The Secret Superpower of Longworth’s Cydonia Quinces


One of my favorite lines in a 1980 movie is delivered by Rose Perez’s character in White Men Can’t Jump. It was her lifelong dream of being on the game show Jeopardy. When she made it on the show, in her beautifully thick Puerto Rican accent she answers a question, “Alex, what is a quince?” And really that question still remains – what exactly is a quince, and why don’t we see it in stores today? Why is there no Graeter’s Quince Chip Ice Cream. Why is there no Busken Quince Cream paczki?

Well, kinda like the local paw paw, it’s one of those difficult native fruits that doesn’t go from tree to table very easily. The paw paw implodes in itself after only a few days and rots. The quince is nearly inedible from the tree, even after ripening. But like the paw paw, the quince hides a delectable aroma and flavor that is such a cross of fruits, its nearly indescribable.

Oddly enough the German ‘Gartners’ grew quince trees all over Cincinnati, particularly those that also grew grapes for wine. Families like the Engels of Golf Manor grew quince trees in their farm on Losantiville Avenue, along with berries and paw paws. Maybe the sweet and sour of quinces drew in Germans who loved their sour red cabbage and other sweet and sour pickled condiments.

And Longworth cultivated Cydonia quinces alongside his vineyards in Tusculum. When his Tusculum vineyard land sold for residential development in 1870, the 4 ½ acre plot now bounded by Missouri Avenue , Rushton and Grandin, was named Cydonia, possibly because that was where Longworth’s quince orchard was located. The benefit to being a Longworth vine dresser, even if you rented and didn’t own the land was that you had access to the fruit orchards that were planted by previous tenants on his land. There are records of some tenants having access to the sour cherry trees on his Tusculum land, from which they could have made Cherry bounce with Longworth’s Catawba Brandy. And, many of them also grew strawberry patches, which Longworth promoted. So along with growing grapes, Longworth tenants could also learn about growing peach, cherry and quince orchards, a skill which many of them used after Longworth’s death and the sale of his former vineyards.

Longworth’s most prolific and favorite vine dresser, Christian Schnicke lived on the top of his Garden of Eden vineyards, on the land that is now Playhouse in the Park. He managed 12 acres of vineyards for Longworth and lived there with his wife, daughter, and three sons, Friedrich, Moritz, and Henry, all of whom worked in the vineyards. His total plot was 18 acres, so that leaves about six acres for his residence and orchards and gardens.    Schnicke even had a strawberry varietal he cultivated in Longworth’s Garden of Eden named after him called the Schnicke Prolific, that was distributed in the eastern U.S. before the Civil War.


His son Friedrich married Maria Mottier, the daughter of another former Longworth vine dresser John Mottier, who dressed Longworth’s small vineyard near Lick Run/Petersbourgh. But tragedy struck as five of their children died in infancy and Maria would die in childbirth right before the Civil War. To escape the reminders of this tragedy Friedrich left Cincinnati and within a year remarried a woman in Flint Gap, Tennessee, along the French Broad River Valley, where he started orchards and a fruit nursery business. Friedrich’s son Thomas Schnicke, would become a national expert on the cultivation of the Japanese Persimmons.

Right off the tree, or in it’s raw state quince is way too tart to eat. It’s kind of a cross between a pear and an apple with a tough, spongy flesh. The fruit doesn’t win any beauty awards – it’s knobbly and ugly, with an irregular shape and often a gray fuzz. The quince really is not a table fruit – it must be made into a jam, jelly or pie. Even ripe it is too tart to eat, which puts is slightly above the persimmon in its astringency.
So why would Longworth even grow quinces if it was not a table fruit? Well, they were easy to grow, unlike the Catawba grape, which even with constant nurturing would be decimated with rot. The quince is an incredibly tough plant, which doesn’t require much maintenance, and tolerates years without pruning. The flowers are beautiful light pink, like a sparkling catawba wine.

Bear with me a minute. It may be the most difficult, yet consequently rewarding fruit. Don’t throw out this ugly duckling – it’s what’s inside that counts. The clue to its beauty comes when you set it out for a bit say on a windowsill. That’s when you unlock the secret aroma hiding inside – one of a blend of vanilla, apple, and citrus. And, when you peel and cook the quince, that aroma blossoms into a wonderfully delicate perfume. When you stew quince in sugar and a little water or even wine (maybe some sparkling Catawba) it becomes delicious – sweet, delicate, and fragrant. You can then pour it over yogurt and ice cream, or bake it into a tart, or make it into a jam. The Spanish make it into a sweet spicy paste called membrillo that they serve over their amazing cheeses – kind of like how the Tuscans do it with fig paste and pecorino cheese.


