By RITA KUEBER
How terrific would it be if on some dreary Northeast Ohio winter day, we could instantly transport ourselves to Napa Valley? There we could have a taste of privately-labeled wine, locally sourced small plates and entrees, and be served in a stunning dining room surrounded by a lovely forest and sparkling creek. California dream no longer – all this and more is possible by visiting Sapphire Creek Winery & Gardens in the heart of the Chagrin Valley.
Sapphire is the brainchild of Kathleen and Andy Dangelo, and Kimberly and Jimmy Gibson who, having visited wineries throughout California’s wine country realized something vital was missing from the NE Ohio Dining scene. “We love travel, architecture, and wine, and we wanted to bring a very California-style environment. There’s nothing like that around here,” Kathleen says. “We made a business plan to incorporate weddings and events as well as a winery.” The location opened March 20, 2018.
And what a location. Tucked away in a beautiful spot at the end of a tidy industrial park off E. Washington St. in Chagrin Falls, Sapphire has claimed 15 acres of mature woodland, streams and gorgeous natural scenery. “Every season has its own beauty,” Kathleen says. “Napa Valley architecture is all about total integration with the outdoors, and we planned to allow for multiple functions to get the highest and best use for all the spaces in the facility.”
Inside, probably the most visually arresting space is the main tasting/dining room with its 32-foot white porcelain bar, fireplace and 28-foot ceilings. The glass walls give patrons an uninterrupted view of the winery patio and gardens. This room also has custom-made lights created in Italy, and work by Cleveland artist Lainard Bush inspired by the four seasons hanging over the bar.
The Oak Room, off the main lobby, is both rustic and sophisticated, and is perfect for private events. Downstairs is a casual dining space with lower ceilings, fireplace and access to a patio. Upstairs is a beautifully appointed tasting room that has floor-to-ceiling wine racks, and seating for 10 around a custom-made table – half of a maple tree taken from the property. Another unique area on the second floor is a loft overlooking the main dining room that would be a great meeting space.
The gardens are venues as well – consider them lovely outdoor rooms from the covered Pavilion that overlooks Sapphire Creek, the Great Lawn and the adjacent Main Terrace, which has a 28-foot long reflecting pool, and the gardens both useful and beautiful – the Cocktail Garden (think botanicals), the Kitchen Garden and the Flower Room. Sapphire plans to add more gardens and a creek-side patio in spring. Currently, the hosts are excited to invite guests to the Pavilion, where they just installed and are testing specialized screens that greatly retain heat, to allow outdoor dining all year round
Just as exciting as the casually elegant spaces is the menu – both drinks and food, and this is Kim’s area of expertise. “We’re a winery, of course, and the four of us go to Napa every year to work with a vintner who crafts our wines just for us.” (Wines range from a light Pinot Grigio to a marvelously complex Cabernet Sauvignon.) “We also have a full bar, and we make great hand-crafted Prohibition-era style drinks.” She explains how the menu will change quarterly, sourcing seasonal local ingredients from small, independent growers and farmers as much as possible. “It’s not just about our food, but about being a positive business in the community. Our goal is world-class quality but casual. We don’t want to be a special occasion only place. We want you to come because it’s Wednesday and you want a great steak. Our clients have requested vegan and gluten-free choices, so we have something for everyone,” Kim says. “We don’t profile a typical clientele. We have established and retired, twenty-somethings, the whole gamut.”
Over the past nine months Sapphire has been the venue for more than 60 weddings and many corporate events. (The venue can hold 300 for a sit-down dinner.) Plans are in the works for special holiday cocktails and events, as well as a wine club with varying levels of membership offering tastings, parties and more. When details become available, they will be on Sapphire Creek’s website (Sapphire-Creek.com) and Facebook page.
“We knew there was a giant hole for this kind of facility, Kathleen says. “We call it the hidden gem of Geauga County – an unassuming entrance, but then you’re really in the middle of nature once you’re here.”
Call 440.543.7777 or visit sapphirecreek.com.