Friday, September 13, 2013

Stop Number Seven: Old Mill Winery

Our seventh stop was Old Mill Winery in Geneva, Ohio.

I really don't want to start a post off negatively, so let's discuss the positives about this visit:
1. Their menu looks good.
2. The interior has an old-time, rustic, homey feel.  Very charming.

Sadly, that's it.  This is a hard one to write about.  In (my short career in) blogging and in life, I always try to focus on the best parts of a situation and downplay the bad to the point where whatever it was that left a sour taste in my mouth, no pun intended, is forgivable and my lasting opinion is, at worst, fair, neutral, or indifferent.

That being said, it will be a very cold day for all those people who went to hell for stealing their wine glasses at South River Vineyard before I go back to Old Mill.

This is the only place where we had to stop twice during our trip.  The first time was nothing short of a total disaster and the second wasn't significantly different.  In fact, the only notable difference between the two was that we actually got to taste wine the second visit.

We planned to stop here for a late lunch on the first day of our vacation.  The Bear had eaten here before and he liked it, and he recommended it to friends of ours who said the food was fantastic, so I wanted in on the excitement.  We learned, or at least were reminded of, a few crucial lessons here:
1. The Geneva area has fairly poor cell coverage for mobile internet access.
2. Always, always, ALWAYS check a winery's website before leaving home.
3. The kitchen at a restaurant/winery combo doesn't always share the same hours as the winery.

The slow web access wasn't totally unexpected since the town is one cornfield short of full-blown rural status and I have been in the area before, but I forgot how slow it really is and ended up giving up on my attempt to check them out on the drive there.  I should have stuck with it so that we knew the food service hours differ from their general business hours.  It's not surprising that the kitchen has shorter hours but normally when this happens, it's because it closes prior to the bar closing, not because it opens after the bar; in this case, it's both more days than not.  This practice isn't unheard of, but it is somewhat uncommon, at least in our area.  Be aware of this if you plan to visit for a meal.

This information is clearly stated on Old Mill's homepage and we didn't think to look before we left home, so this was definitely our faux-pas, not theirs.  We will never make this mistake again.

FYI, the hours of operation are:
Monday-Thursday: 3-9, dinner hours: 4-8
Friday: 3-midnight, dinner hours: 4-10
Saturday: noon-midnight, dinner hours: noon-10
Sunday: noon-9, dinner hours: noon-8

Lesson learned.

This was a bummer because I had saved my hunger for this meal, but it isn't the reason the first go-round was less than satisfactory.  The service is what completely annihilated any chance I had of having a good time.

We walked in about twenty minutes after opening and there were no other patrons.  None.  At all.  We saw a girl behind the bar getting things ready and organized to start her shift so we stood there and waited to be greeted.  And waited.  And waited.  There were also two guys who looked like they needed a shower were cooks buzzing around getting the outdoor grill ready and helping this girl move some boxes.  I know they saw us- they walked right by us- but neither of them paid us any attention.  So finally, we said "hi!" and got the girl's attention.  Okay, fine.  She was busy, maybe she didn't hear us, and it's not a cook's job to be a host or waiter, so I let it go.

In hindsight, I'm baffled as to why this prep work wasn't done before they opened for business. Sure, no one else was there besides us, so I can understand doing a little housekeeping if there aren't any/many customers to attend to, but this was pretty involved work and clearly required enough focus and attention that she was oblivious to the fact that someone came in.  Things like this should be done before customers could arrive but, if that cannot be done and it absolutely cannot wait, employees should be a little more discreet and alert.

Also, even though it's not technically a cook's job to greet customers, I have a hard time believing that any member of a crew who takes pride in their work and is proud of the business they work for would think twice about being hospitable toward guests regardless of their designated function.

But, I digress.  Once we had the waitress' attention, we told her we wanted to split a wine tasting.  She showed us to our table outside, gave us a sheet of paper with Old Mill's wines on it, and told us to mark what we wanted.  I think we annoyed her because we asked for a pen or pencil to mark our selections and asked to look at food menus.  She got us a menu, bluntly told us we could taste now but couldn't order food for another forty minutes while she begrudgingly dug up a pen for us, then promptly disappeared.

Just as we did when we first arrived, we waited.  And waited.  And waited.

A good ten minutes had passed with no sign of our waitress and I was starting to turn into a hungry monster.  I had some pretzel sticks in the car so my Bear went inside to ask if he could grab them to hold me over, probably out of fear that I was about to start gnawing my own arm (or his).  She came back with him to the table and said she couldn't allow that, but she could bring some chips and salsa.  I understand that she has to follow company policy and I appreciate the fact that there's a snack option prior to the kitchen opening.  My dissatisfaction doesn't stem from what she said but rather how she said it.

I declined.

I am almost certain the "I really cannot believe the request we made merited the tone you're using" look I gave her scared her away because that was the last time we saw her.  After waiting another fifteen minutes, she didn't come back, so we said forget it before we could even place our order for tastings and moved on.

I didn't want to give up totally on Old Mill because of one bad apple, so on our way home, we gave it another try.  We sat at the bar this time and were greeted fairly quickly. There was a different girl helping us and she had a much better personality, mainly just because she had one.

Unfortunately, we weren't looking to eat this time so I cannot speak to the quality of the food but the menu does look good.  The wines were so-so.  I tried the Chardonnay and it was satisfactory.  It was dry and crisp with a bright, citrus nose that was contrasted by a hint of oak in the taste which nicely darkened the overall flavor.  The wine stopped there, though- the finish was the same as a glass of water.  The Riesling was overly sweet for me and was more similar to a sweet Piesporter than a Riesling.

The Bear had the Cabernet Sauvignon and it was average.  It had a thin taste, didn't have much going on in the finish, lacked the bold flavor of the grape.  The Chambourcin was a winner, though.  This is another Chambourcin with a delicate cherry flavor and a hint of sweetness in the overall dry body.  It goes down easy so it's definitely a silly wine.  This is the one that came home with us.
Our second visit to Old Mill was clearly much better than the first but, when we were ready to pay our bill and purchase our bottle, we again had to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  It turns out that when you sit at the bar, you apparently have to walk to the corner of the counter to be able to get your check and pay because once you're done with your wine, everyone disappears and you will no longer receive service.

I truly apologize that this hasn't been a ringing endorsement.  If anyone is looking to pair live entertainment with their wine, Old Mill has a schedule online as well as a list of special events.  There is a nice outdoor seating area and the interior has a rustic appeal.  This may attract people who aren't visiting to focus on the wine itself.

I don't think I need to write an overall summary of this experience, it's pretty clear how it went.  I was so disappointed that this is how the Old Mill played out.  My expectations were high because of the impressive buzz from our friends but ultimately, I was let down.  This may sound bizarre, but if you haven't been there and you'll be in the area, try it.  It's important to support local business and I would love to be proven wrong.  In fact, I challenge you to change my mind.  If you have a story about a great time at Old Mill, please share it.  If you haven't been there, go and make your best effort to have a completely opposite experience than ours.

Next up will be The Old Firehouse Winery, which is where we ended up eating that day.  Remember to enjoy what you pour, but enjoy responsibly!  Cheers, all!


  1. The Old Mill has never been the same since Paul Cantwell passed away back in the '90s. Paul was a great guy and the Old Mill was a fun, unpretentious place.

    Those who knew Paul still miss him very much.

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