Pioneer members Kent and Connie Eichenauer began growing one acre of grapes on Herr Road, just outside of Urbana, nine years ago. Connie was preparing to retire after 30 years of teaching, and she and Kent had been discussing ideas of what she could do with her spare time and maybe also subsidize their income.
Soon after, Connie and a close friend invited their husbands to join them for a visit to nearby Versailles Winery.
“The next thing I know, Kent was talking to the owner and asked me if I wanted to grow grapes,” says Connie, laughing. “And I said, ‘sure!’”
Connie, who has a love and skill for gardening and enjoys being outdoors, embraced the new challenge. The initial plan was just grapes — not making or selling wine.
Kent, who is also a psychiatrist in the area, says his first thought was, “I have some acreage over here and a 1950 Ford tractor — who can’t grow an acre of grapes?”
In 2010, the Eichenauers planted their first acre of grapes. The following year, they added another acre, and that routine continued until they attained their fouracre vineyard.
As Connie cared for and maintained the vineyard, Kent began to dabble in wine-making.
He attended wine-making classes that were offered through Ohio State University and started experimenting with some of Connie’s grapes. He first started out using kits that had everything measured out in packets; eventually, he moved on to buying his own ingredients and juice, which also helped increase his understanding of the process. Finally, he began producing wine with grapes from their vineyard.
Out of the Eichenauers’ newfound hobbies, Dragonfly Vineyard and Wine Cellar was born. The Eichenauers largely credit the guidance of the Ohio State horticulture conferences and training, the OSU Extension Office, and the owners of local wineries for offering the couple help and guidance along the way.
Local wineries tend to support each other — they view additional wineries as opportunities to entice more tourists to the area, rather than competitors for business.
“People are more likely to travel to a winery if they can make multiple stops in the same area,” says Kent.
Dragonfly’s unique atmosphere offers a variety of choices for visitors to find their perfect spot to enjoy a glass of wine.
“You can sit in the vines, on the patio, or inside,” says Kent. “People really take advantage of those tables in the vineyard. It’s been fun watching people enjoy themselves.”
The Eichenauers note that even on warm nights, just a little bit of breeze provides enough relief for everyone to choose to sit outside on the patio or in the vines.
“The other day I was doing dishes and left the screen open, and I could hear people laughing, and it makes me laugh,” says Connie. “I thought, this is the best job ever — people are enjoying your wine and laughing, and you can’t help but laugh. I love this job!”
Dragonfly is open Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m., or by appointment.
“The wine-tasting area and the kitchen are Connie’s thing. I make the wine, but she’s helpful with that too,” says Kent.
Visitors can order 1-ounce tastings, a glass, or a full bottle. Dragonfly also offers light food options, including sandwiches, cheese plates, and other snacks.
Kent makes all the wines, currently 13 different types, in-house. Many of the wines are made straight from grapes out of their vineyard; however, the Eichenauers do have to purchase some grapes that can’t be grown in Ohio.
They admit that they could not do it all themselves — they look to neighbors, friends, and family to assist with the bottling process, in addition to their 10 part-time employees, who help with all facets of the operation. Kent notes one particular bottling event when they were able to put together 450 bottles in 45 minutes, with eight to 10 people helping.
“It’s really a cool thing, the whole process, from putting nitrogen in the bottles to get rid of the oxygen, to filling the bottles, to corking and putting the labels on the bottle and capsules on the top — it’s just really cool to see the process,” says Kent.
The Eichenauers, who just opened their doors at the beginning of June, have been pleased with the overall response and number of visitors they’ve seen so far.
“The big difference here is the vineyard. There are a lot of wineries, and plenty of them do have vineyards, but it is neat to be able to sit out in the vines and actually see the grapes and the vines that produce what is in their glass,” says Kent.