Volume 42

The Building of History I: Heineman's Winery

Put-in-Bay’s Historic Winery Turns 127


  • Heinemans
Heineman Winery was established in 1888 by Gustav Heineman, an immigrant from Ehrenstetten, a small village south of Freiburg in the Black Forrest region of Germany. This area is well known for its grapes and winemaking history. Currently in its 5th generation, Heineman’s is the oldest family owned and operated winery in the state of Ohio. Three generations, Louie, Edward, and Dustin, proudly continue the family tradition.

By the late 1800’s, The Lake Erie Islands were world famous for their award winning wines due to ideal soil conditions and the tempering effects of Lake Erie. Cool water temperatures in the spring prevented early bud break and the warm waters of the lake in fall gave the islands the longest growing season in Ohio. The average killing frost is around Nov. 20 each year. This allows the grapes, especially Catawba grapes which ripen late, to mature and provide a sweetness which is hard to duplicate.

By 1900, news of the climate spread and Heineman’s was one of 17 wineries that once called Put-in-Bay home. In 1919, Prohibition hit the islands hard and most of these wineries failed, while their vineyards fell into disrepair. Heineman’s survived under Gustav’s son, Norman, who produced and sold grape juice to several islanders. During Prohibition, home winemakers could produce 200 gallons of wine annually. He also began offering a taxi service and tours of the two caves that were located on the grounds. Crystal Cave is still open today and is the largest Celestite Geode in the world. This geode was discovered in 1897 while digging a well for the winery. It is a natural phenomenon and has the largest celestite crystals in the world.

Owner Louie Heineman, 88, is still an active part of the day-to-day operations of the winery. His son, Edward increased the wine production from 8 different wines to 25 when he became winemaker. He envisions a museum filled with historical pieces of equipment showcasing the rich history of winemaking on the Lake Erie Islands. Edward’s son, Dustin is helping to make this vision a reality, while adding vintage pictures and artifacts of Put-in-Bay from days gone by. A few years ago to help celebrate 125 years, Heineman’s changed their labels to original winery scenes. Dustin’s 18-month-old son, Eli is the 6th generation of the family and already enjoys drinking Heineman’s grape juice. The tradition of winemaking continues as this historic family business enters its 127th year.


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