Although you can’t find them at Kroger, and recipes aren’t as common as other fruits, its worth it to give this underrated native fruit a try.

Friday Lenten Fasting in Cincinnati


Today marks the end of eating meat on Fridays for Catholics (from age 18 to 60) and Eastern Orthodox observant of the Lenten fast – and some Anglicans and Methodists as well. It’s one of the few shared cultural things Catholics do on a huge scale. Growing up as a Cincy Catholic, this never seemed like a sacrifice for me. But I really like seafood. It is more of a time we are culturally mindful of what we eat, or are eating for a spiritual purpose, which I dig. I guess if you’re not a fan of seafood or are allergic to shellfish this could be a problem. For us Midwesterners fish is somewhat exotic because we’re so inland from the coast, and its hard to get good seafood here.

So, eating fishy comfort foods seemed like a special time of year. The Friday fast, except for the Good Friday one, did not limit quantity, so it wasn’t like we were going hungry. My family, however, observed a very old school version of the fast on Good Friday that consisted of only two light meals and no snacking in between meals. I’m not sure what cannon law that came from, but my parents, who are 20 years above the high age limit, still observe the fast, as did both sets of my grandparents.

My Dad’s family had a standard meal of hard boiled eggs, potato pancakes, and homemade jam on Good Friday. And he and his cousins played a card game called bloody knuckles all afternoon after walking the steps to Immaculata Church on the top of Mt. Adams, rain, snow, or shine.

Skyline, a typical Friday night family dinner was off limits – no Friday four ways or cheese coneys for seven weeks! But there were plenty of comfort food dishes my mom made that I actually loved, like tuna noodle casserole (TNC), salmon patties with canned spaghetti, and the tuna bumstead sandwiches with chopped sweet pickles – YUM! There was also the cheesy variant on the mushroom soup based TNC – Tuna mac-n-cheese.


For the quick solution to Friday meat-abstinence, it was the time for the McDonald’s filet-o-fish sandwich, invented right here in 1962 in Monfort Heights by operator Rob Gruen. And of course, there was the Frisch’s heavily-tartared fish log sandwich on a rye bun. Cincinnati, by the way, probably exports more Frisch’s tartar sauce to expats than is eaten in the city during Lent. We are truly a tartar town. Vegetarian pizza was also an option – particularly LaRosa’s or Donato’s. There was the Chinese food takeout option – shrimp egg foo young or shrimp fried rice. A trip to local LuLu’s Noodle Shop for a vegetarian Lard Nar or Singapore noodle dish was also a big treat.

Lent in Cincinnati is big business. There are over 450,000 Catholics in Cincinnati beholden to observe the fast. And that’s a lot of lost Friday dine out meals for a good seven weeks. Many restaurants will lose to the local pop up fish fry culture, which between Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky offers over 150 places to have non-meat dinners. But those restaurants that embrace a non-meat option on their menu for Lent at least can hope to retain some of the Friday business.

My recent number one is Germania’s fish fry. But assumedly the corona virus has made them change the Vietnamese supplied Swai (which is actually a type of catfish) they got the last several years from Luken’s at Findlay Market to orange roughy, which comes from New Zealand, so we’ll see if they retain the title. It’d be nice if there was a local fish fry that used an Ohio Lake Eire fish like walleye.

In 2017, St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Lenten Friday, so the Archbishops of many cities gave special dispensation to Irish Catholics to eat their traditional corned beef and cabbage on that Friday. That’s even though it would have been more culturally correct for them to eat cod. Most of the Irish immigrants who came to America could not afford beef and ate more fish. Corned beef was introduced to them from the Jewish of New York after they arrived in this country.

At one time in the Middle Ages chocolate was considered to be too decadent to be eaten during the Lenten fast. Thankfully, that ban was lifted by one of the Pope Leos. And locally, there was the question within the Germanic Catholic population whether real, not mock turtle soup, was a valid option, as the turtle is amphibious. It was also questioned whether frog was allowed, as it is an amphibious animal as well.

