BETHEL, Ohio — Tucked away in the hills of Clermont County Harmony Hill Vineyards outside Bethel is not your typical winery.
- Winery produces 1,200 cases of wine each year
- Harmony Hill is a certified National Wildlife Federation Remote Wildlife Habitat
- Live music Fridays and Saturdays through the summer
Sure, it features 71-½ sprawling acres, thousands of grape vines, a patio, and live entertainment. But it also features a wine cave, known as cut-and-cover, that is one of two in Ohio. And one of only about a dozen that exist in the U.S.
Harmony Hill is a farm owned by Bill and Patti Skvarla. In 1990, fed up with being regularly kicked out of a nearby state park, they decided they'd buy a farm. So, they bought 15 acres and called it Harmony Hill because of the wildlife in the area.
Bill Skvarla made jug wine in the house for years and the couple decided in 2001 to plant about 1,200 vines on their property to supply grapes to local wineries.
Today, they grow 3,500 vines and produce their own wine: seven types of table wine and four dessert wines.
“Our original intention, it's funny, was not ever to make wine,” Skvarla said. “I mean, we weren't going to be a commercial winery. We planted the vineyards in order to keep the farm in agriculture back in 2001.”
Now the winery produces about 1,200 cases of wine per year and welcomes thousands of guests each summer.
But its most unique feature is the wine cave, just a few steps from the main patio and wine tasting bar. Skvarla wouldn't say how much it cost, but it's a rarity. While two exist in Ohio, according to Skvarla, Harmony Hill was the first.
“They call it cut-and-cover which means the ground was excavated and then the concrete archways were set into place and butted together to make the long cave for all of our barrel storage.”
The humidity and temperature of the cave, between 42 and 63 degrees, is perfect for storing barrels of wine.
Harmony Hill Vineyards is also a certified National Wildlife Federation Remote Wildlife Habitat.
It's also an Ohio River Valley Sustainable Winery, which means, among other things, they use natural fertilizers and monitor for harmful insect populations.
Skvarla said his property and the surrounding township were the first in Ohio to identify the nefarious Asian Longhorned Beetle.
Guests to the winery can enjoy bringing their pets and walking the farm. The Skvarla's own two donkeys, but the natural wildlife includes birds, deer, and other native animals.
There are also walking trails, event space for weddings, and a variety of birds. A neighbor's tree farm is also visible from the winery.
Harmony Hill Vineyards is open Fridays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.