RLDG Public Service Announcement: Yep, this destination has alcohol and, though we love a good beer, we believe that MOTORCYCLES AND ALCOHOL DO NOT MIX! We find lots of cool breweries, wineries, and distilleries on great rides, but buy a bottle or fill a growler to drink when the bike’s parked for the day. If you decide to imbibe on the ride, please remember the ONE HOUR, PER DRINK, BOTTLE TO THROTTLE rule.
The bike ALWAYS beats a gurney for the ride home!
I’m not much of a drinker (and never drink when I’m on the bike), but breweries and distilleries fascinate me. If I happen upon one on the road, it’s a definite stop. Something about the smells, shiny copper and stainless equipment that looks wonderfully antique when brand new, and cool people that take such pride in their craft just draws me in. It was on a morning ride to Nowhere-in-Particular, OH that I happened upon Red Eagle Distillery the first time, and met Heather working the flower beds at the front of the building. The distillery wasn’t technically open, but she invited me in, showed me around, and shared the Red Eagle story.
Over the past decade or so, Ohio has been slowly reevaluating and adjusting a few of its archaic, prohibition-based laws on alcohol. One change was designed to make distilleries more of a tourist destination, similar to Kentucky’s “Bourbon Trail”, and allow for distilleries in areas where they’ve been illegal for decades. When the law changed, Heather and Gene Sigel, owners of South River Vineyard, took advantage and created Red Eagle Distillery in Ashtabula County in 2012. In April of 2013, the first bottle of locally-sourced Red Eagle bourbon sold to their first customer. Admitting I’m not a whiskey drinker, so I can’t pass any sort of judgement on how Red Eagle tastes. However, I did buy a bottle of Red Eagle Rye for a retiring co-worker, one who appreciates quality liquor, and he tells me it’s very good!
The bright Red Eagle building can’t be missed among the acres of South River Vineyard’s grapes, but it is easy to drive past the parking lot. There are tables on the patio outside the building, perfect for a warm afternoon, but I’d choose a cool autumn day and sit at the tables inside. The beautifully restored building, warmed by active distillation equipment, is a particularly inviting atmosphere. Red Eagle Spirits has expanded to include Bourbon, Whiskey, Rye, Vodka, and Brandy for your sipping pleasure., as well as a seasonal list of cocktails made with Red Eagle spirits. There are also a few local beers on tap, but Red Eagle is NOT a full bar/ restaurant- so consider bringing a picnic lunch to enhance your visit.
Once you’ve sampled a taste or two, walk the trail through the grapes to the picturesque restored church on the grounds. The former Methodist church was slated for demolition before it was moved to the South River Vineyards and restored as a beautiful tasting room for the winery. Step inside and you’ll understand why South River is lovingly known as “The Quiet Winery”. Much to the dismay of my Bro-In-Law, a Sommelier, I really don’t like wine either. I do love the mellow vibe of both Red Eagle and South River Vineyards though, and a fun ride for a bottle to gift is reason enough to visit.
On the road, the ride around Red Eagle is fast, mostly straight and level 2-lanes that ramble through the farms and vineyards of Ashtabula and Lake counties. In late summer the smell of corn, grains and grapes is a sensory pleasure, and autumn brings vibrant colors to the area. For a bit of added adventure, Ashtabula is known for 19 covered bridges that are reasonably close to Red Eagle. Start early, visit the bridges, picnic at Red Eagle and take home a bottle to end the ride- a great way to spend a day!
Keep Riding Local, Dreaming Global, and we’ll see you on the road. Enjoy!