And then there’s the quandry of Bockfest, Cincinnati’s weirdest German celebration. This year it falls on the first Friday of Lent. Cincinnati Archbishop Schnurr has not yet and gives no indication he will bestow a dispensation to Germanic Catholics to allow the eating of Bockwurst or schnitzel while guzzling any of the locally available Bock Beers. I guess he’s too involved in legal issues these days. Yes, Old St. Mary’s and St. Francis Seraph will have their fish fries on the parade route and at Bockfest Hall. But who can resist a Berliner Schnitzel from the Lubecker? Not me. I guess there’s always confession





Cherry Bounce: A Fave Drink of President Washington and Cincinnati Germans


Yesterday was President’s Day, originally instituted to celebrate our first president George Washington. By now we all know that George Washington did not chop down the cherry tree. But we do know that he liked cherries because his favorite boozy drink was something called Cherry Bounce. The recipe was found in Martha Washington’s papers and Georgie wrote in his diary that he carried a large supply of it with him on a trek out over the Alleghanies in 1784.

Like our first President, I am a fan of anything cherry. This weekend I tasted my first cherry thing-a-ling from Schmidt Bakery in Batesville. It’s a ‘bite sized’ cherry fritter. I also like a good cherry infused black forest cake. I am a fan of anything flavored with kirsch, the German cherry liqueur. I enjoy a good bourbon infused cherry from Bourbon Barrel Foods in Lexington as a topper to ice cream. As a teenager, we used to go up to the Traverse City Cherry Festival, which had everything cherry. And, although I haven’t had one in years, there’s nothing better than a good Hostess cherry hand pie. One of my grandmother’s specialties was a sour cherry pie she made from sour cherries grown in their backyard.

Although it sounds more like a 50s dance craze, Cherry Bounce was a sour cherry and sugar infused brandy drink with spices that was super popular in Colonial America – sort of like our pre-Revolutionary Cosmo. George and Martha apparently made their own and served it to guests at Mount Vernon. Their version contained nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.

Cherry Bounce was also very popular here in Cincinnati from before the Civil War to about the 1870s. And most of our local Catawba winemakers made it from their Catawba Brandy and local sour cherries. A Southern German variety of sour cherries called Weischel, was recommend by Carl Reemelin, a West Side winemaker in his 1868 book, “Winemaking.” In Southern Germany and Austria they even mix this sour cherry with hard cider, which sounds delicious, and in Bavaria they mix Cherry Brandy with wheat beer.

Another fruity liqueur mixed drink that is popular in Germany, but imported from France is kir, which is blackcurrent liqueur mixed with a still white acidic wine like a German Hockenheimer. The Germans of Cincinnati would have been able to use still Catawba hock wine to make a kir.

Brandy was a byproduct of winemaking, because it used the second pressing and the skins and stems not used in winemaking. So, using it in a popular drink made a great side business to the local wine industry. Many of the local winemakers in Cincinnati made it – George Bogen, the Longworth Wine House, and others. It would have been served at the local German coffeehouses, which were really wine bars, like William Tell’s owned by one time vintner and Swiss Immigrant via Vevay, Indiana, Friedrick Deserens.

Longworth grew cherry trees on his Tusculum vineyards and they must have been good. One contract Longworth made with a German immigrant vinedresser said that he could have all of the cherries from the cherry trees below the press house, west of the part of his vineyard where he grew Elsinboro grapes. I wonder if the tenant made Cherry Bounce or Cherry Wine.





Indian Food and Punk Rock Came Together in Cincinnati

Of the international cuisines in Cincinnati that now seem to be universal, Indian is the newest arrival. It came at a time when Flock of Seagulls hair and Doc Martin shoes were in vogue and the music that came through Bogarts in Clifton was labeled ‘alternative.’ Now that music, like Indian food is everywhere, even to be found entertaining people in elevators. And like every restaurant scene, one restaurant begat another restaurant, which created the now over 125 Indian restaurants in Greater Cincinnati. Of those, only 2 feature southern Indian cuisine, according to the owner of Shaan in Hyde Park Plaza, which celebrates 11 years in business. The rest feature the cuisine of Northern India, centered around the city of Delhi, where the invading Moguls from Afghanistan made their capital from 1556-1784 and put their stamp on the cuisine.

