In less than a decade, Gervasi Vineyard has gone from one family’s dream to a destination for lovers of fine wine and dining experiences. And now, Ohio’s Tuscan-inspired winery resort gives guests more luxurious reasons to visit with a new distillery and luxury accommodations.
A Piece of Italy in Ohio
The moment you pass under its arched gateway, you are transported to an Italian village that feels miles away from the sleepy Canton neighborhood Gervasi calls home. The leafy vines and picturesque spring-fed lake immediately set the tone for a magical escape, whether it’s for a wine tasting with friends at The Crush House, upscale dining in The Bistro or a weekend escape in one of the Tuscan-inspired villas.
Because family has always been at the heart of the vineyard’s operation, the business carries general manager Scott Swaldo’s grandmother’s maiden name to honor her and her Italian origins. Mama Mary was a typical Italian mother who always made sure her large family was well fed, even during the lean years of the Great Depression.
In total, 14 buildings, including four restaurants, comprise the village-like campus of Gervasi Vineyard. The property bears little resemblance to the untended and overgrown tree farm Scott’s father Ted Swaldo purchased a decade ago with little more than a dream to spend more time with his family when he retired from his position as CEO at a leading manufacturer for the automotive industry.
The family-run resort has expanded again, giving people more reasons to visit the 55-acre property with the addition of a craft distillery and a boutique inn called The Casa, which has 24 fireplace suites with private verandas to meet the demand for more overnight lodging options.
Countryside Churches, Coffee and Cocktails
Peeking over the sun-drenched vines in the south vineyard, a 20-foot-high metal spire towers over The Still House, Gervasi’s new distillery housed in a mission-style, whitewashed building with arched colonnades and a bell tower. Inspired by the 17th century St. Gervasio Church in Denno, Italy — the Gervasi family’s ancestral village — the structure is considered the centerpiece of the property, just as churches are the heart and soul of small towns that dot the Tuscan countryside.
By day, The Still House is a coffee shop serving Gervasi’s proprietary blend of coffee along with pastries and savory snacks. By night, it’s a craft cocktail lounge with small plates and bewitching potions made with more than 120 different liquors on hand, including its own wine barrel-finished bourbon, a blood-orange gin called Saint’s Desire and a rosé vodka called Sinner’s Blush. Drink it all in while surrounded by the little details that add to The Still House’s ambiance: exposed wooden beams, iron accents, stained-glass windows, a marble-topped bar and little nooks, such as the Sin Room, an outdoor heated cigar lounge.
Delicious Wining and Dining
Winemaker Andrew Codispoti and Executive Chef Jerry Risner have played key roles since the winery’s inception, mirroring the high standards the Swaldos set for themselves in terms of creating a memorable, immersive experience for customers.
Growing up on a small vineyard in Italy’s Calabria region, Codispoti knew a lot about winemaking by learning from his mother, who had a reputation for producing great wine. When his family emigrated from Italy and settled in the Canton area, making wine from Ohio-grown grapes became an annual ritual, but not a source of income. Despite being a hobbyist winemaker all his life, producing wine for Gervasi Vineyard became Codispoti’s first foray into commercial production.
Now, traditional varietals acquired from California and Europe round out the portfolio of the 20-plus wines Gervasi Vineyard produces in house — many of which have won awards at regional and international competitions year after year.
Executive Chef Risner, who took on his first head chef position when he joined Gervasi, worked on developing delicious upscale Italian cuisine that would not only complement the wine, but also make Mama Mary proud. More than 90 percent of the items on the menu are made from scratch, including pasta, sauces, bread and pastries. Brick-oven pizza and homemade gnocchi pair well with Truscano, a bold Sangiovese with hints of black currant and plum, while roasted chicken goes well with the award-winning Bellina, an oaked chardonnay with notes of tropical fruit.
Impeccable service, fine dining and wine in a beautifully themed setting proved to be a winning formula. Within three years of opening, Gervasi had already outgrown itself as the demand for wine, events and overnight lodging led to the explosive growth that has continued over the last 10 years.