Historic Lonz Winery
Location & Visitor information
In 1866 Andrew Wehrle, established the Golden Eagle Wine Cellars, which soon became one of the largest wineries in the country. In 1884, island resident Peter Lonz established his own winery on the island. The Bass Islands earned the nickname "Wine Islands" and the wines they produced were compared favorably to fine French vintages. The Golden Eagle winery was expanded to include a dance pavilion over the wine cellar, and a subsequent owner built a 60-room hotel, the Hillcrest, in 1905. Both the hotel and the dance pavilion were destroyed by fire in 1923. In 1926, Peter Lonz and his son, George, merged their own wine-making business with the remains of the Golden Eagle Winery. Despite the nation-wide prohibition of alcohol and the onset Great Depression, the Lonz business survived by selling bottles of grape juice with instructions for fermenting the juice at home. Following the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, George Lonz began rebuilding the winery complex. After a fire destroyed the structure in 1942, work began on the Gothic-style stone castle that became a familiar landmark for tourists and wine enthusiasts for nearly 60 years. A modern wine press was built in 1956, and in 1962, a marina was added to the winery complex to accommodate pleasure boaters. The Lonz Winery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, and remained popular with tourists until the tragic collapse of a crowded terrace in July 2000. In 2001, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) purchased 124 acres on Middle Bass Island, including undeveloped natural areas featuring wetlands, woodlands, glacial grooves, and nearly a mile of Lake Erie shoreline, along with the shell of the Lonz Winery and the marina complex. Middle Bass Island became Ohio's 74th state park in March 2001. ODNR proudly unveiled the restoration and preservation efforts that have been completed at the Historic Lonz Winery on Middle Bass Island State Park on Friday, June 23, 2017 where the 150+ year old wine cellars were opened for the first time to park visitors. ODNR saved as much as the original structure as possible, including the cellars, the iconic Lonz Winery facade, and the tower. Much of the winery upper levels could not be salvaged, but the footprint of the building is being utilized as a large patio that features great views of Lake Erie and Put-in-Bay. Historical wine exhibits are inside the preserved cellars of Lonz Winery. These exhibits feature wine-making equipment found on the property, some as much as a century old.