The history of wine making in Ohio can be traced back to the early 1800's. Nicholas Longworth, a lawyer from the Cincinnati area, saw the potential of the Ohio River Valley to become a major producer of wine. In 1820 he planted the first Catawba grapes. This domestic variety was hearty enough to withstand Ohio winters and the wine produced from it won quick consumer acceptance. The light, semi-sweet wine was different from the other strong American wines of the day. Soon there were many acres of vines growing in the greater Cincinnati area and by 1845 the annual production was over 300,000 gallons. By 1860, Ohio led the nation in the production of wine. As crop diseases, such as black rot and mildew, began to plague the grapes, the Civil war left the grape growers with little manpower. This led to the demise of wine making in southern Ohio.
The Ohio General Assembly and Governors, James Rhodes and Richard Celeste established another vital program in 1981. In cooperation with wine makers and grape growers, the Ohio Grape Industries Program was created and charged with the development of marketing and research programs to encourage the continuing revitalization of the fresh grape and grape wine industries.