Historic Lonz Winery on Lake Erie's Middle Bass Island has been a tradition since the 1800's. First opened during the Civil War as the Golden Eagle Winery, by 1875 it was the largest wine producer in the United States. The winery, with its castlelike architecture, looms like a fortress along the beach. Tours of its centuryold wine cellars, dug by hand during the Civil War, are topped with tasting of the winery's wines and juices. Although wine is no longer produced on the island, Lonz maintains Concord and Catawba vineyards and sends the harvest to the mainland for processing.
Peter Lonz started producing wines on Middle Bass Island in 1884, and his son, George, designed the magnificent Gothic architectural structure that even today bears the Lonz name. Over the years, countless dignitaries, including five United States Presidents have been guests on the island.
Tours, conducted by trained guides, begin with a multi-media presentation followed by a visit to the century old wine cellars, and conclude with a wine tasting in the cellars.
Lonz Winery, Middle Bass Island, OH - (419)285-5411.
Later, a gentleman by the name of Tim Lankston who is a pilot sent in this:
I flew up to the lake today and got the pic of the so called castle....it kinda looks like a castle but not like the medieval ones. .I did ask about it and I found out from a flying buddy that it did exist that it has been turned into a winery....it is a winery but its still kinda neat.
I received E-Mail that said:
The castle on Gibralter Island is not exactly a castle. It is called Cook Castle, and it was owned by a man named James Cook, and his wife. He was the richest guy in the area. He fought in the Battle of Lake Erie, and he liked the island. There is now a lab names F.T. Stone Lab, that is owned by OSU also on that island. The castle isn't up to code, and some people are fixing it up. My class who was visiting couldn't go in the castle. If you want more information on the castle, you can e-mail OSU or call them, and you can have them connect you with the people on the island who know about the castle.
Later, I received E-Mail that said:
Hi, I was born in the house just a 100 yards or so behind the winery. I grew up there, had my first job there and knew the place like the back of my hand. My father worked for George Lonz at the Winery until he died in 1969, and then again became connected with the winery when it was purchased in the mid 70's by Paramount Distillers and remained connected to the winery until the tragic event that took place there July 1, 2000 brought about it's early closing.
The winery now stands where two other wineries once stood as stated in a prior email. Those buildings were wood and each burned to the ground in the mid to later 1800's. To solve this problem from happing again, Geo. Lonz decided to construct it of stone. And the inside of the building has some beautiful antique hand painted murals on the ceilings that have beautiful poetry like descriptions of the fruit of the vine and the wonderful wines they produce. As well as a very large beautiful fire place in the main room, made from stones found on the island. The tall tower once held a billiard room and it is said that Teddy Roosevelt, who vacationed on the island liked to play there. The large dome on top is brass or copper (I can't remember) and it was used as an observatory. The benches are still there today.
About 15 years ago I was cleaning the cottage of the current owner on another island and buried in the closet I was cleaning found the telescope that once belonged to George Lonz. It was quite an instrument, almost six feet tall and at the widest 12 inches and constructed out of very heavy brass. Mr. Lonz was considered to be kind of a character (you have to be to live on an island, it's a prerequisite) however he kept the winery going even through prohibiton. Through those tight times he sold grape juice and on the back of the labels were instructions to avoid, as these steps would lead to the juice turning to wine.
On the same property lies his house, called the Lonz Mansion, under it is a tunnel, it was said that the tunnel once led out to his elaborate boat house and was used as a secret passage during prohibition. However now it goes some ways back and is closed off. Mr. Lonz had no family so when he passed the winery operated off and on till Paramount purchased it. It then remained open until July 2000, where on a busy summer day with a 1000 or so tourist having the usual weekend party there, tragedy struck. The winery was scheduled to close in the fall of 2000, when it was cut short by the side terrace caving into the wine caller below, killing one and injuring 70 others. The terrace was constructed in the 1960's and back then the building codes were much different.
It was a sad way to bring the end to such a big part of our Lake Erie History. The winery is now owned by the State of Ohio and will become a State Park in a few years where it will still remain a historical land mark to be visited for years to come.
This does not impress me all that much as a castle, but I will leave it on the webpage for a while anyway
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Picture courtesy of PILOTTL@aol.com