Gervasi’s Plan to Enhance its Tasting Experience

Gervasi Vineyard GM Scott Swaldo will readily admit that the wine-tasting format at the Canton, Ohio estate bears little resemblance to serious tastings in Napa or Sonoma or structured European tours that one often sees in places like Jerez or Douro.

Gervasi has evolved into so much more than a winery over its relatively brief 12-year existence. The 55-acre property includes hotel accommodations, multiple restaurants, a gift shop and a bar, but it’s about to get bigger, adding about 20,000 square feet of space between two structures that will include a spa, a warehouse and distribution facility, a rickhouse for aging bourbon and a wine cave.

The wine cave — which will be located underground and include a 1,000 square foot tasting room and adjacent 4,500 square foot barrel aging room — is the piece of the puzzle Swaldo said will give serious wine tasters the experience they’re accustomed to.

The wine cave is expected to be complete in the spring, but for now, the tasting experience runs primarily out of Gervasi’s Crush House Wine Bar and Eatery, which is one of two restaurants onsite.

“We can turn this into a tour experience and really elevate the wine-tasting experience,” Swaldo told Vintner Magazine. “(We’re in) a restaurant, and you’re doing tastings next to someone who’s having dinner or lunch. A serious winery goer doesn’t always love that. It can be distracting and take away from the experience.”

Putting a wine cave underground is possible at Gervasi partially because the natural topography allows for it. Swaldo said they didn’t want to dig something down into the ground and have a false feeling of an entrance, but they would make it an experience beginning with the entrance by adding a stone ledge facade and heavy rustic doors that will entice guests who will enter a structure with a true, underground cellar feel.

Once inside, there will be attributes that will interest both the wine aficionado and history buff alike, Swaldo said.

“You have French Oak, Hungarian Oak and American Oak … there’s a lot to talk about when it comes to barrels,” Swaldo said. “We’ll have a barrel with clear ends so you can see the space (inside) and we’ll talk about that. There are barrels that are not just created for volume, but for different flavor profiles, so we’ll talk about that. We’ll have a mini solera with a 10-12 barrel set-up and we’ll talk about how that wine is made.”

Swaldo said guests could also learn about the new style Port they are making (aged and ready in 1-2 years, unlike Gervasi’s Tawny Port which is produced in California and takes considerably longer) and see the urns it ages in.

Gervasi also plans to hire a professional photographer to capture drone footage of the estate and the entire winemaking process. They will produce a video that can be shown during Saturday private tours of the Wine Cave to give people the “grape-to-glass experience” of seeing the wine being made that they’re about to taste.

Instead of bartenders, the tasting room will be staffed with people who work more on the tour side of the winery — some of whom are retired educators — who will be well-suited to tell Gervasi’s story.

Swaldo made it clear that the new tasting experiences would not replace a guest’s ability to go to the Crush House and order a flight.

“Some people just want to drink the wine, but some really want to learn,” he said.

Photo: Artist’s rendering (gervasivineyard.com)

Executive Editor Jon Sicotte contributed to this report.

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