MADISON, Ohio – St. Joseph Vineyard has a new owner and will be getting a new name, but the passion for grape-growing in Northeast Ohio will remain.
Art and Doreen Pietrzyk have sold the winery to Dominic and Shelly Piunno. The deal closed Feb. 18. Seth Warden will continue as vineyard manager/winemaker. The new name will be Baci Winery. “Baci” means “kisses” in Italian.
The Pietrzyks began grape growing in the 1980s before opening St. Joseph Vineyard in 1997. They expanded the winery over the years, with Pinot Noir as their signature wine. They were the first to grow and make Pinot Noir – a delicate grape, light-bodied wine – in the area commercially, and they also cultivated Italian varietals – Sangiovese, Dolcetto and Corvina.
“Both my wife and I had days jobs,” Pietrzyk said. “This was a hobby.” But that hobby grew, as has the wine industry in Northeast Ohio in recent years.
Now, he said, he can do things he “wasn’t able to do when gainfully employed” – spending time with grandchildren, fishing, working on church projects.
“It was time,” Pietrzyk said.u
Art, originally from Warrensville Heights, and Doreen, from Mayfield, have seen the winery growth in the Grand River Valley, from a handful of wineries when they started St. Joseph’s to more than two dozen now.
“This is a real popular region,” he said. “Lots of things going on. I think Dominic was aware of that and wanted to be part of that.”
“I grew up in an Italian family, and we always had fun making wine,” said Piunno, who grew up in Mayfield Heights and owns a printing company. His great-great-grandfather built a wine press, which he still has. He learned from his uncles and grandfather.
The couple plan to streamline the number of varietals being grown, but “we want to keep up the tradition of the winemaking here.” The tasting room is at 7800 Warner Road, Madison. It’s 43 miles from downtown Cleveland.
St. Joseph’s covers 61 acres – 13 are vineyard, with the remaining farmed. In addition to being an estate winery and continuing Vidal, a bread-and-butter grape for ice wine, the Piunnos might bring in some grapes for a “West Coast” line of wines that could cover Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah.
“He (Art) has a strong reputation here,” Dominic said. “Our focus is to keep the vineyard one of the best around.”
A restaurant is coming. A wood oven for pizzas is possible. They are mulling a farm-to-table Italian approach. Think simple meat and pasta dishes.
“The theme would be mostly Italian, farm-to-table Italian,” said Carmen Cefaratti, who will partner with the Piunnos for the winemaking. “Like Umbrian or Tuscan cooking. So it’s going to be simple pasta, simple meat dishes.”
“We have a lot of ideas,” added Dominic, who also made prosciutto and sausage growing up. “Nothing is for sure yet.”
For now, the winery is closed to the public but is selling wine online.
“This piece of property is so beautiful,” Shelly Piunno said. “We’ve traveled all over the world – Italy, France, Napa. It’s so serene and so beautiful here. What more do you want than a glass of wine on a sunny day and sit out here and enjoy it?”
I am on cleveland.com’s life and culture team and cover food, beer, wine and sports-related topics. If you want to see my stories, here’s a directory on cleveland.com. Bill Wills of WTAM-1100 and I talk food and drink usually at 8:20 a.m. Thursday morning. And tune in at 8:05 a.m. Fridays for “Beer with Bona and Much, Much More” with Munch Bishop on 1350-AM The Gambler.
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