Grape Farming - You Gotta Love It

By Ellen Simmons

Bob Matus is a high-energy guy who has put together a successful winery business in less than nine years and who continues to expand his business interests.

Matus is the owner and operator of Matus Winery, located at 15674 Gore Orphanage Road in Camden Township, just off SR 20 a few miles east of Wakeman.

A sheet metal worker by trade, Matus became interested in wine making in the 1990s and after reading a book about it started making wine in his basement. He began planting grapes on six acres of the family farm around the same time and finished a barn to be used as a winery and tasting room in 2006.

The company he worked for went under the same year, so he filed for wine-making permits and has worked non-stop on the business since.

According to Matus, the winery grows almost all its own grapes and makes all its own wine, including not only grape wine but also elderberry, cherry, blackberry and more, depending on what type of fruit is available.

He says the wine making process is relatively simple and involves crushing and squeezing fruit and adding yeast, which eats the sugar and converts it into alcohol. This is then stored in vats where hazes, acids and tannins mellow out and drop to the bottom as sediment.

Matus says many vintners then filter the wine, but he believes it strips the flavor. The wine is then bottled and ends up in the tasting room or in a couple of small stores in the area.

Raised on the family farm but choosing not to go into farming after graduating from Firelands High School, Matus laughs and says growing grapes is "the most physically demanding type of farming there is." He adds it is similar to being a dairy farmer because "unless you want to work 18 hours a day and never get a day off you better love it."

Ice wines are a popular choice today as a sweet dessert wine, and although Matus does not produce an ice wine, he makes one that comes close. He says a true ice wine is made after the grapes have frozen, but he does a late harvest style where the grapes are picked after the first frost.

He says these grapes produce optimum sugar levels, which make a nice dessert wine and is marketed under the name "Vidal Blue."

Matus added an old barn a neighbor was getting rid of to his original building and today can seat 50 people. The addition sports a patio made from stone from an old silo and a large double-sided fireplace made from sandstone from a quarry in Kipton. The large wood bar in the original building came from an old Birmingham bar.

Matus said his wine tasters today are a group called "The Dead Yeast Society". This is a home wine maker's club that meets at 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of each month at the winery. Drop-ins are always welcome and most of the get-togethers include food and a speaker. More information is available on line at www.deadyeast.com.

Not satisfied with the status quo, Matus is now working on a new project, which is called the Ohio Malting Company and which is soon to begin producing malt for beer brewing.

He explains all alcohol is made from sugar and yeast, with the yeast eating the sugar and converting it into alcohol. Beer is made from grain (usually barley) and the process is tricking the grain into growing by soaking it until it sprouts, which converts the starches into enzymes. The grain is then dried and sold to beer makers, who take the grain, boil it in vats that are then drained of the water, from which the brewer makes his beer.

Matus says there are no malt makers within 600 miles of where he is located, and he thinks this new business will fill a need created by the many home beer makers and micro-brewers.

Plans are to use only barley grown on the family farm for the malting business and then sell only beers brewed using this malt at the winery.

Anyone with questions about the new company or the malting process is asked to email ohiomaltingcompany@gmail.com.

Matus Winery is open for tasting and buying wine by the bottle and the glass from 4 to 10 p.m. Thursdays, noon to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, and Tuesdays and Wednesdays by appointment. Snacks are always available, food can be brought in and entertainment is provided Friday and Saturday nights. Wine-making supplies are also available.

Calling the style of the establishment "extremely laid back," Matus says kids and even dogs are welcome, and the facility is often used for special events. To reach the winery, email:

matus_winery@yahoo.com. The phone number is 440-774-WINE (9463) and the web site is www.matuswinery.com.

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