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As published in Toledo Business Journal - April 1, 2021

Gideon Owen Wine Company’s Catawba Island winery

Gideon Owen Wine Company’s Catawba Island winery

Gideon Owen Wine Co. a catalyst for development

Quintin and Donna Smith purchased the former Mon Ami establishment on Catawba Island in June of 2019. Their decision to purchase the business stemmed from their love for the historic building, cellars, and the beautiful surrounding property. According to the owners, they also had concerns that another buyer would choose to commercially develop the surrounding property, which in their opinion would destroy the historical nature of the land.

After purchasing the facility and property, they decided to rebrand the Mon Ami Historic Restaurant and Winery into Gideon Owen Wine Company. Gideon Owen Wine Company will be composed of several branded operations – Tirage Wine Bar and French Market, The Chalet Restaurant, and the Gideon Owen Winery.

“We never anticipated ever buying this winery. We got there June 12th and we don’t have any real restaurant experience. I was always in manufacturing and figured that we did pretty good and we’d figure it out. What we found was there were people who had come for a long time to this place and they hadn’t been satisfied as customers. So we made a tough choice to change the name,” said Quintin.

Seating at Gideon Owen Wine Company's Catawaba island establishment

The couple has set a few goals:

  1. Establish the first commercial vineyard with wine production on Catawba Island in over 100 years, thereby taking Catawba Island back to its roots as one of the world’s great wine growing regions.

    “The Erie Islands has a cooler climate and less humidity. It was America’s original Napa Valley,” said Quintin.

  2. Expose and showcase one of America’s lost artifacts once again to the public – the European-inspired vaulted wine cellars. These wine cellars are second to none in the entire country, and our ancestors deserve recognition for their work, according to the couple.
  3. Create a campus environment where the local community and guests can immerse themselves in Catawba Island’s history and its agricultural beauty.
  4. Help preserve Catawba Island’s agricultural green space.

“It was always our intention to create our own wine label called Gideon Owen in honor of the founder of Catawba Island’s second winery. We were drawn to this historic name over 10 years ago, but only recently discovered that we own the center 10 acres of Gideon’s original 30-acre vineyard and homestead. We sense more than a simple coincidence here,” said Quintin.

According to Quintin, the couple has sought out and discovered many of the historical truths of the facility.

“An interesting fact is that the original group of fruit growers who banded together to create this national treasure named the entity ‘Catawba Island’s Wine Company.’ In other words, they had the wisdom to view their magnificent creation as the community’s wine company, not just theirs. It is this knowledge that has guided our efforts to restore the facility and grounds into something which will be a point of pride for the community,” said Quintin.

Rendering of Gideon Owen Wine Company's Catawaba island establishment

The company recently renovated the Chalet Restaurant, and according to Quintin, brought it back closer to what it was originally.

“It needed a facelift, if you will, because it was turned into something that wasn’t so functionally great, so we made a change. It’s a 70,000 square foot facility, and I can’t really put into words how amazing it is,” said Quintin.

Quintin also noted that the company expects to produce 4,000-6,000 cases of wine each year.

“We’ve planted 10,000 grapes, but it was a horrible experience in a drought last year. I think we probably had 20% death rate – but we’ll know in the spring,” said Quintin. “But the future is left to our collective imagination. We are building something that brings community – community enrichment is kind of our goal.

According to Quintin, everybody hates a business model that’s seasonal, so the plan is to extend the season. Twin Oast, which the Smiths own, had igloos this past winter, and was popular and got some business in the offseason. With the pavilion the company is building, it plans to have a French Market in the summertime, and extend the winter season with a Holiday Market, festivals, and events, among other ideas.

“We are confident in our vision but, as with all journeys, hardships will be found along the way. We will need help and support from our community and guests, and we invite all of you to come see our roots. This is the story of a second chance,” concluded Quintin.