Columbus, Ohio USA
Return to Homepage www.shortnorth.com
Camelot Cellars: Ohio’s first on-premise winery
By Karen Edwards
Photos Gus Brunsman III
Chuck and Mary Frobose
It’s fun to be first. Not that Camelot Cellars, 958 N. High Street, is making a huge deal out of their status as Ohio’s first on-premise winery shop.
Nor are they touting the fact that it’s one of only 40 such establishments in the country.
After all, it wasn’t bragging rights that drove Chuck and Mary Frobose into business. It was the wine.
Camelot Cellars is the Frobose’s new-to-the-neighborhood, full-service, professional, on-premise winery where customers can belly up to the tasting bar (a quarter per glass – you can’t legally give wine away in Ohio), buy a bottle, or slip into the sterile wine-making laboratory for an opportunity to mix up their own batch of wine. (For you non-oeniphiles, that’s about 28 to 30 bottles of your own “private reserve.”)
In other words, think of Camelot as your own personal winery – with trained and knowledgeable staff on board to keep an eye on your product while you go about the day-to-day minutia of life.
What kind of wine can you make? What kind of wine do you like?
The Froboses offer more than 40 wines from all over the world, so chances are, whatever you like to drink you can make.
Are you a white wine lover? Try whipping up a batch of Washington Columbia Riesling, a British Columbia Chardonnay, or a saucy French Chardonnay. Or choose a Sauvignon Blanc, a Luna Bianca, an Italian Pinot Grigio, or any one of a dozen more selections.
Red wine your preference? Merlots, Cabernets, Spanish Riojas, Australian Shirazes – take your pick.
And perfect for summer are the specialty fruit wines, a peach apricot Chardon-nay, a green apple Riesling and a Wildberry Shiraz. There’s even a Riesling ice wine for sipping slowly while thinking cool thoughts.
The secret to this type of venture are the juices which make the wine, and the Froboses dedicated a good deal of time and effort to find just the right vendor to provide their supply.
Their vendor hails from British Columbia, which makes sense. The on-premise winery concept is huge throughout Canada, because wine there is heavily taxed unless you happen to make it yourself.
“Our vendor purchases the grapes from the wineries, and sells us the juices after the grapes are harvested and crushed,” says Mary Frobose.
So – no grape stomping in the back room, but the rest of the do-it-yourself experience is yours to enjoy.
Your first step is to spend a little time at the tasting bar to determine what wine you’d like to cellar as your own. There are currently 20 wines to sample (along with the obligatory cheese and crackers), but the Forboses hope to eventually increase that number to around 35 to 40.
Then, once that has been determined, you’ll move into the “lab” area – after Mary is done swabbing the decks, that is.
“There can’t be any trace of bacteria or yeast,” she explains, so every stainless steel surface in the lab is carefully wiped with a sterilizing solution.
Next, you’ll be led to a sink where a sterile plastic container awaits. Pour in the juice of your choice, a small amount of sterile water, and the bentonite. Bentonite is a clay-based substance that helps activate the yeast, and serves as a natural filtration or cleaning agent to clarify the wine of any sediment.
Depending on the wine, you may want to add oak, simulating the wine that’s aged in big oak barrels, and, finally, you’ll add the yeast.
Place the lid on top of the container, seal it with an air-lock, and your part is done.
For the Froboses, however, it’s just the first step in the winemaking process.
Your mixture will be moved to the fermentation room where it will sit for six to eight weeks becoming wine. While there, it will go through four different filtering processes, siphoned off through tubes (so no air touches it) into large sterile glass jars known as carboys.
Once the wine is ready and passes one last check, it will be placed in bottles or splits – your choice.
White wine usually goes into clear bottles, red wine in color bottles (green or brown), and German wines into blue bottles. But it’s your wine, and if you want to buck tradition, the Froboses won’t stand in your way.
The creative part
Choosing the bottle is only half the fun, however. You also select a bottle trim wrap (that metallic paper you find around the bottle’s neck) and create a label for your wine.
Mary Frobose brings out a carton full of trim wraps (in so many gorgeous colors you’d like to choose them all) and a notebook of computerized art labels. Your task is to mix and match wraps and labels until you find a combination that pleases you and, of course, is uniquely yours.
“We can scan artwork and photographs if the customer wants to create a more personal label,” says Mary.
She shows off labels that feature the drawing of a family farm; artwork from the Kiaca Gallery; and a physician practice logo as examples of what’s possible (and what’s already been done).
Chuck and Mary opened Camelot Cellars as their retirement business. Chuck hasn’t fully retired from his day job yet– as an administrator with the Bucyrus school system. However, Mary, who was raised Amish, has retired from 20 years with the Smith Clinic, and her own financial services business, and is now managing the shop full time. Both still live in the Bucyrus area and commute to work, about an hour-and-fifteen-minute drive.
“When we were looking for places to open our business, we knew we wanted to open it in Columbus,” says Mary. “Our realtor suggested we look for space in the Short North. So, we came and spent some time in the area, visiting the shops and talking to the owners.”
It didn’t take long for the Froboses to fall in love with the community– and with the former Tattletales location, including its rough brick walls and large windows overlooking High Street. That it offered a small exhibit area made it even better.
“I’ve always been interested in the visual arts, so having space available for exhibits helped sell us on this location,” says Mary.
Wine and art
The exhibits at Camelot Cellars rotate regularly, thanks to a business arrangement with Gallery Art Leasing (GAL), a new company founded by graphic artist Suzanne Byrd, in cooperation with the Ohio Art League.
“The artists that will be featured in this space are Ohio Art League members,” says Byrd, and that means a variety of art forms (from oil paintings and glass art to textile art and metal sculpture) will be rotated through the open-air space.
The gallery space also allows Camelot Cellars to host groups for meetings, fund-raisers, small wedding receptions, and other events.
And while the on-premise winery has been open only a few months, the Forboses are already upping their winery production. On Gallery Hop nights, says Mary, bottles, which sell for $7-15, “fly off the shelves.” She and Chuck are already planning to triple their projected production for the upcoming holiday season.
“We’re beginning to see residents of Italian Village come in for bottles of the Italian wines we carry,” says Mary. Wines like Luna Bianca and Luna Rossa, Barbaresco and Montepulciano.
With a good representative sample of German Rieslings, Piesporters and Gewurztraminers also available, can German Village residents be far behind?
Camelot Cellars will introduce wine classes on most Thursdays throughout July – and Mary says it’s always a good idea to check in regularly to see whether or not their vendor has been able to secure something new and different for Camelot Cellars’ customers.
“We will offer special edition wines when that happens,” Mary says.
Those moments will be fleeting – but so is the nature of wine and, for that matter, Camelot, itself.
“We came up with the name Camelot Cellars one night, while reminiscing with a friend about the golden times in the Bucyrus school system, when everything seemed to work right, and everyone was on the same page.”
King Arthur provides a bit broader definition of “Camelot” in Lerner & Lowe’s musical by the same name – and maybe his words best sum up the halcyon future ahead for the Short North’s new Camelot Cellars:
"In short there’s simply not, a more congenial spot, for happily ever-aftering than here in Camelot."
For more information about the July wine classes, or for other information, contact Chuck and Mary Frobose at (614) 441-8860.
© 2005 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.