Explore Columbus: Tour an Urban Winery
In a warehouse on the east side of Columbus, there is a winery. Yes, owner and winemaker Kelly Harvey does realize that it is somewhat unexpected. She says that is part of what makes her business so special.
“I have embraced the fact that we are a true urban winery,” says Harvey. “I like being different. I like surprising people when they come in.”
Visitors come to Signature Wines for many reasons but the tours and tastings are the main draw. These are hosted by Harvey herself, the winemaker which is somewhat of a rare treat in the wine industry. In a former part of her life, Harvey was a biologist who worked for the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Her experience in that field makes her tours all the more unique.
“As a biologist, I can go as in depth into the wine making process as the visitor wants,” explains Harvey. “Or not… some people just want to come hang out and taste the wine and that’s fine too. It is whatever the tour group wants.”
The tours can last anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours depending on what kind of tour the group desires. Harvey can talk for hours or simply offer guidance and guests are encouraged to bring their own food and to make a night of it.
“I get a lot of girls-night-outs,” says Harvey with a smile. “You tell a group of women that they can come sample wine with their friends and bring their own food, that will definitely become a three hour tour.”
Guests on these tours get to sample everything that Signature Wines has to offer — the space itself, the educational perspective, and of course the fruit of the vine.
Harvey is a firm believer in education and she wants her guests to be able to learn something by coming to her winery. That’s why, aside from her tours, she also offers food and wine pairing workshops. An ever popular one is the chocolate and wine pairing.
“We actually have a chocolate anthropologist come in,” explains Harvey. “She talks all about the history of cacao in Central and South America while we are eating chocolate and drinking wine. It’s a great, fun way to learn something you might not learn otherwise.”
Not everything at Signature Wines is a class, however. They like to kick back and enjoy the afternoon every now and then. They particularly like to do this at their annual Sangria Festival which takes place in August. This is by far the largest event the winery itself sponsors and last year over 250 people attended. There is a live Latin band, taco trucks and, of course, a Sangria bar.
“You’ve got to come in shorts and a goofy shirt,” advises Harvey. Take note now.
Signature Wines is a fun place to visit and learn a little something about wine making, but it is also a business that strives to stay community oriented and that doesn’t stop at their labels which feature the Columbus skyline.
“I believe very strongly in giving back to the community,” explains Harvey. “I believe whatever you put out you’re going to get back.”
That is why she donates her space, free of charge, to any worthy cause that wants to hold a fundraiser there. She donates her grape skins, which weigh in the tons at the end of the crushing season, to the community gardens around the city for them to use as compost. She encourages groups that host events at the winery to use Freedom A La Cart, an organization that helps lift victims of human trafficking out of their former lives, into gainful employment and drug free living, as their caters. She also makes a point of donating to causes when she can. Though law prohibits her from donating actual wine products, she is happy to give gift certificates for tours to the winery in place of this.
“This is all happening right here in Columbus Ohio,” she says. “We are really trying to show that we are a part of this city.”
Tours and tastings at the winery are $25 per person, with a minimum of four people per group. Special events and fundraisers can be coordinated with Harvey herself. And don’t forget to stop in to buy a bottle of Signature Wine. They can be found in Celebrate Local and at the Wine Bistro but 99% of their sales are direct from the winery itself. That also gives you an opportunity to take advantage of their custom labeling which is available to anyone with no minimum order and at no additional cost. June is Ohio Wine month, plan a visit to Signature Wines in celebration.
For more information, visit www.signaturewinesofohio.com.
Columbus Underground is kicking off the summer with Explore Columbus Week! From June 2nd to June 8th, we’ll be sharing unique places to visit and experiences to have all throughout the region, sponsored by our friends at the Gallerie Bar & Bistro. Gallerie Bar & Bistro proudly embraces Ohio’s rich agricultural heritage and remarkable craftsmanship by featuring items from local farmers and artisans who maintain sustainable practices in the creation their products. Starting July 10, on the second Thursday of each month we are offering a monthly Supper Club for our city to experience creative coursed dinners from the kitchen of Chef Bill Glover and his team matched with unique pairings of wine, spirits, and beer. For more information, or to make a reservation, visit www.galleriebarandbistro.com.