On January 17, the same sorry group of TTA miscreants (John and George, again ably assisted by Rod Gossett and Bruce Lathrop) backtracked a bit to Valley Vineyards, a classic winery well known in the Cincinnati metro area for some decades now. Located on US Rt. 22 in a charming rural European-style building, Valley Vineyards can be accessed from the trail by following Stubbs Mill Road for half a mile south to its intersection with Rt. 22, and then turning left onto Rt. 22 for a few hundred yards. Traffic on Stubbs Mill Road typically is light, but Rt. 22 is usually heavily traveled, so caution definitely is in order. An unpaved farm road parallels Rt. 22 on its north side for perhaps half the distance from the Stubbs Mill Road intersection to the Valley Vineyards building, and affords a means of avoiding at least some of the traffic on Rt. 22. We all agreed that given its location, trail users should consider Valley Vineyards after a day on the trail returning to either the Morrow parking lot or any of the nearby southern parking areas.
Known for its award winning wines and weekend steak, shrimp and salmon dinner cookouts, recently Valley Vineyards expanded its horizons by offering lunch fare and opening an on-site microbrewery, Cellar Dweller. Beers, wines and lunch items can be ordered at the beer bar (there is no table service) and consumed in the adjacent cozy tasting room. The lunch menu is limited (7 appetizers; 5 pizzas and 2 desserts), but offers some unique and intriguing dishes.
After given a chance to taste the Cellar Dweller brews offered by the congenial host (a son of the owners), each member of the group selected a different brew, and then sat at a table by the delightful gas fireplace in the tasting room to ponder their lunch choices. We led off with a huge (only slightly smaller than a car's steering wheel) Bavarian Pretzel accompanied by tubs of beer cheese and coarse-ground mustard ($9.50), followed by a pairing of the Founders Cheese Board (sliced cheddar, Muenster and Swiss cheeses, slices of summer sausage, a small tub of very special jelly, another small tub of almonds, and a baguette, all for $12) and a generously sized Big Chefie’s Favorite Pizza, thin crust, topped with pepperoni, sausage, bacon and chopped onion ($16). Everyone was delighted with the pretzel, which had been baked to perfection; it quickly disappeared. The accompanying beer cheese found more supporters than the coarse mustard. The cheese and sausage board didn't live up to the same standard; while there was nothing wrong with it, it was unremarkable. Almost all the components could just as easily have come from most anyone’s home kitchen. The delightfully unique jelly was the sole bright spot. The pizza, topped with a balsamic glaze and barbecue sauce, drew mixed reactions; half really liked it and the other half, well, didn’t.
Valley Vineyards is a very special place along the trail, and is well worth a visit despite its location being less accessible from the trail than many of its competitors’. Bike parking is readily available. The ambiance is truly outstanding. The staff is hospitable and there’s enough variety in the food offerings to suit just about any palate and preference.
The TTA Crew really like beer, so the on-site brewery was a plus, but the wine spectrum is a great alternative for those who prefer their alcohol in something other than beer. Overall, we agreed Valley Vineyards merited four bells.