By Matt Reese
Vanilla ice cream paired with chocolate sauce, a hamburger hot of the grill paired with a fresh sliced garden tomato, watermelon in a bowl of mixed fruit, sweet corn paired with pretty much anything — the summer months have arrived and so has my hankering for delicious food combinations I seek out during this wonderful time of year. Not to be outdone, though, is maybe the most popular pairing of all — wine and cheese.
Of course, June is Dairy Month, and a great time to enjoy dairy products of all
“June Dairy Month was started in 1937 — and that means this year marks the 75th anniversary of this celebration,” said Jenny Hubble, vice president of communication for American Dairy Association Mideast. “June Dairy Month was initially created to stabilize dairy demand during periods of peak production but has now developed into an annual tradition to honor our dairy industry and the many contributions it makes. Locally, we are leveraging the observance of June Dairy Month to remind consumers about the importance of getting three servings of dairy every day. We are also launching some new elements to our Meet Ohio Dairy Farmers campaign.”
And, with a more recent designation signed by Governor John Kasich earlier this month, June is also Ohio Wine Month. The new designation represents much more than just another excuse to enjoy wine and cheese in combination. Ohio Wine Month represents the explosion of wineries in the state producing wines that are of world-class quality.
The official Ohio designation has been in the works for many years. In 1978, soon after an association of wineries was formed, a group of industry leaders decided it was time to tell the story of the then fledgling industry. With 13 Ohio wineries, the small group started Ohio Wine Week in June to kick off the summer tourist season.
In 2012, the industry has come together to create the biggest and best June Wine Month ever. Many of the more than 160 family wineries currently in the state have special events planned. Other wineries are focusing on tasting room educational opportunities or simply sharing their own special brand of hospitality. In addition, restaurants and grocery stores are offering special tastings. Wine related festivals, trail events, concerts and contests are also plentiful in June.
“Perhaps the best-kept secret in Ohio agriculture is its thriving grape and wine industry. Ohio’s 162 wineries incorporate 1,600 acres of grapes that produce more than 1 million gallons of wine each year. Wineries, located all over the state, offer wine tastings, educational day trips, and tours to educate about the art of winemaking and the top quality of Ohio wines,” said David T. Daniels, Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. “During the last 10 years, Ohio’s wine industry has grown significantly. According to a 2008 Economic Impact report, Ohio’s grape and wine industry generates more than $580 million in economic activity that supports local communities while producing a superior agricultural product. The Ohio grape and wine industry also employs more than 4,100 people, providing a payroll of $124.2 million.”
Wine making has almost always been a part of Ohio’s history, but has only recently moved to the national, and international, levels.
“Ohio has a long and proud history of wine production. As early as the 1800s, early settlers to this region were exploring Ohio winemaking, especially along the Ohio River. The first successful commercial winemaker in the U.S. was Ohioan Nicholas Longworth of Cincinnati,” Daniels said. “Ohio’s wine industry thrived and became the leading producer of wines in the U.S. until around 1890, when the Civil War made manpower scarce and disease and mildew destroyed most of the region’s grape vines. Today, I am proud that we’re regaining ground in this industry that has been lost in the past 100 years. Ohio’s wine industry is now the fourth largest in the eastern United States and is known nationally and internationally for excellence.”
And, while the popular pairing of wine and cheese can be enjoyed all year long, there is no better time than June to celebrate these two world-class products of agricultural Ohio.