Local winery combines creativity, tradition
Paulo Rosi and Michael Elmer, co-creators of Via Vecchia.
Via Vecchia winery began life as a social group interested in a creative wine-making process.The mix of these foundational elements continues to provide the owners and customers with rewarding experiences.
Located in an 1880s-era warehouse at 485 S. Front St., Columbus, Via Vecchia started as an opportunity for the owners to produce wine in a traditional way, but quickly became more than just a winery.
“It got started as a very social thing,” co-creator Paolo Rosi said.
Rosi, along with Michael Elmer, began hosting a wine-making club through a former mutual employer.
“I had some wine-making equipment and spoke with some coworkers about getting grapes and people began asking if they could help and learn,” Rosi said. “We made more and more each year until we got to the point of making 200 gallons, which is when the state requires you to be licensed, which is a big deal, so we lost some members at that point.”
In 2006, Via Vecchia became a licensed winery in the state of Ohio and began establishing a retail presence.
“When we moved into this location in 2010, we planned to open up to the public like most wineries, with some meals and tastings and a little entertainment,” Elmer said. “We are far different today then what we planned, but that’s what we mean: This is a creative process; there’s an art to what’s being done and we’re still evolving.”
When the duo moved into the building it was a raw space, still dirty and badly in need of paint – but Rosi and Elmer said they could see the potential in the architecture. Their first event clients did, as well.
“Paolo and I were painting the walls when we had a couple come in off the street,” Elmer said. “They were marveling at the architecture and asked if they could get married there. Well, the place was so dirty we had to wash up immediately after working there for our spouses to let us back into the house, so you couldn’t imagine.”
“But they asked if they could do the decorations and everything and so we said OK,” Rosi said.
That was when they realized that the space filled a niche for creative event-planners who didn’t want to be forced to choose a specific decoration style, caterer or anything else.
“We have people coming in and make this into a big-top tent and such -- things other places wouldn’t dare let you do,” Rosi said. “This old warehouse is a very nice canvas on which you can do whatever you like and we are attracting a very creative type of people to transform the place.”
The winery is, however, still about the wine, he added, and all of the events are supplied with Via Vecchia’s handcrafted red wines.
“We have consciously decided not to take on more retail outlets since we want to be certain we have enough for our in-house events,” Rosi said. “We have maintained relationships with several local restaurants and we’re available at Whole Foods.”
Due to the less restrictive California market, which is where all of Via Vecchia’s grapes come from, Rosi and Elmer said they are looking ahead to a future retail push in the West.
“We use a very traditional method that doesn’t include any additives,” Rosi said. “We use the whole grape and mash it down and then we don’t touch it, but the barrel will sit for two years, so it doesn’t take a lot of time to produce but you have a long lead time for your product. We’re now comfortable enough with our supply to campaign in California.”
Ultimately, the two said, letting Via Vecchia clients create their own space in their own way is like how the wine creates itself naturally, without a lot of intervention. And that, they said, has been the business’ key to success.
For more information, visit viavecchiawinery.com.