Ask Van Creasap about his vineyard's Delaware wine, and you might think he'd tell you about its sprightly bouquet or delicate flavor. Well, think again. The owner of Shamrock Vineyards in Waldo would rather share the fascinating back story of this wine's legendary grape.
"Back in the late 1800s, this Delaware guy made a fortune selling grapevines," says Creasap.
The 31-year-old vintner first learned of the infamous grape as he worked as a teen for his grandfather, Thomas Quilter, the now-late founder of the 28-year-old Shamrock Vineyards and local physician who started growing the Delaware grape as another of his vineyard experiments.
Creasap recalls that Donna Meyer, a Master Gardener and local historian from Delaware County, came to visit Quilter and Shamrock Vineyards with a gardening group. Since she knew Quilter grew Delaware grapes, she shared her research on the grapes' history and their ties to her ancestors.
According to Meyer's records, Ben Heath moved from New Jersey to Ohio in 1837 and brought along his grapevines. Planted on his property in Delaware, the grapevines thrived in the area's clay soil, tolerated its late frosts and resisted the powdery mildew that plagues many grape varieties. Fast forward 12 years, and Heath had a chance to share his tasty grapes with the well-connected Abram Thomson, a fellow horticulturalist and publisher of the Delaware Gazette. Thomson became an immediate fan of the grapes and eagerly touted them to various horticulture groups, including the Massachusetts and American horticulture societies, which ended up naming them the "Delaware Grape" and awarded him a silver goblet, a medal and a life-size portrait painted in oils.
As the grapes gained worldwide fame, Thomson saw an opportunity to market them for Gold Rush–style profits. No doubt, grape growing was big business in Ohio in the late 1800s. The Commissioner of Agriculture's report for 1862 shows Ohio was the largest producer of wine in the U.S. with 563,000 gallons per year, followed by California at 343,000 gallons.
Thomson teamed with propagators George Campbell and Frederick Vergon to launch his scheme. Campbell used his homestead—now the Delaware Arts Castle—to serve as the major seller of Delaware Grapes worldwide, while Vergon assisted as a supplier for Campbell. The native grapes' versatility combined with the industry's rising "grape fever" led to the trio's wild success, selling enormous amounts of plants for as much as $5 each—or $360 each in today's market.
While it has now been more than a century since this grape fever gripped America, Creasap would love to see a revival of the Delaware grape today.
"I'd love to see the Ohio grape industry adopt the Delaware grape as a state grape and showcase its versatility with the many different kinds of wines that can be made from it," says Creasap. While Creasap makes a Pinot Grigio–style wine, others use it for ice wines, Riesling-style wine and sparkling wine.
Creasap's passion for the Delaware grape is just one example of his ardent support of the local community. His latest project is the regeneration of the century-old Concord grapevine planted by Florence Harding at President Warren G. Harding's Home in Marion. He's nurturing the original vine and plans to take cuttings to grow additional ones to eventually supply grapes for wine for Harding House fundraisers or grape juice for school group tours.
At Shamrock, Creasap hosts charitable fundraisers, organizes local tourism activities, opens the vineyard for pruning lessons and harvest days and partners with local businesses for popular vineyard events like Flatbread Fridays and Twilight Dinners. Flatbread Fridays are held on the fourth Friday of each month (April–November) and feature wood-fired pizza from Stix & Stones Mobile Wood-Fired Pizza, wine tastings and live music. The Twilight Dinners offer wine, sirloin steak dinners catered by All Occasions Catering and music by local dulcimer musicians.
"These are our friends, our neighbors and our community," says Creasap, "so the more I can help them, the more successful I can be."
Shamrock Vineyards 111 County Road 25 (Rengert Rd.)
Waldo, Ohio 43356
McDonald & Woodward Publishing Co. embodies a lot of what you think of as a small town business. Their offices are in the second floor of a beautiful old white house in Granville, Ohio, and the staff can probably be counted on one hand, maybe two. What this quaint exterior belies, though, is an internationally known company devoted to the dissemination of important information packaged in language accessible to the average reader.
One of their newest titles perfectly represents this: Groundwater for the 21st Century: A Primer for Citizens of Planet Earth, by John A. Conners. It's a comprehensive and accessible introduction to the science of and issues surrounding groundwater, which comprises 98% of liquid fresh water on the planet and is increasingly depleted year after year. Groundwater is incredibly important to agricultural systems, and many of the issues surrounding modern agricultural practices overlap with issues surrounding groundwater. Jerry McDonald, co-owner of the company, speaks about this book with quiet verve as we sit in the office, green summer light filtering through trees and windows. Talking to him, it is clear that he is very knowledgeable on many topics, and genuinely interested in every one of them. This breadth of interest is reflected in the topics published by the company.
