Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Number Six: Deer's Leap Winery

The sixth stop on our trip was Deer's Leap Winery and Restaurant in Geneva, Ohio. 


This is truly one of a kind.  It looks like a large, old warehouse and, as you can see in the second picture, there are large piles of some sort of material outside.  We almost passed it!  We were so thrown by the setting and the fact that we almost drove right by that we forgot the get a picture of the sign the first time around, so we stopped a few weeks later for these pictures.

On the side of the building there is a nice, covered area for outdoor seating, which is more reminiscent of wineries we've seen so far.  We walked inside and immediately the atmosphere shouted blue collar.  There is seating for the restaurant inside and all of the tables and chairs looked like they were temporary, like everything there needs to be easily moved or rearranged.  We sat at the bar and looked at the menu, which was an array of average Americanized dishes.  Above the bar, there is a long shelf with popular, brand name beer bottles from end to end.  Past the bar, there's a room in the back where there are bottles of wine available for purchase, a small display of rhinestone wine shirts that most wineries now sell, and birds.  Big, beautiful, exotic birds.

So...Is this supposed to be a hall that can be cleared and rented for events?  Is this a diner?  Is this a beer bar?  Is this actually a winery?  Animal sanctuary?

Deer's Leap frequently hosts live entertainment so I am assuming that is the reason for the makeshift interior.  The bar area was decent and the girl that helped us was nice but didn't offer a whole lot of information on the wines.  The display of beer bottles threw me off a bit.  They aren't a brewery in addition to being a winery so none of the beers were theirs; it looked like the beer selection at Heinen's.  I was under the impression that we were in a bar that happened to make and sell wine and not a winery.

If you're going to Deer's Leap for a meal, you can comfortably bring the whole family.  There's an appetizer menu that, for the most part, reminded me of the menu board at a bowling alley.  The regular menu is meant to appeal to a true cross-section of the country, offering burgers, a reuben, wraps, chicken parmesan, meatloaf, linguini with marinara and meatballs or alfredo and chicken, and $.75 tacos with the purchase of a beverage on Mexi Mondays.  Deer's Leap also has a senior menu for guests 65+, which is an abbreviated version of the lunch menu.

I didn't particularly care for the fact that there was a kids menu because I don't particularly care for kids, especially at wineries, but this may help bring in business if the restaurant is what keeps the winery afloat so I can't fault them.

There wasn't a signature dish of note and the lunch choices seemed more like a collage of the Stouffer's frozen entree case at your local grocery store.  These options are fine because anyone who visits can find something they'll like, but I would have expected those meals to be in addition to foods that follow the winery theme.  Instead, the menu seemed a little out of place at a winery.

Perhaps it is more appropriate to say the winery is the element that is out of place.

The wine wasn't overwhelmingly good.  The Bear had the Cabernet Sauvignon and we both thought it was a little flat tasting and plain.  It was dry like Cab should be, but that was about it.  I ordered the Chardonnay and that was a little better.  It was dry, crisp, and would pair well with most foods.  It didn't have the robust Chardonnay taste that this wine usually has, but it wasn't too mild either.  We ended up taking a bottle home with us.
We opened this bottle recently and I was shocked because wine tasted nothing like what we had on our visit.  This Chardonnay wasn't good on it's own and needed to be paired with strong cheese and crackers to bring it to life.  We ended up having some smoked cheddar and smoked swiss on sesame crackers with this and the smoked cheeses were this wine's saving grace.  The nose smelled like caramels melting on the stove but it had a very abrasive, astringent taste.

My guess is that it had bottle shock from the car ride and didn't have enough time to return to its normal state before we opened it.

Overall, the jury is still out on Deer's Leap.  The atmosphere was interesting to say the least, and the menu fit in better with the bar aspect of the winery than the winery itself.  For some people, that may actually be a big draw- the food prices are great and the restaurant part of the winery seemed more like a place to bring the family for dinner than a winery.  There's also an online store if you're interested in buying some wines but don't want to make the drive to Geneva.  There were a lot of fruit wines that we didn't try when we were there, so if those sound good but you live far away, give online ordering a shot.

But, don't order online today.  The online store is down as of 9/10/2013 at 9:30 AM.  You can call 440.466.1248 during normal business hours: Sunday-Thursday, 12-8, Friday and Saturday, 12-10.

I don't think our experience was a true representation of the winery and it would be better if we could get more information from the tasting servers.  Deer's Leap's website shows a more formal, cozy tasting room.  It might not have been open when we were there but we had no clue it existed until visiting the website to obtain links for this post.  Even if it was closed, it would have been nice to hear about it.  We will definitely go back for a more complete tasting experience and hopefully we'll be able to access to this portion of the winery.

Deer's Leap is, again, one of a kind.  It is so unique that I cannot simply dismiss it even though our first try was less than spectacular and the wine wasn't that good.  It has the same appeal as your favorite local dive bar- the place you want to go back to but can't quite put your finger on why.  It may not be soon, but check back for a second look at Deer's Leap!

Next up on our list is the Old Mill Winery!  Remember to enjoy your wine safely and responsibly!  Cheers, all!

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