Some 15 years ago, Steve and Julie Nofziger planted their first grapevines at the corner of County Roads C and 19 south of Pettisville, and four years later they opened Knotty Vines Winery.
Today, the original building has seen two expansions to accommodate all of the customers who visit the winery that annually corks between 6,000 and 7,000 bottles of wine produced from several varieties of red and white grapes grown on their farm.
With one exception, Julie explained. In 2014, herbicide spray drift from a nearby farm field destroyed that year’s grapes. Fortunately, insurance covered some of the loss and the OSU Extension office helped educate nearby farmers about the importance of not spraying herbicides near the vineyard on breezy days.
Julie and “Farmer” (as Steve is better known) explained their work in the vineyard is year-round and almost everything is done manually.
It starts with pruning to just two or three buds per stem in late winter to spring to watching for insects that could weaken the vines if not addressed to using “Farmer’s netting machine” to keep birds away from the grapes. There is something to be done most of the time.
Once the grapes start to ripen, Farmer checks the PH level frequently to determine when each variety is ready to pick. Each of the four varieties in their vineyard ripens at slightly different times.
Julie said that three people can pick enough grapes in 90 minutes to make 150 gallons of wine, explaining that it takes about one ton of grapes to make 165 gallons.
The red grapes need to set in the vats once picked. However, the white grapes are crushed and pressed the same day that they are picked.
Wine from last year’s grape harvest can be bottled in June or July, or as needed. The cost of glass bottles has increased over the years from 55 cents each to 90 cents today, she added.
And their most popular wines are the semi-sweets – even though two of Farmer’s dry wines won Silver Awards last year.
When Knotty Vines opened in 2012, there were 169 wineries in Ohio. Today, there are 412. The Nofzigers explained that all wineries are trying to figure out how to appeal to changing tastes as the industry has noted that the younger Gen Z crowd isn’t as likely to drink wine as earlier generations.
Knotty Vines has inside seating for about 70 customers with outside seating for an additional 60. The winery is open Wednesday through Saturday. For hours and to watch a two minute video, check their website: www.knottyvineswinery.com.