People don’t realize it,” Bill Skvarla says, inspecting his latest barrel of Woodwind, a fruit-forward blend that’s a favorite of dry white drinkers. “But Cincinnati, to this day, is considered the birthplace of the American wine industry.” What once was a thriving land of hillside vineyards is now a shadow of its former self, but boutique wineries like Skvarla’s Harmony Hill are keeping the tradition of locally grown, locally enjoyed wine alive. Skvarla and his wife, Patti, planted every one of the 3,500 vines on their property by hand. In years since, they’ve hired help—Bill still won’t trust anyone else with the pruning—to meet the demands of a growing business, but the operation remains intensely small-scale. A wine connoisseur’s trip to Harmony Hill isn’t complete without a visit to the wine cave, tucked discreetly into a man-made hillside. When they outgrew their renovated barn space, the Skvarlas went underground, building the cave piece by piece with the help of a Kentucky-based construction company. Each arched segment of the structure weighs 30,000 pounds, meaning the assembly took a village (and a giant crane). Today, it houses some of Harmony Hill’s finest blends, keeping every barrel at a crisp 45 degrees. We’ll cheers to that.
Harmony Hill Vineyards, 2534 Swings Corner Point Isabel Rd, Bethel, (513) 734-3548