Does your heart go pitter-patter when you see an interesting old building? Do you love to learn what life was life in years gone by? Chances are, covered bridges are just your style. And there’s no better place to find them than in Ashtabula County, Ohio, the "Covered Bridge Capital of the World."
It’s possible to see all 16 bridges in one day, but since the county also is home to more than a dozen wineries, my husband and I usually take in a bridge, sample some wine, take in another bridge, sample some more wine, and – well, you get the idea.
Covered bridges are so important here that there’s an annual Covered Bridge Festival the second full weekend in October at the Ashtabula County Fairgrounds in Jefferson. In addition to drive-it-yourself bridge tours, the festival offers entertainment, crafts, historic vehicles, a farmers’ market and plenty to eat. To learn more about the festival, or order a brochure, visit the festival’s web site (www.coveredbridgefestival.org).
Our favorite bridges include Windsor Mills, built in 1867 to span Phelps Creek, and Harpersfield, built in 1868 and at 228 feet is the longest covered bridge in Ohio. The Mechanicsville Road Bridge is the longest single-span covered bridge in the county at 156 feet and is thought to be the oldest as well.
As for wineries, I feel obliged to say it isn’t prudent to visit more than three or four in one day – and then only if you have a designated driver. Our custom is to spend the morning at three or four bridges, then stop for lunch at the Harpersfield Winery near Geneva (www.harpsfield.com), where the cheeses and specialty breads fresh from the wood-fired brick hearth oven are delicious accompaniments to a glass of Reisling or pinot noir as we sit on a picnic table under an old apple tree out back.
Next comes Debonné Vineyards in Madison (www.debonne.com), where we take glasses of our favorite River Rouge, a semi-sweet red, to the outdoor patio. A few covered bridges later, we head for Ferrante Winery in Harpersfield Township for dinner, washed down by a glass of award-winning Riesling Golden Bunches or Vidal Blanc Ice (www.ferrantewinery.com).
Want to add a day to your wine-and-bridge outing? Book a reservation at the beautiful Lodge & Conference Center at Geneva State Park (www.thelodgeatgeneva.com), where many rooms and communal areas like the enclosed swimming pool overlook Lake Erie. Have lunch or dinner at Horizons restaurant, where floor-to-ceiling windows serve up great views of the lake as well.
Then check out nearby Geneva-on-the Lake, which comes alive in summer months as young people meet, greet, eat and play in video arcades. Older folks are more likely to spend quality time at the Old Firehouse Winery; the Lighthouse Niagara, a sweet white, is perfect on a cool fall evening (www.oldfirehousewinery.com). There’s an outdoor patio where, when the weather permits, you can relax and enjoy a sandwich or snack to go with your wine.