Whether you like your wine sweet or dry, red or white – there is a wine for everyone! You might be interested in the history of what is in your glass, or maybe you only enjoy a glass while sitting poolside. Perhaps you only have a glass of wine with your dinner each night or use wine to unwind while reading a great novel. Wine is the drink of the world which is why it isn’t surprising that it has its own holiday. National Wine Day, celebrated annually on May 25, is a time to raise a glass and toast to a drink that has brought people together for centuries.
Wine Over the Hillside
Wheeling’s wine history began in 1864 when German pastor, Father John Peter Kreusch started a vineyard on 31-acres of land specifically for alter wine. For over 25 years, his Catawba and Concord grapes grew on his East Wheeling hillside known as Vineyard Hills. Kreush’s grapes provided altar wine for Roman Catholic parishes in the area. Kreusch was a pastor with the St. Alphonsus Parish, located in Center Wheeling.
Kreusch was a pastor for 24 years, but before he ventured into leading the church, he worked in the grape fields of Germany. There were a total of eight vintners in Wheeling at the time, all of which were also German, but Kreusch was the leader of the pack.
While Kreusch was heavily involved in the community, as he began to invest more time into his vineyard he attracted a lot of attention – both positive and negative. After a heavy hailstorm hit the vineyard and damaging much of his crops, the local newspaper had a field day, stating that Kreusch had done too much too quickly and would be a failure.
In 1870, Kreusch was met with a devastating tumble, both literally and figuratively. He became bedridden for seven months due to a fall and his luck seemed to be dwindling rapidly. During that time it was also reported that he was having disturbing hallucinations – as if the tabloids and his collapse weren’t enough!
Although Kreusch was down on his luck, he was a very driven man with more to accomplish. Following his recovery, Kreusch was exceedingly present for the reconstruction of St. Alphonsus Parish from 1871 – 1873, in addition to a nearby schoolhouse. Kreusch would commit all his time to the church and his vineyard for eight more years, until his retirement in 1883.
Though he was actively in contact with community members and well-known and liked by his parish, the hallucinations never fully dissipated from his view. Kreusch spent the next five years tending to his farm overlooking Wheeling on his personal hillside.
On May 9, 1888, Kreusch passed away from what has been described as old age and debility. Vineyard Hills would continue producing grapes for another two years before closing shop. Today, Kreusch would be proud of his hillside. His land now supports residential housing and Grow Ohio Valley, a non-profit that is building thriving communities through local food.
While Kreusch’s property serves new purposes today, there is still abundant life where his grapes used to flourish. I’d like to think that he is still watching over Wheeling, soaking in the sun on his favorite hillside.
Cheers to Bringing People Together
Fast forward to today and wine is still highly appreciated throughout the area. Here in Wheeling, there are several places to find your favorite bottle of vino to celebrate National Wine Day.
After working at Casa di Vino for well over a decade, Corey Manning purchased the business just before Memorial Day in 2019. Coming up on his two-year anniversary of owning this quaint store in Centre Market, Manning plans on offering up some vibrant moscatos for the day’s festivities.
“I have already started putting out moscatos for the summer, which are a hit. We have flavors like passion fruit, mango, strawberries, blueberries, cherries; all that great stuff,” said Manning.
“Lately my biggest seller has been Gladiator Petite Sirah. I sell about three cases a week. It’s a great value and people are really enjoying it.” This popular wine is a bold red that embodies rich notes of dark fruits, oak and grated peppercorns. Manning says this wine would go perfectly with a homecooked meal on the porch with friends and family.
“I definitely think the back deck is a great place to enjoy a bottle. You definitely get the full potential with the bottle by making it an experience and taking your time,” said Manning.
Manning advises that to get the most out of your wine-sipping experience, you should allow time for wine to breathe and to sip slowly.
“The wine has been there for years. Once you open it, that oxygen kicks in and a lot of components come out. Letting your wine breathe can make all the difference.”
While wine can be enjoyed while reading a book or relaxing alone, Manning firmly believes that it is a drink that calls for friendship and storytelling.
“I think definitely the peak in wine and the variety of wine brings people together. I have always thought wine is an uplifting drink and allows people to gather,” said Manning.
Aside from the social aspect that comes with wine drinking, Manning also deeply respects the process of winemaking.
