Soon after the grapes were planted, Put-in-Bay Ohio experienced her first harvest of local grapes in excess of 8 tons from just ONE acre of grapes in the Lorenz Miller Vineyard. The yield was nearly double the average yield from traditional vineyards and soon the mystic of the islands grow conditions spread across the United States. Investors and developers from across the USA flocked to the island to invest in land and vineyards.
Much to the delight of the forefathers, land that had been selling for a paltry $10 per acre skyrocketed t over $1500. The increasing popularity of the vineyards brought spinoff businesses to the island to support the growth of the local economy. Restaurants and Hotels sprang up and the Lake Erie Steamboat soon thereafter added Put-in-Bay to their daily stops bringing thousands of tourists to the island each week.
71 grape growing operation were in place by 1880 covering over 550 acres of South Bass Island. New varieties were introduced including Ives, Norton, Catawba, Clinton, and Concord among others. The annual harvest would commence later August of each year by hand and took until early November to complete. The grape growing industry became the islands largest economic industry.
The Islands First Wineries & Press Houses
Soon after the record harvest was noted, multiple entrepreneurs opened press houses, the first stage in the processing of the islands grapes. The Pfeiffer And Rotert press house / cellars were two of the first on the island with each having a capacity of near 30,000 gallons each. Soon after, the massive Put-in-Bay Wine Company built a 150,000-gallon facility which operated until it was destroyed by fire in 1888.
Several wineries opened on the island afterward but sadly only one survived thru Prohibition. Heineman Winery remains the sole survivor of that difficult period. The 4th generation family owned winery started in 1896 when founder German Gustov Heineman bought his vineyard on South Bass Island. Little did he know his purchase would also include fining the worlds largest unground Geode just a year later when workers were exploring the vineyard. Subsequently named the Crystal Cave, the cave was opened to the public for tours and the revenues from this and the production of grape juice helped sustain the winery thru the lean prohibition years. Today, both the winery and the cave are open to the public for tours and wine sales. The founding family continues to operate the winery and is the oldest family owned business operating on the island.
Put-in-Bay is also home to the Put-in-Bay Winery which was established in 2009 at the Valentine Doller estate along the waterfront in downtown Put-in-Bay. Also open for tours and tastings, the Put-in-Bay Winery offers bottles for sale, and a wonderful tasting area in the front of the estate overlooking the waterfront.
The island celebrates their Wine Festival the first weekend in October of each yer. The grape harvesting is well into the process at that point making it an ideal time to visit Put-in-Bay.
Put-in-Bay Hotels & Lodging are limited, and for those who plan on visiting Put-in-Bay, reservations are suggested far in advance. While modern hotels and resorts are close by, staying on the island is suggested as there is far too much to see in just one day. The Put-in-Bay Resort came highly recommended by the Put-in-Bay Visitors & Convention Bureau and is the newest and largest resort on the island. Located just a one block walk from the main strip, the resort was convenient to the downtown area.
Cars are not recommended on the island as parking is very limited and the wait to get a car on or fo the island can run as long as several hours. The Jet Express is the most popular way to get tot the island and offers the only late-night downtown service.
Visitors to the island are able to explore the island on a Put-in-Bay Golf Cart Rentals which are the primary method of transportation on the island. Reservations are suggested and may be made on line before arrival. The Put-in-Bay tourist season begins in April and winds down after Halloween weekend, the last big event of the year. In the winter months approximately 150 residents brave the isolation of the island when ferry service conclude due to ice an deteriorating weather conditions until they resume in March.