Claire Paniccia: What makes you different from other publishers?
Jerry McDonald: Generally, we formed the company to focus on natural and cultural history, as broadly defined as possible. We've since expanded into natural resources and teaching resources. What makes it unique, other than breadth of interest and subject matter, is the fact that we have three criteria that we look for in every publication: material that is well organized, is written in accessible language and is substantive. So that's the philosophical framework for wrapping around the texts.
CP: You have a new title, Groundwater for the 21st Century. Can you talk about it? What's important about this book?
JM: Groundwater fits easily in our big picture. It's important to understand how resources are procured and manipulated. Think how rich that matrix is. It's mind boggling, if you get too close to it. It is appropriate as something we would consider, a part of a larger effort to create awareness of different kinds of people and ethnic groups, to encourage tolerance, not being closed to being aware of different things.
One reason I might have appeared not to show how broad and important the question of sustainability is is that it's infused in everything we do. That's why I'm so happy with Groundwater; it's probably the most inclusive book with respect to a critical resource that we have ever published. It's a big book. About 80% of it is devoted to the science of water, and is presented in language accessible to the general reading public. The other 20% is an overview of the global uses of groundwater and implications of those uses. It's a global view. I think it's just so valuable to have that kind of comprehensiveness packaged in such an accessible way. Anyone who wants to should have no problem getting the information. It has to be considered our most important book that we've ever published.
Water is important. That is the great purpose of the book—ready access for the big picture. The concept includes every water molecule in Ohio — and beyond. I've been doing a lot of face-to-face sales calls with Ohio public librarians. Ninety percent bought the book, no questions. They understood the importance of the book and its timeliness. I am amazed at how we have shown this book to a wide range of people, and how it has almost without exception been accepted as an important product.
(Soup Tôt Faite)
Recipe adapted by Shawnie Kelley Foy from cooking classes in Nice, France
We wanted to share with you this recipe we recently made for our French Country Brunch class at The Seasoned Farmhouse. The simplicity of this potato and leek soup results from finely cut and briefly boiled vegetables. It can be served either hot or chilled.
1-½ pounds potatoes, chopped into relatively equal size
6 cups of water
1 pound of leeks, including the tender green parts, thinly sliced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, for boiling water and to taste
Ground black pepper for garnish
1. Peel the potatoes, cut in half lengthwise and then again into three or four halves to similar size.
2. Thinly cut the leeks crosswise into rounds and separate into a bowl filled with cold water. Then use your hands to dislodge any dirt or sand, and scoop the leeks into a new bowl with a slotted spoon once they are clean.
3. In a pot over high heat, combine the salted water, potatoes and leeks.
4. Bring to a rapid boil until the potatoes are easily pricked with a fork, about 20 minutes. Blend with an immersion blender or in a blender. Taste and season.
5. Serve soup immediately or chill until ready to serve.
6. Place soup servings in individual bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil and bread crisp.
We want to congratulate Carson and Dawn Combs of Mockingbird Meadows, who have been named a 2013 Homesteader of the Year by Mother Earth News. One of six award winners from across the country, the Combs have been recognized for their progressive approach to health and healing practices as well as the intense focus they have on improving the wellbeing of our community.
For the Combs, homesteading is about health and medicine in addition to food. "Homesteading for us is intimately tied up with the practice of biodynamics," says Dawn. "A closed-loop farm that is self-sufficient and entirely sustainable meets the needs of all who live there from the soil to the animals to the pollinators and the humans as well."
Sustainable beekeeping is the foundation of the Combs' work—they take care to keep their bees happy and healthy in an attempt to produce the best honey products possible. They then combine the honey with various herbs in spreads and infusions designed to alleviate allergies and many other health ailments.
The Combs work toward a new system where everyone has the knowledge and resources to take care of their family's health through workshops, consulting, farm dinners, medicinal products and a unique Medicinal Herb CSA.
Most of us have heard of or been a part of traditional community supported agriculture (CSA), but the Combs took it one step further as another way to reconnect the community to their medicine and raise awareness that in addition to food, health aides should be local and fresh.