More on Middle Bass

It's time to check out the changes happening to the iconic Lonz Winery.
After more than 15 years of dormancy, the former Lonz Winery on Middle Bass Island is ready for its second act.

The winery closed in 2000 following a balcony collapse that killed one and injured 75 others, and fell into disrepair. In time, the property was bought by the state, and, following a three-year, $6 million reconstruction, it should be open to the public as a picnic and recreational area this summer, says Matt Eiselstein, communications chief for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The former winery building is now open-air with a paved patio area for picnics as well as a pavilion that’s available for rental for more formal parties, like wedding receptions.

Although much of the building had to be torn down, the façade visible from Lake Erie was saved, as was the iconic tower, vault space where wine was kept — and even some of the barrels in which it was aged. “We have things people might not be privy to when the restaurant was open,” he says. “We’ve done a lot of work to preserve the history and make it accessible.”

In addition, there are plans to create a walking tour outlining the history of the facility and the Lake Erie Islands’ role in winemaking. The state also is sorting through artifacts from the building’s role as a winery and restaurant, as well as the Lonz family estate, potentially for display.

Since the winery’s closing, Middle Bass Island has seen a drop in tourism — but its marina rentals remain full, giving the island a reputation as a parking lot for other more popular islands. Eiselstein hopes that the new attraction changes that, making Middle Bass a destination in its own right.

“We’re offering another option for people to see the islands,” he says.