“My favorite aspect of wine is just the dedication it takes to make a bottle — the appreciation of it. I’ll take 10 hours to drink a bottle because of the effort it takes the vineyards and hand harvesting. It’s really amazing.”
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Food and Wine: A Perfect Pairing
While Dominick Cerrone, owner and operator of Good Mansion Wines, hasn’t planned anything specific for National Wine Day, his historic shop will be serving up some of the best wines in the city, as well as some spectacular food and views.
“Being perfectly safe, we have outdoor seating. There’s nothing like a beautiful Victorian streetscape, which we offer,” said Cerrone.
“We have the flowers and the pillars outside and it really is beautiful. It’s a great Wheeling experience and the locals and people from out of town are really thrilled to have that. We have outdoor seating in the rear as well.”
When asked how wine brings people together, the first word that came to mind is one we can all get behind.
“Food! It’s about gathering and enjoying meals. It’s all about breaking bread and drinking wine,” said Cerrone.
“Wine is codependent on food. Wine uniquely is more expressive of its source than alcoholic beverages like liquor. There is beer and bread with grain, but liquors are more isolated from food eating because it’s more of an extracted product. Wine is meant to be with meals, which encourages and embraces being with others.”
“Generally, inexpensive red wines are doing well and it’s kind of broad, but pinot noir has had a lot of interest and some lower-priced Italian reds, Tuscan reds, Tuscana Rosso and so on. First Sunday we will be able to sell wine all day, which will be great.”
Cerrone, much like Manning, has a deep appreciation for not only how wine is created, but its history in Wheeling. Not only that, he believes it should be fully revitalized by whoever is willing to take on the task.
“There’s a demand of a lot of people wanting a local winery. It would be a fantastic opportunity to do some serious vineyards on those slopes,” said Cerrone.
“It makes sense because Kreusch was quite productive and knew what he was doing. He was doing a great volume at the time. It would be great for Wheeling and a great project.”
Cerrone noted that the climate in Wheeling is perfect for the type of vineyard Kreusch had and if he succeeded in the 1800s, then a vineyard could certainly thrive today with the new technology at hand.
“There are these little microclimates in Germany’s valleys and in the Ohio Valley as well. It’s a very German thing and Kreusch had success and he was able to produce. It was a very German way of executing it the way he did. I’m sure that there could be some pretty good wine from that area even now, if not better.”
As Wheeling continues to see new businesses pop up, why not a vineyard?
A Festival for the Grapes
Dalton Haas, founder of the Wheeling Wine Festival, always has his mind working on the next local project. One of the community’s favorites is the Wheeling Wine Festival at Heritage Port.
“I created the Wheeling Wine Festival after visiting Virginia Beach one year and I just happened to go down there when they were having their wine festival,” said Haas.
“Although their festival is a three-day event, I thought that we in Wheeling could definitely do a one-day event. One year later in 2019, the Wheeling Wine Festival was born.”
While there has only been one festival, the second is taking place on Saturday, July 31, 2021. Due to COVID-19, the original date for the second Wheeling Wine Festival was canceled in 2020, but those who purchased tickets for last year’s event can use them this year.
“In our first year, we brought in 2,000 people, and that alone shows the want and need for this type of event in the Ohio Valley,” said Haas.
“We are selling out of the general admission very quickly. We are expecting 2,500 this year, which is still in compliance with the governor’s orders.”
The Wheeling Wine Festival boasts food vendors, craft merchants, and live entertainment. Oh, and did we mention the view overlooking the Ohio River? You won’t want to miss this wine lovers event.
In honor of National Wine Day, Haas is offering a special discount to folks who are interested in attending this year’s Wheeling Wine Festival. Weelunk readers can receive a 10% discount on their admission by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line WWF2021. You can also keep an eye on the Wheeling Wine Festival Facebook page throughout the day as they will be sharing information about flash deals and fun giveaways!
Whether you plan on playing it safe and staying home, visiting your favorite restaurant or spending time with the ones you love — a bottle of your favorite wine will keep your heart happy and your memories abundant.
• With a background in journalism and being a true Wheeling native, Jessica Broverman was destined to work with Weelunk. She holds a degree in journalism with a minor in criminal justice and works with Williams Lea Tag as a legal proofreader. When she isn’t typing away for Weelunk or WLT, she is enjoying a coffee at one of her many favorite spots in Wheeling, spending time with friends, or having fun with her husband Zachary and their two cats, Proctor and Max.