Fruits of the fair

BURTON – For Ron C. Fratoe, the act of making wine is passed down from generation to generation, trade secrets handed down as a birthright.

“What I really like about making wine is that I’m carrying on a family tradition,” Fratoe said.

Every year, the Burton resident enters several of his homemade wines into the Great Geauga County Fair, where he competes against other wine-makers from the area.

This year, three generations of Fratoes are represented in the competition.

“We all have the same name, so it gets a little confusing,” Fratoe laughed. “I did eight different classes this year, my son Ron M. did seven classes and my dad Ron R. did three. Also, my daughter and her husband did three also. It’s a real family event.”

The Fratoes were rewarded for their efforts, earning numerous second- and third-place finishes. The judging took place Wednesday evening.

According to Cindy Stutzman, event organizer, wines are separated into 12 classes ranging from white vinifera to red grape sweet. Once separated, five judges perform a series of tests to rate the wines.

“They’re judging nose, what it smells like,” Stutzman said. “Then they put it in their mouth, and they’re looking for the flavor, where things like the acidity is very important. Then they spit it out. They’re also looking at the color of the wines.”

The judges will also submit notes on each wine, listing tips to wine-makers as well as their personal opinions of the wine.

“For the people that are into wines, they say that is very helpful for them,” Stutzman said. “If there is something wrong with the wine, that’s noted.”

Finally, after the best wines are chosen according to the categories, the best entry is designated as “best in show.”

Orange Village resident Howard Jacobs received top marks in 2013 for his red vinifera semi-dry wine.

“That’s a very good best in show winner right there,” Stutzman said. “It’s really good and has a great flavor.”

A total of 138 bottles were entered into the competition. Only amateur wine-makers from Geauga County or a bordering county are allowed to enter.

“That’s up about 30 or 40 bottles from last year,” Stutzman said. “So, it was a really good turnout.”

While the competition aspect of making wine is fun, according to Fratoe, the aspect he most enjoys is sharing the hobby with his family.

“I remember growing up as a kid where every Sunday, we’d sit down for a spaghetti dinner at grandma’s house. All of the adults got to drink wine but we didn’t. I said, ‘One of these days,”’ he laughed.

“I really like the flavor of wine, for one thing. But, it’s just a fun, wholesome hobby,” he said.

Another big winner was Celeste Richards of Garrettsville, who was awarded first place in the categories of dessert wine, white or red non-grape and red grape sweet wines, along with a runner-up finish for her ripe grape sweet wine.