Nothing to wine about

Joanne Bello

Viking Vineyards and Winery attracts younger crowd with alternative to the traditional bar scene

Viking Vineyards and Winery located in Brimfield offers a quiet lake view atmosphere where you can bring your own food and taste a variety of wines. For more information visit their Web site at

Credit: Ben Breier

This time of the year, leaves are changing colors and we are saying goodbye to last hopes of warm weather. Shades of red and orange blanket the trees, making a particularly lovely view as you drive past the city limits into a rural setting.

It is at this time of the year that vineyards and wineries are harvesting grapes to make wines for next season. Viking Vineyards and Winery in Kent are no different.

As one drives down the long dirt road toward the vineyard, the sweet aroma of grapes from the winery fills the air. The curly tendrils from each vine form an untidy row as they overlook the nearby lake.

Jeff and Dana Nelson have owned and operated Viking Vineyards since November 1999. The couple met in 1997 when Dana was working for The Timken Company and Jeff was working as an environmental consultant. Both were doing heavy traveling and wanted to spend more time together, so they decided since they both love making wine and visiting vineyards, opening a winery and vineyard of their own would be a great way to be together.

The Nelsons are finding that more people are discovering that vineyards are an alternative to bars and restaurants. The vineyard offers much more than just wine.

“More and more people are becoming aware of wineries,” Dana said. “We are getting more people in their early to late 20s here.”

The busy season for the vineyard begins in April and continues through New Year’s.

Along with its fall festivities, the vineyard also offers wine tasting for singles and groups.

The winery makes and sells all of its own wines. The Nelsons grow three different types of grapes at the vineyard, including Vidal Blanc, Traminette and Lemberger. Vidal Blanc and Traminette are used for white wine and Lemberger is used to make a red wine.

“The hardest part about starting the vineyard was finding the right location,” Nelson said. “The soil has to be just right, and you have to make sure you’re not in a dry county.”

The vineyard will be celebrating its six-year anniversary this Friday and Saturday by treating visitors to free hors d’oeuvres. Along with the hors’ d’oeuvres, guests can register to win a $20 gift certificate.

The inspiration for the vineyard’s name came from Jeff Nelson’s family heritage.

“Jeff’s family heritage is Swedish,” Dana said. “Because there were a lot of Vikings related to the heritage, we just thought the name would fit.”

When guests walk into the Tasting Room, they will notice an ornate stained glass window ornament hanging from the front window. The picture in the glass is a Viking ship that a customer created for them.

The Nelsons designed the Viking ship that appears on all of the labels and graphics associated with the vineyard.

According to Tom Schmidlin, geography professor at Kent State, the reason for the increase in the younger population visiting wineries may be because there are more opportunities in the corporate world for younger people.

“Students want to know about the geography of wine because they are being put into more social settings where wine is the appropriate drink,” Schmidlin said. “Whether they are with potential employers, employees or just socializing with friends, students want to be knowledgeable about wine before going into the event.”

Kent State offers a class about the geography of wine. Along with the class, the university also offers workshops that take people to different vineyards to taste wine and enjoy the winery for a day.

Most people who start drinking wine like only sweet wines because the country is so used to drinking pop, Schmidlin said. It takes people a while to take a liking to drier wines.

“It’s a mature, pricey place to go if you have the money and you know how to enjoy good wine,” said Whitney Dutton, junior business management major who has had the vineyard experience. “It helps if you know the differences in wine.”

Viking Vineyards has more than 15 varieties of wine to choose from and bottles close to 4,000 gallons of wine every year. The average bottle costs around $12, but prices vary with each type of wine. The vineyard’s Ice Wine was the gold medal winner at the 2004 Ohio Wine Competition.

“Wine is a part of the culture,” Schmidlin said. “It is part of the food experience, language and landscape.”

This is the time of year when vineyards are harvesting their grapes to make wine. Grape picking, crushing and pressing begins at the end of August and can last through the middle of October.

Most of the Eastern region grapes are found in the northern Ohio and Great Lakes regions and in Concord, Niagara, Delaware and Steuben.

Contact features correspondent Joanne Bello at [email protected].