Nestled in northeast Ohio along the Conneaut Creek, four miles from Lake Erie and four miles from Pennsylvania, my Finnish great grandfather home sits on high atop the Hatches Corners Ridge.
In 1850, the old farmhouse was originally built by the Tinkers. The Tinkers were metal workers whose claim to fame were their super strong steel and the first roadside filial mower. Through the years, the farmhouse became a stagecoach stop along the Penn-Ohio turnpike.
All before the 20th century, the farm had been a church, store, bar, and home to the Hatch family, of which the name Hatches Corners Road came from.
The old grain farm eventually became a dairy farm when my great grandfather, Isaac Aho, purchased it shortly after the turn of the century. My great Uncle Bill continued the dairy farm tradition.
I have fond memories as a child spending my summers playing in the hay barn, planting vegetable gardens, catching crawfish in the creek and taking long sauna baths.
My Great Uncle Bill and his neighbor Eddie were the first to teach me how to drive a tractor and car when I was nine years old. The farm continued to be productive through the eighties, then laid vacant until I found myself back on the farm in 1996.
I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland and became a weekend farm warrior, like my mother, her brother and her parents had throughout their lives. I graduated from OSU in psychology and philosophy. Worked in an advertising firm for a number of years only to find myself back on the farm cutting the fields.
Struggling to find a way to live on the farm, I started a certified organic fruit, nut, and vegetable farm. I quickly realized that mother nature loved to grow tomatoes and grapes.
Hmmm, tomato juice or wine? Now here is where my Italian half of the family enters.
My grandfather, Michael Tarsitano, who lived in Collinwood, always had something bubbling away in his cellar. Elderberry, dandelion, apple, dago red, mead, if it could be made into wine he taught me how.
I took a job at the OSU Grape Research Center and learned how to grow and care for the different types of wine grapes. Fred Bucci, Nick Ferrante, and Joe Biscotti helped influenced my wine making techniques, but it was Arnie Esterer from Markko, that had the great impact on my style.
I planted my first vineyards in 1999. In 2000 I bought my first grapes from the Research Center. The only press I had was my grandfathers big boy screw press, luckily Fred Bucci offer to help press my grapes if I helped him press his. Arnie Esterer told me to go pick some of his Chardonnay grapes, and Dave Genger offered his Cabernet grapes.
The next thing I knew I had 1500 gallons in my cellar, anything over 200 is illegal. So, I got bonded, dealt with the ATF, TTB, State Liquor Control, lawyers, accountants, tigers, and bears, oh my.
The next thing I knew I opened for business Covered Bridge Weekend 2001, even tough I hadn't planned on being open till 2005.
Well, I guess the dream has to find you as much as you find the dream!
I went from farmer to winemaker to wine judge to bottle washer to cook. I am the owner/enologist(winemaker)/viticultualist(grape grower)/chef of Tarsitano Winery and Café.
I have 12 varieties of wine from Auxerrios to Pinot Noir and including this year plantings, 13 acres of vineyards.
And I look forward to sharing the wonderful world of grapes and wine with you and taking you through the adventure of turning sunlight into wine.
Have a question or comment about wine? E-mail us at wine@ClevelandSeniors.Com