From the classroom to the vineyards: Kent State student opens winery

10/13/16 Winery

10/13/16 Winery

Samantha Ickes

When Lori Albrecht saw the historic home at 1316 Park Ave. in Ashtabula for sale, she envisioned a place where young artists like her daughter could display their work, where friends could gather for an afternoon glass of wine, and where she could finally live her dream of owning a winery.

A current student in Kent State Ashtabula’s wine program, Albrecht launched Park Avenue Winery, Gallery and Gift more in May 2015. Albrecht left her job at Case Western Reserve University as an information technology manager to pursue her dream.

“It’s been a passion of mine for a while, so this was a great opportunity,” Albrecht said. “I’ve made my own wine for years — wine and beer. It’s just something that I’m passionate about and wanted to pursue. I just figured, I’m not getting any younger.”

Albrecht takes at least two classes per semester, double majoring in viticulture and enology. Wednesday through Saturday, however, Albrecht spends her days at the winery, which offers flat bread pizzas, soups and cheeses to pair with the wines.

“The program at Kent (State) has helped in a lot of ways,” Albrecht said. “One of them is quality and knowing how to create a consistent product because there’s a lot of lab work in winemaking. There is a lot of chemistry involved in getting a perfect product.”

For Albrecht, Kent State Professor of enology Edward Trebets and Professor of viticulture Eric Cotton have been extremely helpful when it comes to the chemistry portion of winemaking.

Cotton said winemaking is both an art and a science. He teaches his students to use both techniques when coming up with wine recipes. The science part of winemaking allows the grapes to be picked at the right time to produce a wine with a balance between sugar and acidity.

Albrecht transferred to Kent State’s wine program from University California, Davis’ online program. Albrecht felt Kent State’s program fit her needs as a winery owner because it focused on the needs of vineyard and wineries in Northeast Ohio, while UC Davis focused on California grapes.

Park Avenue Winery is classified as an “urban winery” because of its downtown location and, unlike wineries outside of town, Albrecht’s winery does not have an onsite vineyard. Her winery is currently a small, family-run business between herself and her children. Park Avenue Winery produces about 1,000 gallons of wine annually.

The winery offers seven wines: four sweet and semi-sweet wines and three dry wines. Albrecht started her business with mostly dry wines, but added sweet wines after hearing feedback from customers.

“If you take a room and you put 25 people in it and you give them all the same wine, you’re going to get some people who think it’s great wine, some people who think it’s bad wine, some people who think it’s OK,” Cotton said. “The wine is the same. It’s the people that are different. I think that’s something a lot of winemakers discover.”

Cotton emphasized the importance of having a “spectrum” of wines because if a group of friends come into a winery to find only dry wine when two out of the five like sweet wine, that group might leave and go to another location.

“You have to kind of cater to everybody,” Albrecht said. “The second year I’ve been focusing on the sweeter wine to draw that traffic in and to appeal to the millennials. I’m getting pretty good feedback.”

Samantha Ickes is a features correspondent, contact her at [email protected].