A Quick Little Post, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Sunday Musings; A Quick Little Post.


A glass of ice wine courtesy of Kosicek Vineyards.

After a busy week at work, and a crazy week’s worth of news, it was time to enjoy the fall colors again gracing Northeast Ohio, drive out to Grand River Wine Country and be with all the other people driving up and down Route 307 on Saturday to stop and buy a bottle of wine here, taste a glass of wine there, and watch the clouds roll in from the south.


Looking Southwest at the South River Vineyard.

Yesterday the wineries out there had their Turkey Trot where many of the wineries participated in pairing wine tastings with dishes for Thanksgiving dinner.   The truth be told, those places which apparently weren’t participating seemed just as busy as those that did.  In other words, it was a very busy time out there on the border of Lake and Ashtabula Counties.  I even met a couple from Pittsburgh at M Cellars who came up to enjoy the wines. It’s nice to see that the Grand River Appellation’s reputation is spreading beyond Ohio.


Two chairs waiting for a couple to sit in at the South River Vineyard.

The first piece I wrote for this blog about the wineries around Grand River was three years ago.  Who would have thought that this blog would be still running in it’s fourth year?   That’s a lot of writing ladies and gentlemen!  It also seems like we were living in a different country, but that is for another time.


Photographs by James Valentino

About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

Our 45th President.

With all that has been happening in the past forty-eight hours, it is difficult to put down all that I’ve seen and heard into a post for this blog.  Events of historic proportions have been constantly happening in this country; to the joy of some, the shock of many.

The Washington Post’s Daily 202 did a pretty good summing up of all the events of the Inauguration Day, and on that speech.  I must admit that it was rather interesting to see how the whole inauguration ceremony went and that our new POTUS was rather more restrained than I imagined him to be in his speech.While I was listening to it, I didn’t pick up on half of the things that the media is debating about right now.  However, looking back at it a few days later, I can see why Chris Matthews can consider his speech ‘Hitlerian’. Meanwhile, protests turned violent on K Street and Sean Spicer has a meltdown the next day parroting his boss’ line as journalists came to ask about any thoughts on the Women’s March that drew record crowds .  All this in twenty-four hours: I wonder what will be happening as the year progresses.

While all this has played out before the cameras, things have been relatively serene here on the North Coast.  We have springlike weather in the middle of January and, today, bright sunshine. Who knows how the rest of the month, and year, will turn out and yet, while not everyone could take a bus down to D.C., many around here were still getting mobilized for the challenges ahead.


The Lake County Democratic Party’s meeting Saturday.

Yesterday, as the Women’s March took place in D.C. and across the nation, I was at a union hall in Mentor Ohio.  There, the Lake County Democratic Club had their joint Central and Executive Committee Meeting.  The place was packed.  In fact, someone commented that there was twice as many people than at any meeting last year. What was supposed to be a short meeting turned out to be almost three hours long. Lake County Democrats were hit hard in November.  Both incumbent commissioners Judy Moran and Kevin Malecek lost as did County Recorder Ann Radcliffe and many others. Only State Representative John Rogers (District 60) and County Treasurer Lorraine Fende got re-elected.  In the five westernmost suburbs of Lake County Ohio (referred to locally as “The West End”) all but one precinct went for Trump.  What is notable about this is the fact that area usually goes heavily Democratic.  This is the reality everyone in that room Saturday was faced with.

This was one of the most energized meetings I’ve seen out there; and I have been to a few. For example, Party Chairman Tom Tagliamonte made example, a point that Lake County Democrats need to rebuild their party and leave the meeting united, “Elections matter, this (the General Election) was a disaster for Ohio and our party.”  Later on, State Representative John Rogers said that “We need people at the local level before we can get people at the state and federal level,” elected while Commissioner Dan Troy told the group that the Democrats had to “get away from identity politics”.  Instead they should take back the message about working to provide good paying jobs, decent schools, and lower prescription drugs; things that for some reason many in that county thought Trump would provide.  Along with the regular business any political club had to do, there were votes for people to fill in spaces in the Central Committee; many of whom only started getting involved last year. All in all, this and meetings like this across the nation in the next few weeks may be for people like myself something constructive.  Instead of wasting time with ‘listening tours’, getting out and mobilizing for 2018 and winning back a few seats in places like Lake County locally, and the U.S. Senate nationally, would be a very good start.


Photograph by James Valentino


A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Another Fall on the North Coast.


The beach at Lake Erie Bluffs in Perry, Ohio.

Things are too busy to find time to write, especially for Mad Man On A Great Lake.     Considering the fact that there were only 24 views this month of this site, I think it’s appeal is starting to wind down.  We’ll see.

Instead of writing, I’ve been doing a lot of driving, and that doesn’t just include heading to the job.  It’s a time of political fundraisers, clambakes, and yes local recognition dinners (in this case, one for your District 5 Police Station this past Wednesday at the Cleveland Jobs Corps campus off of East 140th St.).  This writer has been so tired that it was only this weekend that he took up the keyboard, and pen, to resume work on a few projects.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the leaves are turning now in NE Ohio.  Driving out I-90 East today you can really notice to reds and golds emerging on the trees.  This is such a beautiful time of the year here along Lake Erie.  It helped that we had unseasonably warm weather this weekend which is another reason to head outside and, in my case, enjoy the surf at a Lake County Metropark in Perry Ohio.

img_20161016_121502We will see how many more views of the site take place by the end of the month.