My intro to Indian culture and cuisine came in college at UC. I would attend my first Indian wedding shortly thereafter of my friend Lisa, whose father had been one of our engineering professors. I got a kick out of her husband, Matt, being force fed all night with little sweet cakes by Lisa’s female relatives. I guess it’s the Indian version of stuffing the cake in the face of your spouse.

This January, following in the footsteps of Frau Herte Heuwer, who invented the currywurst and its delicious sauce in postwar Berlin, I created what I think to be the first Cincinnati German-Indian fusion dish – halwa strudel – in my Ault Woods kitchen. Halwa is a delicious Indian carrot dessert that I fell in love with and makes a superb strudel filling. The best German-Indian fusion in Cincinnati was when Mahabir Singh turned the North College Hill landmark Budna Bar & Grill into Swad Indian cuisine! I can’t imagine taking my Germanic Grandmother, who lived the majority of her life in NCH out for chicken biryani. The funny thing though, is that she knew what Mulligatawny soup is. Next up in my fusion pipeline is Schnitzel Vindaloo. Where’s my bronze plaque of invention like Frau Heuwer’s?

The first Indian restaurant in Cincinnati came to downtown in 1980 in the form of Khyber Restaurant. It was out of a group in Chicago and owned by three Patels, the manager being Virendra Patel. It was on Race Street near the central business district and catered to people working downtown. Two chefs were imported from Chicago, one to make the curries and one to cook dishes using the novelty tandoori clay oven. It lasted for about 10 years.


It was named after the Khyber Pass, an ancient passage through a mountainous region into the Indian subcontinent from Pakistan to Afghanistan. No other pass in the world has such strategic importance or so many historic associations. Aryan, Persian, Greek, Tartar, Mogul and Afghani invaders have come through this passage. When the British came to colonize India in 1839, it became the key point for controlling the Afghan border.


In 1985 Nareen Patel, a former manager at Khyber opened the second Indian restaurant in Cincinnati in the Montgomery Marketplace, which he named Tandoor India, after the oven that cooks the delicious Naan breads that I love and which most Indians use as a utensil to scoop up their delicious curries. As a youth he played soccer, field hockey, volleyball and badminton, fueling his appetite for Indian food. His father was a tea importer and regularly cooked for 50-100 people, so restauranteuring was in his DNA. After studying in London, England, Nareen came to Cincinnati to spice up our food scene. Nareen’s restaurant is still in operation and the oldest continually operating Indian Restaurant in Cincinnati.


Next up was Mayura restaurant in Clifton about the same time as Tandoor India, which started the explosion of Indian restaurants around the University of Cincinnati. It was founded by Swamy Naidu Sunkara. He would open up another restaurant downtown on Race Street. After about 20 years in Indian food he would buy the Cactus Pear in Clifton down the street from his first Mayura on Jefferson Avenue and focus on Tex-Mex cuisine and the delicious roasted tomatilla salsa, which I would eat off of shoe leather. I wonder what happened to the photo of Swamy and Dolly Parton that he proudly displayed in the Clifton Mayura restaurant

The Clifton scene got its next best Indian restaurant in 1994, with Jessi (Jagdhev) Singh’s opening of Ambar India, which means jewel in Hindi. Jessi came from the Punjab region of India and would beget the sikh owned restaurants in Cincinnati. He would go on to form an Indian restaurant empire in Cincinnati with the opening of Akash in 1997 in downtown, and my neighborhood go-to – Baba India in Oakley in 2004 – who I think makes the best halwa from the Ohio River to I-70 in Dayton – and I’m a halwa snob.

The Clifton Indian scene became very competitive. Amol India opened across the parking lot on Ludlow Avenue from Ambar in 1996, supposedly by feuding cousins of Jessi’s. And Jessi would import chefs from India, get them set up, and the other restaurants would steel them away with more money. Just how competitive the Indian restaurant was shown In 2009 when Jessi Singh was shot in the head after closing Ambar by a supposed hitman hired by a competitor. He and his restaurants survived.

Sunjet Singh opened Anaud India in Evendale in 1995, Amar India in Centerville, and Raj India in Mason.

Dusmesh India, at the foot of Ludlow near Cincinnati State, was opened by Majabir Singh, who also opened Swami in North College Hill. And because Indian proved to be successful on the West Side, Majabir’s nephew Josh Singh opened Maya West in Price Hill recently.

