One of the most evocative and anticipated smells and tastes of autumn in northeastern Ohio is grapes, which have been a part of Avon Lake’s history for more than 100 years.
Former Elyria mayor and Avon Lake resident Thomas Folger (1842-1909) was one of the area’s earliest grape growers. In 1878, he began a 150-acre vineyard operation on Avon Point, land that he eventually inherited from his father after the older man’s death in 1885. Four years later, Folger organized the Lorain County Grape Growers Shipping Association (LCGGSA) and served for 14 years as its manager, overseeing the selling and shipping of crops grown by the association’s 150 members.
Folger was just one of many local grape growers in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The names of more than a dozen residents, including Folger’s, as well as the area’s pioneer families of Beard, Beck, Braman, Cuyler, and Titus, were listed in an 1891 directory of principal grape growers and wine makers of the eastern United States.
James M. Jaycox, who was born in Avon Township in 1849 and whose family surname is preserved in this area as Jaycox Road, also was active in grape growing. By 1893, Jaycox had served as secretary and treasurer of the LCGGSA, shipped 150 carloads of grapes from Avon Station, and handled more than 400,000 baskets of grapes, according to an 1894 biography.
While many of Avon Lake’s vineyards have disappeared, two wineries, along with their vineyards, have endured. One, Klingshirn Winery, originated with Albert R. Klingshirn in 1935, two years after Prohibition ended in the United States. The other, John Christ Winery, began in 1946 when its original owner, John Christ, came to this area from Macedonia to cultivate about 27 acres of vineyards and a fruit farm.
Excellent soil and the presence of Lake Erie, with its cooling breezes in the summer and ability to trap heat in the fall, help make great grape growing possible, according to a 2014 article in The Wine Buzz, a magazine for wine, beer, and spirits enthusiasts.
However you enjoy grapes this Fall – as jam, wine, juice, pie, or picked plump and flavorful from a cluster right off the vine – you might find their taste enhanced knowing that their local history is as rich as the soil in which they grow.