, Port Clinton News Herald Correspondent.

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