When I saw all the Singh last names of the owners, I naturally thought they were all related. But, as it turns out, Singh is a sikh religious name that believers take after their sort of baptism into the religion. Some keep their caste or true last name and use it as a middle name, and some discard it altogether.

One of my goto new ‘Indian’ restaurants is called Bridges Nepali on Hamilton Avenue in Northside. Nepal is actually a small nation on the northeast border of India, next to Tibet. Bridges is kind of a chipotle concept where you choose your starch, your protein and your toppings in a bowl. They also make a fabulous spicy vegetable side which they call ‘mixed salad’ for us gringos and awesome dumplings and samosas. Hakku Chuala, a spiced chicken, is my standard protein choice at Bridges.

Whatever your fave local Indian dish or restaurant, we can thank the original three Patels who brought Khyber to Cincinnati, along with the punk rock invasion.

Vine to Table – Catawba Catsup and other Grape Recipes from a Cincy Vinedressing family


Ever heard of Catawba Catsup for your burger?   Or ever heard of Concord Grape Pie?   These are all leftovers from Cincinnati’s Catawba Craze, which  lasted from the 1830s to the 1860s. This was the era when numerous German immigrants grew catawba grapes that fed into Nicholas Longworth’s wine industry. Some made their own wine, rather than selling the grape juice to Longworth.

One German immigrant wine enclave that was not part of Longworth’s German tenant system, was the community called South Bend or Trautman along what is now River Road. The largest wine grower there was Charles Schumann. Charles was born in Bayreuth, Germany, into the Lutheran faith, but was a member of the Freemasons in Germany, and was what was considered a Freethinker. He came to Cincinnati in 1841 with his wife and oldest son Emil and bought land on the Ohio River. His vineyards stretched close to 100 acres on the hills below Mt St Joseph and the Sisters of Charity. Other growers were the Trautman family, after whom the community would be named after the Schumanns left for Saginaw, Michigan in the 1870s.  Still others were Max Wocher, to whom the Schumanns sold land, and one of his workers Ignatz Benz, and Michael Germann. Oddly enough, Michael Germann’s mothers maiden name was Hopfenstock, which means hop vine in English, the ingredient used to preserve and flavor beer!


Charles Schumann Jr., son of Charles Schumann.  He helped tend the family vineyards and his wife made the family Catawba recipes.  Note the grapevines on the fake wall Charles is leaning upon.


Schumann was the first Cincinnati wine grower to write a book, which he did in 1845 on methods of vine dressing.   It was groundbreaking and referred to many decades by other winemakers in Cincinnati and beyond.


While Schumann and his neighbors all grew Catawba, Schumann experimented with making unfermented ‘wine’ – sort of a catawba version of the California wine called Angelica, made by the Franciscan missionaries and considered the first American wine. The angelica is still made today, with the Mission grape, a European grape brought to the area by the Spanish Franciscan missionaries and used for altar wine, as it still is today. Some don’t consider Angelia a wine because it is fortified with Brandy and usually unfermented, creating a super sweet wine that is largely considered a dessert wine. An unfounded legend in the Bens family is that Angelica wine is named for his wife Angelica Jonas Bens, but this is probably unlikely. These growers would have sold their altar wine into the Catholic community through a downtown dealer, Fred Stretter, an immigrant from Oefflingen, Baden Wuertemmburg, who was approved by Archbishop Purcell as the only dealer of church wines to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and provided an income for winemakers throughout prohibition. Stretter was kind of the George Remus of Catawba altar wine in Cincinnati. His wine distribution system started in 1852 continued through his descendants until after Prohibition. Because he supplied native catawba wines to the Archdiocese, to this day the California and other altar wine suppliers had to make catawba wines for the Cincinnati and southwest ohio market.

Louise Schumann as a girl (left) with brother, and later in life.

Several grape recipes were passed down many generations in the Schumann family and survive in a family history in the collection of the Delhi Historical Society. Most of the recipes survived through the recipe book of Louise Schumann, the youngest spinster daughter of Charles Schumann. The recipes would have been made first by Charles wife Mathilde and also by Louise for relatives who came to the original two story frame homestead, which was torn down in 1907.


The original Schumann homestead on River Road, torn down in 1907, where many of the Catawba recipes were made and devoured.

