Cozy Winery Amongst the Corn
Whether it is a warm summer evening or a chilly spring/fall day you are guaranteed to find a decent crowd of people visiting Majestic Oak Winery in Grand Rapids Ohio.The rapidly growing winery located six miles north of downtown Grand Rapids, has made incredible changes since the first vines were planted in 2010, now offering nearly 18 different wines on site. Expansion has even allowed for the addition of The Neon Groundhog Brewing Company to provide both beer and wine options to visitors of the vineyard. Although Ohio may not be the first place you think of when you think “wine country”, we have well over 100 wineries in the state and additional ones popping up from year to year, allowing you to find really good wine right here in Ohio. This is partially what prompted Laura and Doug Rufenacht to create this delightful, comfortable space right here in Northwest Ohio.
Back in 2009, Doug and Laura set out on a mission to visit many of the Ohio destinations they just never got around to going to. Those places that make you say “We really need to check that place out,” but never seem to visit. One of their stops was to a winery near the Indiana border where they met the owners, and in the words of Doug and Laura they jokingly “Fell into the wrong crowd.” Soon enough they were back home in Grand Rapids researching how to operate an Ohio Winery. Fluctuating temperatures, late hard frosts, and unpredictable seasons were, and continue to be, the challenges they were up against. They had to move quickly as they need to order grapes in the fall to plant them for the next season. Luckily, Doug is no stranger to farming. So, they planted 500 individual grapevine plants the first year, 1000 the second year to bring Majestic Oak Winery to just over two acres of planted vineyard.
By 2013, Majestic Oak Winery was ready to harvest and produce their wines to offer to the general public. The newly built tasting room was open, and after much trial and error while perfecting their starter wine blends they were proud to be serving their carefully cultivated juice straight away. They grew out of their novice status pretty fast. While continuing to welcome wisdom and advice from other regional wineries, Doug and Laura learned the pruning, weeding, and pest control skills necessary for running a successful winery. From all nighters combatting frost, to the hot summer days spent picking off unwanted bugs, the job was never easy. “As much work as it is, [we] love what [we] do,” says Laura. “I love the people aspect, to see it enjoyed first hand.”
As a small business, Majestic Oak realizes the importance of being local. From exclusively using Toledo made Libbey Glassware, to being very selective on where they sell their wine, Laura and Doug are focused on the business of bringing people together. While you can’t find their wine at the Andersons, you can find it in places that encourage interaction with other local business owners. Thrush’s Bakery (Monclova), Cookies on Demand (Montpelier), The Log Cabin (Liberty Center), Knucklehead’s Kafé (Grand Rapids), Brooks Country Mercantile (Neapolis) and the Whitehouse Party Store were selected to carry Majestic Oak Wines because they believe in “supporting local by eating local, and enjoying local wine in a local restaurant.”
With great public response, and largely word of mouth advertising, it didn’t take long to realize they needed more space. Every year they add an additional place for guest to enjoy, indoors and out. Live music events have also brought patrons out in large numbers. They host large groups on Ohio wine tours and through Harvest Host, a camping club that caters to individuals looking to glamp and stay at wineries across the United States. Friday Night Cookouts give visitors the opportunity to grill fresh, wild caught Alaskan salmon, or a ribeye steak out on the patio though the summer and enjoy a bottle of wine on a nice summer evening. Lent brings fish fry season, and numerous other events that make this winery far more than you average place to taste and buy wine.
2015 brought the addition of the brewery. “We like to do things as a couple,” says Doug when I asked “why add in beer?”. “It gives the opportunity to meet the other side of the couple.” With the growing trend toward craft beer, Majestic Oak began the Neon Groundhog Brewery to meet the needs of more visitors who weren’t particularly keen on wine. The beer is made from grains milled on site, and grain waste is recycled by being offered as a food source to livestock.
Having enjoyed several bottles of Majestic Oak wine over the past couple years, I can honestly say it’s tried and true in our household. Our first experience with Majestic Oak wine was having a glass while celebrating our anniversary at the Mill House Bed and Breakfast in Grand Rapids, Ohio. Sitting on the lovely patio of the B&B on a late spring evening, listening to the river and drinking a fruity but full bodied glass of wine was delightful. We asked about this winery we had never heard of, and the owners of the B&B (also delightful), told us they were new and how close they were. Soon, I began seeing posts on Facebook from family and friends. They loved how close it was to Toledo, and how much they were truly enjoying the wine Majestic Oak was producing. The following summer we made our way to the winery itself (google map link here). We sat outside in the sunshine, we enjoyed a large tasting and snacks; it was a wonderful afternoon with my husband. We have returned several times since and the only thing better than the wine itself, is seeing all different sorts of visitors having a good time as well.
Comfortable is the term most commonly used to describe the winery. From Bachelorette parties and girl’s night out, to cook-off competitions, and craft beer tasting, this is the kind of place that you can enjoy year-round and come-as you are. You can sit and sip wine under the large majestic oak, or enjoy music and food trucks on the weekends. It’s the experience you want it to be.
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