Heineman Winery is a very special place on Put-in-Bay. Really, you won’t find anywhere like it in the whole world! This winery is the only one on the island that makes wine with its own grapes. Plus it is home to the largest geode in the world! How amazing is that? A visit to Heineman’s Winery an absolute must during an island vacation.
Heineman Winery History
The oldest winery on Put-in-Bay, Heineman’s was founded in 1888 by German immigrant Gustav Heineman. Hailing from the wine region of Baden, Gustav brought his winemaking techniques to this highly specialized region.
With the tempering effect from Lake Erie, the growing season is longer than the mainland. Coupled with ideal soil conditions, this was a match made in winemaking heaven.
By 1900, there were 16 other wineries in operation on the island. However, they would all meet a similar fate during Prohibition save for Heineman’s. With the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919, these wineries didn’t last long.
Thanks for Heineman’s unique property and some ingenious thinking from Norman Heineman’s, Gustav’s son, Heineman was able to survive those 13 long years. Norman started selling tickets to the Crystal Cave to show off the geodes and other amazing features of the cave including the strontium sulfate, a bluish mineral called celestite, celestine crystals, and of course, the giant geode.
Norman also made unfermented wine juice and ran a taxi service on the island. Along the way the crystals were also harvested to make fireworks, increasing the cave’s size to what visitors see today.
The Wine at Heineman Winery
The third, fourth, and fifth Heineman generations continue to run the winery to this day. They cultivate their own grapes, allowing them “vine to wine” quality control. The native grapes grown on South Bass are Labrusca and the two major varieties are Concord and Catawba. These varieties are are used in the creation of the most popular wine, the Pink Catawba.
- Watersnake Noiret
- Sweet Catawba
- White Riesling
- Island Chablis
- Crystal Cave Champagne
Heineman’s produces both wines made from single grapes known as Varietal and blends like Sauterne and Burgundy, names that denote their classical heritage. Known for their sweet wines, they also produce a range of wine in various degrees of sweetness to satisfy all taste buds. During bottling season, locals and visitors alike lend a hand.
Visitors can tour the winery and then enjoy a glass in their charming Wine Garden. Enjoy a tasting or a whole glass along with cheese plates at this oasis tucked away from the busier downtown.
The gift shop sells bottles of wine as well a Crystal Cave souvenirs. Buy a few bottles to take back to your vacation home and a few more to take back to the mainland. Please be advised that Heineman’s can only ship within Ohio.
Wine can be shipped year round. The winery itself is open from mid April to October. Tours of the winery and cave are $8 for adults and $4 for children.