To diversify their income, many German wine growers also grew other fruit. So it is no surprise that a recipe for Meatless Mincemeat survives in the Schumann recipe book. It calls for one pound of (catawba) raisins, 1 pound currants, ½ pound lemon peel, 1 pound sugar, 4 pounds apples, and spiced with nutmeg cinnamon. The recipe says to chop the fruit fine, mix with a half pound of butter and , put in jars, and it will keep a year without cooking. One can imagine the Schumann’s taking this out periodically to make large pies, hand pies, and to top their pfannkuckan (pancakes) or biscuits.

Another recipe is just a “cake” made with shortening, sugar, eggs milk, flour 1 cup grape or blackberry juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder.


This feeds into the popularity of grape confections others made in Cincinnati’s West Side at the time and later. There was a long standing and popular Concord grape pie made by Habig’s restaurant in Westwood. Our local pie maker Simon Hubig (who would move to New Orleans and become famous there) made an Ives Seedling Grape Pie here in Cincinnati, when his bakery was in Price Hill.

One recipe that survived through Charles’ great grandson Arthur Schumann is Catawba Catsup – which is spiced with cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and black pepper. The recipe says to boil the grapes until soft, then strain through a food mill, add sugar and vinegar and boil a second time until thick, and then add the spices and boil again for fifteen minutes. Arthur says It is good, “highly spiced and great on hamburgers.” With a couple of mods, this Catawba Catsup could probably be made into a great Catawba BBQ sauce to enter into Our Lady of Victory’s Holy Smokes competition.




Our Lady of Victory Should be Called Our Lady of the Catawba Grapes



One of the oldest German Catholic parishes in Cincinnati is Our Lady of Victory in Delhi, on the West Side. The parish was officially founded in 1842 by a group of Germanic immigrants, mostly from the Rhine area who had been meeting together as early as the mid 1830s. They were tired of carting themselves down the bumpy Western Hills into the basin of downtown Cincinnati to go to the closest Church on Sundays. They also wanted to hear the homily in their native tongue and have a bit more control of their parish like they did in Germany. The land for the second church was donated by John Gertison, a vintner and immigrant from a wine village near Freiburg called Merdigen. His family had owned a vineyard there, but he sold his share to come to the U.S. for a better life.

Inside the original Our Lady of Victory church built on land donated by winemaker John Gertison and painted in the 1930s by Gerhard Lammers, a German immigrant from goetta country.   The Church was demolished in the 1970s.

The original Germans of Delhi called her “Maria zum Siege”, but she really should be called the Maria of the Catawba Grapes. This is because of the number of German immigrant wine growers in Delhi who were founding and early members of the parish. The carved wooden statue at the church shows Mary holding a young Christ child standing over the globe blessing the world. They might want to add some grape bunches on her or the Christ Child’s outstretched hands or perhaps a silver wine chalice, which some of her parishioners won from the Longworth Wine House for their wine and grapes.

Although local history gushes about Longworth’s vineyards in Mt. Adams and Tusculum, it is the West Side – Delhi, Warswaw, Cheviot, Riverside, Sedamsville and even Price Hill – that produced the most vintners, grapes, wine and awards during Cincinnati’s Catawba Craze of the 1830s-1860s.    And, it was Longworth’s Bold Face Creek vineyard in Delhi that started his experiments with wine growing, using the Cape grape from the Swiss settlement at Vevay Indiana.  In the case of Cincinnati native wines, the West Side WAS the best side.

Our Lady of Victory was christened as an image by Pope Pius V after the Catholic naval forces won a victory over the Ottoman Muslim Turks at Lepato on October 7, 1571. Knowing that the Christian forces were at a distinct disadvantage, St. Pope Pius V called for all of Europe to pray the Rosary for victory. The victory was decisive and prevented the Islamic invasion of Europe, and for many evidenced the Hand of God working through Our Lady.

Unfortunately Maria zum Siege didn’t win the battle over rot, mildew and pests that caused the decimation of Cincinnati’s Catawba vineyards in the 1860s, but she did offer a good start for many of the Germanic immigrants who used their farms to grow veggies like cabbage for their kraut,  and flowers after grapes were not viable.


Der Deutscher Gartner Unterstutzungs Verein – the German Gardener’s Beneficial Society – like an early insurance company for former grape growers – at the German Heritage Museum.

