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Issue Date: September 2005 Issue

No Roaming

Jousting with windmills


Medal Count for St. Joseph Vineyard Pinot Noi

• Riverside International Wine Competition – Riverside, Calif.: Gold Medal
• International Wine Competition – Watkins Glen, N.Y.: Silver Medal• Grand Harvest Awards – Santa Rosa, Calif.: Gold Medal
• San Francisco International Wine Competition: Bronze Medal
• Tasters Guild International – Grand Rapids, Mich.: Silver Medal
• Los Angeles County Fair: Silver Medal

The question begged to be asked.

Why did the owners of St. Joseph Vineyard, located only 30 miles from Cleveland, even consider making the most challenging of all wines, the elegant Pinot Noir?

Art Pietrzyk smiled, clearly loving the question as much as his answer. “Because I read Don Quixote,” he said winking at his wife and winemaking partner, Doreen. “Someone told us it was impossible.”

That’s all the full-time electrical engineer needed to hear. Today, their boutique winery produces 2,000 cases of wine annually and is especially known for its Pinot Noir.

Art and Doreen purchased the Thompson land parcel 25 years ago. Sensing their location within the Grand River Valley AVA had special potential, the pair delved into research. Both attended viticultural classes at OSU and also spent time in Burgundy. At one point, Art slept outside in his vineyards to understand the flow of the nighttime air.

The winery’s vineyard is on the escarpment of the Grand River. It benefits from Lake Erie’s maritime influence, while the river valley traps cool air and allows warm air to come up the ridge. The rocky loam soil left behind by glaciers offers exceptional drainage and radiates heat.

Opting for no irrigation, the Pietrzyks dry-farm their vineyard. The less water a vine encounters, the more concentrated is the fruit it bears. “If the Pinot grapes get too much water, they plump up with it,” Art explained.

At harvest, the grapes are selectively handpicked. If some clusters aren’t ready — readiness is determined by suppleness, flavor and acidity level rather than by the grape’s sugar content — those grapes stay behind for longer hang time.

The Pietrzyks’ meticulous vineyard approach begs for a second question. How good is their Pinot Noir?

Four words: grand, singular, important and inspiring.

Grand enough to be included in a 1997 Grand Tasting of Burgundy with renowned wine authority Clive Coates; singular enough to win gold, silver and bronze medals in international competitions; important enough to be the only Ohio winery included in the recently released John Winthrop Haeger’s North American Pinot Noir published by University of California. Haeger describes the St. Joseph 1999 vintage as tantalizing and suggesting special potential for the winery.

And inspiring enough for Art and Doreen to have just planted a second vineyard devoted to Pinot Noir.

We’re glad these winemakers took on the Grand River windmills.

St. Joseph Vineyard wines are available at Heinen’s. The winery is located on Madison Road in Thompson. For more information, visit

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