This post was sponsored by Ohio. Find It Here. Photos and opinions are our own.
Destination Mansfield has launched the Wine & Ale Trail to call attention to the thriving wineries, breweries, and wine bars across Richland County and the surrounding areas. The Trail will lead you to nine different stops, and have you exploring the picturesque small towns and historic buildings that dot the landscape around them.
We’re always excited to explore these areas, especially when they’re such a quick drive from Columbus. So we were delighted when Destination Mansfield and Ohio. Find It Here. invited us to take a journey along the regional trail!
Follow our stops (and our own personal detours) as we say “Cheers to history!” around Richland County. Or check out the Wine & Ale Trail website to build your own itinerary!
Stop #1: Wishmaker House Bed & Breakfast + Winery & Wine Bar
116 Main St.
Bellville, OH 44814
Our accommodations and first stop on the trail was the Wishmaker House in downtown Bellville. The renovated home sits near the center of town. Donnie and Jennifer Vanmeter, the current owners, are passionate about the building and its history. The structure was built in the 1890s and served as the home and offices for a physician, after which it was sold to another family and operated as a home and furniture store for decades. That’s where it earned the name “Wishmaker,” as the furniture they produced was so elegant that many wished they could purchase a piece.
Fast forward a bit, and Brad and Karen Smith, owners of the Smith Hardware Store down the street, purchased the building and renovated it into the B&B. They added a bar and restaurant, and discovered they could easily earn a liquor license by creating their own wine on site – so they did!
In addition to the main floor restaurant and bar, the Wishmaker features seven nicely appointed guest rooms – all named for people with a connection to the building – plus a 1200-square-foot treehouse suite on the top floor.
After a tour of the building, we enjoyed sangria, flatbread, and a cheese plate on the large patio.
That evening, following our adventures elsewhere in the county, we simply had to order a piece of cheesecake. The owners and all of the staff raved about the house-made delicacy, which is offered in nearly a dozen different flavors and served in massive slices.
The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at the Wishmaker. The day’s offerings vary, but you can trust what the kitchen whips up. In addition to coffee and orange juice, we were treated first to a beautiful baked peach drizzled with honey and cinnamon, then a plate of sausage, a colorful vegetable quiche, and waffles with whipped cream and strawberry sauce.
Detour: Relax, It’s Just Coffee in Mansfield
We had a little time to kill in Mansfield before stopping for beers and a bite to eat, so we parked downtown and ordered up espresso at Relax, It’s Just Coffee, a giant storefront with plenty of space to work or hang out. We grabbed seats on the front patio and people-watched for a bit.
Stop #2: Phoenix Brewing Company
131 N. Diamond St.
Mansfield, OH 44902
Phoenix was our first brewery visit on the trail. Like many of the breweries we’ve encountered over the years, they’re playing an important part in revitalizing neighborhoods and small towns. We got to chat with Scott Cardwell, one of the owners who started the brewery five years ago. It’s located in the old Schroer Mortuary and Funeral Home, a century-old building that was the first fireproof structure in Mansfield.
The name Phoenix obviously nods to the building’s history as a mortuary. They’ve redone it handsomely into a large taproom with a just-as-large outdoor patio. A lot of the beer names nod to the heritage, like the John Doe American wheat, Ferryman oatmeal milk stout, or Absolution black IPA.
Just across the street from Phoenix Brewing sits a wide, gray-brick building that originally served as an auto dealership selling Hudson and Essex cars. Today it’s been given new life as a restaurant, deli, winery, and event space. We headed downstairs first to the wine bar, a spacious but cozy area with the winery itself tucked behind sliding wooden doors.
Even in the heat of summer, it felt comforting to grab seats by the fireplace and order a couple glasses of wine.
Cypress Hill sources its grapes from a vineyard in Lodi, California, so you’ll see more traditional West Coast varietals on their menu, compared to the Ohio wineries drawing primarily on grapes from the Great Lakes region. We sipped on glasses of their pinot noir and Gamay rosé.
Dinner upstairs at Hudson and Essex was delightful. Even though we were on the Wine & Ale Trail, we switched things up and ordered a couple cocktails from the full bar: a dry martini for Beth and the house barrel-aged Manhattan for me. During dinner, Rick and Carol Taylor, the owners of Hudson & Essex, stopped by our table to say hello. They were making the rounds throughout the evening, chatting with their guests.
We feasted on grilled Caesar salad, baked artichokes, poutine with crispy pork belly, filet mignon, and scallops.
After dinner, chef and manager Ben Hoggard took us on a tour, showing us the front deli, the kitchens, the winery, and the 18th century lagering tunnels they discovered beneath the building. They’ve built an elevator and stairwell to access the tunnels, and are renovating them into an event space. It should be pretty amazing when it opens later this year!