Sebastian Rentz one of the most successful German vintners of Delhi, was a member. He built a large 17 room frame house on what is now Rentz Place in 1847. His farm abutted the mass acreage of Longworth’s Bold Face Creek Vineyards which now encompasses Embschoff Woods. Longworth started his experiments there with the Cape grape from the Swiss immigrants at Vevay, Indiana, before he found the mighty Catawba. Longworth also complimented Rentz’ grapes and awarded him the silver cup for his wine in 1846, a year he produced and astounding never since broken record of 1300 gallons for two acres. Rentz was the only German wine grower in Cincinnati who had a grape he cultivated named for him that was used widely – called the Rentz Seedling Grape.

Lawrence Baermann had come from Merdigen also, with his father Johann, and five other siblings, one of whom was my fifth great grannie, Anna Baermann Brosey.    Their farm was at the end of what is now Palisades Drive. Lawrence Baermann’s daughter Louise married Sebastian Rentz’s son Sebastian Jr., and his brother George married John Gertison’s daughter .   There were lots of intermarriages amongst the vine dressing families.    Their family’s winery, Weingut Baermann is still operating over 200 years later in Merdigen – a short bike ride from the city of Freiburg.


The wine from today’s Baermann Winery in Merdigen that would be closest to the Catawba wines the OLV parishioners would have made.

Protus Heckinger (1806-1880) was another immigrant from wine country who made his way to the hillsides of Delhi around Bald Face Creek. He was born in Amoltern, a wine growing village northwest of Freiburg in the Kaiserstuhl region of Baden Wuertemburg. His parents Joseph and Clara Weinmann Heckinger baptized him in the parish of St. Vitus Catholic Church. He came to Cincinnati early for the wave of Germanic immigrants and married Abigail Lord in June of 1828. Like other poor immigrant farmers, he had a secondary occupation as a shoemaker, which he practiced in downtown on 9th Street in the 1830s until he moved the family to Delhi. By 1842 he was raising grapes on a 2 acre vineyard in Delhi right next to Longworth’s first vineyard. He must have been a skilled vinedresser because he was praised by Nicholas Longworth who said in September of 1842,

“There are some vineyards in the county that produced more abundant crop on the same quality of ground, as Mr. Mottier. Mr. Hackenger had the finest crop I have ever seen.”

In 1846 Hackenger sold 400 gallons of a total of 1000 gallons of juice he produced 1 ¾ acres of vines to Longworth for $500. That left quite an amount of juice to make wine for his family and friends. Hackenger and his wife Abigail Lord had 11 children, baptized at our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, a large army of free vineyard workers. His sons must not have liked the farm life, because by the time of his death in 1880, only a daughter Sarah Jane was living with them on the farm. His sons all had moved away or were working jobs in downtown Cincinnati.

Stephan Tuchfarber (1822-1906) was one of the immigrants sold by the ads Nicholas Longworth placed in German wine country for tenant farmers to work his vineyards. He purchased a lease from Longworth for tract of land two miles west of Sedamsville in Delhi. He cleared the sunny hillside and planted a vineyard. He and his wife Apollonia Rubein were married at the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, but belonged to and are buried at Our Lady of Victory in Delhi. They honored their sponsor by naming their last son John Nicholas in 1865.

Ignatz Witterstaetter (1781-1849), came to the United States in 1832, with his wife, Mary Elizabeth, and at least two children, Ignatius Jr. and Mary Ann. They came from Achern, Ortenaukreis, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, which is due north of Freiburg, and 10 miles southeast of Baden-Baden. They were living on their Delhi farm by 1837, as they appear as members Our Lady of Victory that year. They lived on 22 acres at the corner of Pedretti and Foley Roads. The elder Ignatz, died in the 1849 his wife, Elizabeth around 1857. Their son Ignaz Jr, born in 1822, married Louise Kupferle and built the first greenhouse in Cincinnati. In 1869 he is listed as wine and fruit grower in Riverside. His Grandson, Richard Witterstetter started the R. C. Witterstetter & Sons Nursery and became known as the Carnation King.

Today the parishioners are more meat smokers than wine makers. In August 2016, the parish hosted the first annual Holy Smokes Barbecue Competition, an event sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. Each year they have a comical biblical motto. Last year’s motto was from the beatitudes, “Blessed are those that smoke the meats, for they shall inherit the girth.” Maybe I should enter this year’s competition on August 7 & 8, with a Catawba Wine Sweet BBQ sauce.