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Via Vecchia Winery Relocates to Brewery District

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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Via Vecchia Winery was founded in a Powell basement in 2005 by three guys with a passion for wine making. Five years later, the business is moving into a much larger facility located at 485 South Front Street in the heart of the Brewery District.

The new building will serve as a production facility, a weekend wine bar, a retail shop and a rentable special event location. “We’re keeping the speakers and lighting systems for entertainment, bands, poetry readings, weddings, corporate events and whatever else we want to do,” said co-founder Michael Elmer.

Most recently, this location was home to nightclubs including Major Woody’s (which closed in August 2008) and Ludlow’s Bar before that. Via Vecchia is planning on being open by Red White & Boom and is promising a more sophisticated experience.

“Our tasting room will be open to the public on Friday & Saturday nights and will include a small kitchen for small plates and antipasto,” said Michael. “We’re also looking to partner with other local business like Sugardaddy’s to feature local dessert products to pair with our wines.”

The back room of the building will double as a place for barreled wine to age and for additional event space, while the front of the room will provide a retail area for customers to purchase wines. Currently, Via Vecchia wines can be found at Whole Foods stores throughout Ohio, and also in several shops and restaurants in the Cleveland area.

“We’re kind of an underground winery right now,” added Michael. “A lot of people don’t know about us yet, but last year we brought in 9 tons of grapes and this year we’re jumping up to 18 tons, so we’re going from 5,000 bottles to 10,000 bottles.”

Via Vecchia’s grapes are imported from California where they are then processed locally.

“We’re proud of the fact that we import quality grapes from California because we’re not farmers, and never wanted to be,” explained Michael. “We concentrate on perfecting the wine, so that’s the idea behind the urban winery. We’re really excited to offer this concept to Columbus as a lot of other large metropolitan cities already have urban wineries.”

The four signature red wines offered by Via Vecchia include: Travato, Adamo, Jorro-Ma and Trouvé.

“Via Vecchia means ‘The Old Way’ in Italian, and that’s what our process is,” said Michael. “The only thing we add to our wine is the minimal amount of sulfites, well below the ‘organic’ level. We were contacted by the international Slow Foods organization to display our labels in an expo in Milan, Italy because we have a heritage process. One of my partners spent a lot of time in Tuscany in a small Italian Village, and he brought this process back with him.”

In addition to the regular ongoing production, Via Vecchia is planning on offering a few different ways for the community to participate in the process.

“We’re already thinking about a grape stomping festival down here in the Brewery District,” said Michael. “We’re also looking to do a ‘custom crush’, where a group can take part in every step from the crush to the fermentation to the aging to the bottling.”

While a winery may sound like a slight mismatch in a neighborhood known for its history of beer brewing, Michael seems confident that the area will embrace their concept.

“We’re excited to get opened up because I do remember what this area was like in its heyday,” he explained. “It’s kind of sad right now because there are thousands of residents in this area, all within walking distance, and there’s hardly anything around here to do. Once Shadowbox is able to move down here, I think we’ll see some definite synergies between the both of our businesses.”

“I”m just very thankful for the Wasserstrom family who owns this building,” added Michael. “They see the value in what we do, and that’s very exciting for us.”

More information can be found online at www.viavecchiawinery.com.

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