Detour: Richland Carrousel Park in Mansfield
After dinner, we strolled over to the gorgeous carousel in the middle of Mansfield. The carousel is the centerpiece of the downtown district, especially during the First Friday Shop Hop. The Shop Hop runs from 5-9 p.m. the first Friday of the month, with carousel rides, live music throughout the city, specials at shops and restaurants. We caught the carousel just before it closed for the night, so we got a personalized ride on it!
The next morning, after breakfast and checkout at the Wishmaker House, we strolled over to the farmers market in Bellville, then headed down Main Street into Brumby’s, a combined coffee and pizza shop. It has all the marks of a classic 1990s coffeehouse, complete with couches, chess boards, baked goods. A small roastery sits behind glass in the front corner.
Stop #4: Uniontown Brewing Company
105 W. Main St.
Ashland, OH 44805
Our fourth stop took us to another brewery: Uniontown Brewing in downtown Ashland. I was completely floored by their location. The brewery and restaurant is housed in the old Gilbert Furniture Store, a icon of Ashland that pre-dates the Civil War!
They’ve done a gorgeous job of renovating the building while keeping its original character: exposed brick walls, wooden floors, tin ceilings. You could spend your whole time marveling at the space. They serve a full menu, too, but as we were still full from breakfast, we just sipped on a flight of beers.
Stop #5: The Vault Wine Bar
29 W. Main St.
Shelby, OH 44875
We noticed a similar theme at The Vault Wine Bar in Shelby, our next stop. The owners renovated the 1911 Citizens Bank building on Shelby’s main drag, turning it into a beautiful hangout for wine, food, and live music. They built out a bar that matches the original Art Deco style, and converted the old wine vault and safe deposit boxes into wine storage. They have a couple binders full of photos of the renovation process.
Detour: Apple Hill Orchards outside Mansfield
Driving along to our next stop, we spied an apple orchard with a sign announcing fresh apple cider donuts, so screeeeeech (but not really), we pulled in, strolled through the orchards, bought a bag of apples and fresh-squeezed cider, a slab of apple caramel pie, and a half dozen soft, warm apple cider donuts. Mission accomplished.
Compared to our previous stops, 1285 Winery at The Blueberry Patch is a sprawling facility on more than 30 acres. The Blueberry Patch is the largest in Ohio, and they produce wines and other delectables from their fields.
The winery and restaurant – with a huge covered patio – sits at the front of the space. You can lounge in the shade, sip on sweet wines like the blueberry, the raspberry, the cinnamon apple – and savor wood-fired flatbreads or baked brie with blueberry preserves.
Andrew Beilstein, son of the owners Lisa and Steve, shared that the rest of the building started out as greenhouses for the blueberry patches (where you can pick your own). Over the years, though, they renovated them to include a gift shop, bakery, and restaurant – so now it’s a complete destination.
For us, this destination included – of course – a stop for fresh blueberry donuts at the bakery. High marks.
Our final stop on the trail was a two-fer: a wine bar and a nanobrewery hidden in plain sight in a strip mall in Lexington. Owned by Paul and Pam Smith, The Happy Grape is a cozy spot with a huge selection of wines, whiskeys, plus a full menu of snacks, flatbreads, sandwiches, and other bites.
They did a splendid job renovating the space, which includes a room with an art gallery showcasing local artists (Paul and Pam purchase a piece from each exhibiting artist) and a big back patio with a rotating mural on the wall. They let local artists update the mural from time to time, so the colorful artwork is constantly changing.
On the other side of the space sits Laxton Hollow Brewing Works, operated by brewmaster Ken Dudley. Laxton Hollow has a special niche in Ohio (and even U.S.) brewing: it’s the state’s only cask-exclusive brewery, and one of just a handful in the country. It’s crazy to find this in a strip mall in Lexington, Ohio!
They produce what’s called “real ale,” which is beer that’s naturally fermented and served directly from casks. There’s no carbonation to push it through the taps, so when you order a pint, they hand pump it from the tap into your glass. It’s not fizzy and frothy like a carbonated drink, and is served at a slightly warmer temperature than typical American “ice cold” lagers.
If you’ve ever visited the UK, you’ll think fondly on the pints of ale you’ve sipped in a pub. Laxton Hollow recreates that feeling with the décor, the ambience, and most certainly their house beers. And Ken has created the world of Laxton Hollow – each of the beers is named after one of the animal characters who inhabits it – and there’s detailed illustrations rendered in posters and playing cards for each one. It was a really amazing final stop on our visit.
And that ended our visit. We made it to every stop on the trail except for Fox Winery in Galion. We’re told Fox Winery features 40 wines, including a recently released blackberry wine. After the fun we had on the trail, we’ll have to make a return visit soon!
Interested in discovering these stops for yourself? Check out the Destination Mansfield Wine & Ale Trail!