Cincinnati Vintner’s Club, a local group of amateur winemakers, was recently recognized by “Winemaker Magazine” as the best amateur wine making club in North America.
“‘Winemaker Magazine’ selects one club, and that club will have won more medals and recognition in sanctioned competitions than any other club that competes within the magazine’s perimeters. All of the clubs across North America, and even some of them in Europe are considered,” said JT Russell, vice president of the Cincinnati Vintner’s Club.
In 2022, Cincinnati Vintner Club members won 11 gold, 12 silver, and 13 bronze medals among 1,772 entries; 16 of the medals were won by two Butler County residents — Greg Amend and Rich McKinney of Liberty Twp.
“Honestly, I’m just very proud of the combined efforts of our individual members and the fact that we see such talent among amateur wine makers in the Cincinnati area,” Russell said.
He said the contributions from Amend and McKinney moved the club sizably in achieving this goal.
This is the first top honor garnered by the club and a recognition of the vibrant, historical wine culture in the Cincinnati area. Large clubs with hundreds of members from established wine regions typically dominate the competition.
“We are a small club. We only have 25 members, and a great many of the clubs across the United States are larger, in more established wine regions. For example, one in Napa tends to dominate this category. This is the first time we’ve won with our small group of winemakers here in the Cincinnati area. So, it really is a tribute to the local winemaking tradition that goes all the way back to Nicholas Longworth in the 19th Century,” Russell said.
The award, which recognizes excellence in amateur wine making, considers the number of medals won annually by club members in 50 categories. The 2022 international competition — the largest of its kind in the world — evaluated entries from across the United States and Canada and from as far away as Sweden.
The awards ceremony was June 5 in San Luis Obispo, Calif., where ‘Winemaker Magazine’ announced the Cincinnati Vintner’s Club as its “2022 Winemaking Club of the Year.” Club President Daniel Cobb and club member and former Vice President Joe Lauber were present to receive the honor.
The Cincinnati Vintner’s Club was established in 1980 among local, amateur winemakers who seek to promote better wine making through education, experience, and exchange. The club’s active members, including several Butler County residents, meet monthly to further individual winemaking skills and to promote expertise of the craft. Cincinnati Vintner’s Club is comprised of members from Southwest Ohio, Southeast Indiana and Northern Kentucky.
“I’m a relatively new winemaker, and what I find is when you lift weights with someone who is stronger than you, you get stronger, and when you make wine with better winemakers, your wine gets better. So, there’s a synergistic effect,” Russell said.
Russell said he started making wine six years ago from wine kits.
“Joining the Cincinnati Vintner’s Club not only put me in contact with very accomplished amateur winemakers, but it gave me the techniques, confidence and access to the materials to make truly superior wines. The wine I make today is leaps and bounds ahead of the wine I was making six years ago. It’s a great hobby,” he said.
The Cincinnati Vintner’s Club works with other local wine clubs to exchange best practices and to source California, Washington, and Ohio grapes for local winemakers. Members compete actively in support of international, national, and local wine making competitions including those at the Clermont County, Butler County and Hamilton County Fairs. None of the wine made by members is sold.
“One’s winemaking improves when you have the means to exchange ideas and learn from others. We are one of several winemaking clubs in the area. My advice would be to reach out to local winemakers and find a group you’re comfortable with and from whom you can learn from and challenge each other,” Russell said.
For more information about Cincinnati Vintner’s Club, contact JT Russell at email@example.com.