Editor’s Letter, October 2019: Celebrating Winemaking and Distilling

I feel like we’re enjoying a golden age of appreciation for Cincinnati heritage, a time when past accomplishments that once were forgotten or dismissed are celebrated with modern twists.
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Illustration by Lars Leetaru

We hear a lot about Cincinnati’s beer heritage these days, and deservedly so. Thanks to hard work by a dedicated core of beer enthusiasts, history buffs, and real estate developers, abandoned bottling plants are humming again, tour groups explore “lagering” tunnels deep in Over-the-Rhine basements, and practically every neighborhood bar serves local craft brands.

I feel like we’re enjoying a golden age of appreciation for Cincinnati heritage, a time when past accomplishments that once were forgotten or dismissed are celebrated with modern twists. It’s only been over the past 10 to 15 years, really, that we’ve breathed life back into the German immigrant tradition that spawned famous breweries; the compact OTR neighborhood where those Germans first settled; the national significance of Music Hall and its performance partners; and our role as the birthplace of professional sports. Unique is an overused word, but these novel movements made Cincinnati a major city in the 1800s—a position that slowly eroded as Americans pushed west and a general civic conservatism and modesty took hold.

You can add two more endeavors to the list of Cincinnati heritage movements worth celebrating: winemaking and distilling. Akshay Ahuja’s “Grape Expectations” feature story takes us back to when Cincinnati was a winemaking capital of the U.S., thanks to Nicholas Longworth’s vast vineyards, which stretched from what is now Mt. Adams to Columbia-Tusculum. The Skeleton Root Winery is recreating the dry sparkling wine Longworth made from Catawba grapes 150 years ago—literally resurrecting a taste of the past.

I had no idea of the extent of craft winemaking and distilling across the region until diving into this month’s cover package, “Wine & Spirits.” You’ll discover a slew of wineries worth visiting, including a tour of nine Northern Kentucky spots offering a wide variety of reds, whites, and everything in between; a step-by-step look at how bourbon is made; and recommendations for stocking your home bar cart with nothing but locally produced spirits. Let’s raise a glass to Cincinnati!

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