HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP — Matt Meineke used to spend his days elbow-deep in grease and Volkswagens, dreaming of long rows a of grapes and tall glasses of Riesling as he changed oil and checked tire pressure.
Matt took his passion for wine and his vision for the future of Ashtabula County viticulture and turned it into M Cellars, the county’s newest winery in the heart of the Grand River Valley.
“Our goal is to make the best wines the area can produce,” he said, “wines that are a true expression of our land.”
“We started out in the most humble of ways,” Meineke said. “We started out making wine in our own kitchen, just as a hobby. But that small start piqued our interest and we took our time and we learned how to make really good, fruit-forward wines that show off the best of the region.”
It has been a whirlwind year for Matt and his wife, Tara. They purchased the 12.6 acres of prime vineyard of South River Road six years ago and waited until they could make their dreams come true. As they built the winery and wine production building at the front of the property and dug deep into the harvest, Tara gave birth to their daughter, Amelia, in June.
“Everything about this process just felt right,” Tara Meineke said. “Every step we took along this journey, I just wanted more. We always kept the big picture in the front of our minds.”
That journey for Matt and Tara began with ripping out what was already planted — the concord and Niagara grapes already growing on the land would not support Matt’s wine making vision of fully balanced, smooth, sophisticated vintages.
The Meinekes grow Reisling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, petite Vedona, Grüner Veltliner, and Chardonnay grapes in dense occupation, which means a smaller fruit yield, but a higher quality wine, Matt Meineke said.
Considered a “boutique winery,” M Cellars produces 10,000 gallons of wine, most fermented in Hungarian Oak barrels.
From the first Concord vine that hit the ground to the first pour of his first vintage, Matt said M Cellars has been a labor of love and a leap of faith. The winery at 6793 S. River Road has been open for just 10 weeks.
“We have such an excellent location,” Matt said. “This is a busy road and we are in between some really excellent wineries. People are finding us.”
The 2011 vintage was started at other wineries, but completed at the new M Cellars. Matt said he is “beyond proud” of what he was able to produce in the first year of production, but looks forward to unveiling the 2012 vintages, all made start-to-finish in Harpersfield Township.
Open just 10 weeks, M Cellars offers a full wine list, a cozy fireplace and plenty of seating. Food options are limited to a cheese and cracker plate, but the Meineke’s are looking forward to fully catered dinners and events in the summer.
To celebrate business in the winter, the Meinekes’ will host a Valentine’s Day dinner catered by C Tavern. The meal includes a shrimp appetizer, mixed greens salad’ the choice of tenderloin in wild mushroom demi glaze, tenderloin in a barbecue glaze, salmon or scallops; a bottle of wine and a “Cleveland Brownies” dessert. Musician Phil Turk will provide entertainment. Cost is $88 per couple, and seating is limited to 50 people.
For more information on M Cellars, follow them on Facebook, visit www.mcellars.com, or call 361-4104. Hours of operation are Thursday noon to 6 p.m., Friday noon to 7 p.m., Saturday noon to 7 p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.