Photographs taken by James Valentino


Another Quick Little Post

Lake County Dem HQ, November 1, 2014 Me

Doing double duty: at the Lake County Democratic Campaign Headquarters in my Ron Wiech T-shirt.



This is what happens when you have too many things to do and so little time. I definitely have some good ideas for post to this blog. However, I’m also now swamped for the past few days not just because of THE JOB but also THE CAMPAIGNS. I have been a political activist with the Democratic Party in NE Ohio for almost two decades and, once again, I’m being sucked into three local races which are in fact very important. I already cast my absentee ballot last month and I know many others who have done the same. However, these last three days are critical in key races and I am doing my part. Despite all my griping about the way things are going, deep down, I’m a bit of an idealist. One must try to be part of the solution. Our constitution is a pretty unique document and, despite its flaws and delusions of grandeur, this country has had a pretty good track record. Maybe that’s why I’m heading out to Lake County today to plant more yard signs. It doesn’t seem much, but it sure doesn’t hurt.


Adventures in Grand River Wine Country.

Grapes ripened on the vine.

Grapes ripened on the vine.

The Grand River wine country to the east of Cleveland Ohio is a well-kept secret for the rest of the nation. Straddling the Lake and Ashtabula county borders it’s a truly enjoyable day trip on a weekend afternoon. While it is a far cry from the world renown wine areas of the nation, Grand River is coming into it’s own and, these roads get quite busy with traffic from the nearby cities.  Route 307 and Doty Road are lined with fields of grape vines interspersed with woods, houses, bed and breakfasts like the Polly Harper Inn, and the occasional corn field. In the fall, air is heavy with the scent of grapes still on the vine.

Created in 1983, there are about 13-22 wineries in the Grand River Appellation. They include such local favorites as Chalet Debonne Vineyards, Ferrante Winery and Ristorante, St. Joseph Vineyard and M Cellars. Surprisingly, more than a few have won awards for the quality of their wines.

French-American hybrids such as vidal blanc naturally thrive in this area but also original grape varietals including pinot noir and chardonnay which benefit from the area’s proximity to Lake Erie to the North.  Many vintners have taken a cue from those on the other side of Lake Erie and produce ice wines which have a strong local following.

Chalet Debonne Vinyards

Chalet Debonne Vinyards

Chalet Debonne on Doty Road in Madison, Ohio, has been producing award-winning ice wines for years, including this year. “It has been busier this year than last because the economy was still slow,” an employee of Debonne told me recently when I went there. Her comment bore her out because, as I was leaving, two busloads of people were coming in.  It is well known locally for their special events, and hot air balloons taking off from its grounds.

Ferrante's on a Summer Weekend.

Ferrante’s on a Summer Weekend.

Ferrante’s Winery and Ristorante on Route 307 is another well known establishment to Clevelanders.  It too has won numerous awards for it’s wines such as gold medals for it’s Grand River Valley Vidal Blanc Ice Wine and Cabernet Franc.  However, it is the restaurant that really fills up the parking lot; especially since they have live bands performing on the spacious patio in the summer.

M Cellars Winery and  South River Vineyard (located in an old church) are the newer kids on the block, so to speak.   On my recent drive down South Ridge Road, it was encouraging to see that such new establishments, only created within the last decade, were doing excellent business.  M Cellars parking lot was filled when I stopped in their driveway and, from their website, seems to be getting pretty good local press.

This stretch of land south of Lake Erie has been known as a grape growing region since the 19th century. Geneva Ohio, is home of the annual Grape Jamboree which has been running strong for 51 years. However, it was table grapes or those destined for the jar of jam that historically predominated. It was only after 1970 that some grape growers, such as Debonne, began to seriously invest in commercial wine-making and in the past few decades it has taken off.

M Cellars Winery, South Ridge Road.

M Cellars Winery, South Ridge Road

According to Donniella Winchell of the Ohio Wine Growers Association in a recent phone conversation, things have been “crazy, busy out here, it’s insane,” but bears out her strong belief that the wineries such as Debonne’s are an economic engine for the county. The Summer Season, which has on average 10,000 to 12,000 people visiting the wineries daily, has extended to March to take in the enormously popular Ice Wine Festival with larger crowds arriving in the Fall Harvest season. Even on the coldest days of Winter, some 5,000 people head out there on a given weekend. This not bad for a an area running ten miles north and south of a small river.

Inside the Chalet

Inside the Chalet

Grand River Wine Country’s easy access to the Cleveland area via I-90, which is a boon to the wineries, also puts it directly in the path of development. Already Eastern Lake County has experienced a building boom as woodland and nurseries have been replaced by subdivisions, big boxes, and signs along the road selling fallow acreage. Will this area be able to withstand the onslaught of urban sprawl that relentlessly moves eastward?  It’s hard to tell the Grand River Wine area will be like a decade from now.  With the growing investment in wineries, and conservation easement programs offered by such groups as the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, a Home Depot may never be built next to Ferrante’s.  What I would like see is it evolving into what a traveler encounters on the Niagara Peninsula.  Will St. Joseph’s ice wine be as well known as Inniskillin’s?  Will there be a summer stock theater in Geneva or nearby Unionville?  How about more boutique lodgings like the Polly Harper Inn?  That, I believe, would be an amazing view for the future.

Wine County September 27, 2014 Ashtabula

One last look.