On a recent Saturday, my boyfriend Brian and I headed to Woodstone Creek — I love a glass of a good red wine and he’s always willing to sip straight whiskey, so it was the perfect place for us to sample a selection of both.
The all-in-one tasting room, winery, meadery and distillery is located in an unassuming brick building in Saint Bernard. It has been totally renovated; the space’s former incarnations as a bank and electrical contractor are unrecognizable. Tables and chairs line the walls, along with wine racks and art created by owner Linda Outterson. A restored antique L-shaped bar is the centerpiece.
Linda co-owns Woodstone Creek with her husband Don, who studied fermentation science at the Siebel Institute of Technology and continued his education at the Alltech school of alcohol and brewing. He’s the resident brewmaster, mead mazer, master distiller and wine maker.
The Outtersons started distilling in 1999 and pioneered legal microdistilling in Ohio, helping to change state law and then obtaining the state’s first microdistillery license. Today they produce between 100 and 200 cases of combined wine, mead and spirits per year — less than “the big guys spill on the floor,” their website says — without automated equipment, computers or employees. Drawing on his traditional Scottish heritage, Don distills Woodstone’s single-barrel spirits himself using a direct-fire 238-gallon pot-still he designed from scrap metal; Linda designed the Woodstone branding; and they hand-bottle everything they produce.
Before opening in Saint Bernard, the Outtersons operated out of the Listermann Brewing Company building in Evanston; Woodstone had to close their doors as the brewery grew. While the tasting room at the new location is roughly the same size, there is less room for distilling. As a result, they are working to stabilize their inventory and focus more on wine production, turning to put more emphasis on French varietals.
Saddling up to the bar, the owners greeted us warmly and explained the tasting process. A spirit tasting is $5 plus the cost of individually priced craft spirits ($1.10-$10.15), and wine tastings are $12 for five samples. You can also select mini tastings or additional samples for additional dollars. Tastings come with a branded glass to take home.
Because they are a true craft distillery and everything they make is rare, the menu changes based on what the owners have available. They take chances, like with the Barrelhouse Experimental whiskey, made with extra oak. Only a small batch was made and it’s only available in sample sizes.
Of the 11 spirit options, Brian chose the Premium Dry Gin and three different whiskeys. I was leery of drinking straight gin, but snuck a sip and agreed that it was pretty great. It was flavorful, full of herbs, spices and traditional juniper, without that alcoholic bite that comes with cheap gin. Brian loved all of the whiskey samples, but his eyes widened with delight when he tried the Distiller’s Reserve Sherry Cask Single Malt. He described layers of flavor, each emerging after the last, and a smooth finish. (No surprise that it took 13 years to make.)
I chose six wine samples from the list of 17. Brian was excited to try a mead. Neither of us ever had mead, and he’d read a fair amount about it because of his gluten allergy (surprisingly, mead is made of just honey and water) and interest in home brewing. It ended up being the only glass we didn’t finish. Not due to any fault of the mead mazer, we just apparently aren’t mead drinkers.
We also sampled the Chocolate Casanova, an ice wine (made with grapes that have frozen on the vine) infused with milk chocolate. It was so chocolaty I was surprised that it wasn’t brown. And who objects to chocolate?
Many wine offerings were infused with fruit, mixed with mead or were just generally sweet. I liked them all, but preferring a dry red, my favorite ended up being the Cabernet Sauvignon. It was solid, inexpensive and more than worth it.
The owners are so passionate and knowledgeable that we were surprised to learn that Woodstone is only a spare-time endeavor for them. As a result, tastings are only available from 2-7 p.m. on Saturdays. Bottles of Woodstone spirits are available at select liquor stores (wine is only sold via the tasting room), but after hearing Don talk about distilling, you’ll have a hard time not walking away with one on the spot. We took home a flask of their Spirit Whiskey ($18.50) ourselves. They welcome groups but don’t take reservations. Next time we’ll bring friends — and cheese and crackers.
WOODSTONE CREEK is located at 4712 Vine St. in Saint Bernard. More info: woodstonecreek.com.