Ohio Amish Country is comprised of so many wonderful small businesses; each one comprised of their own unique story. Tom and Tara Bright are the owners of one of those businesses. Keep reading to hear Tara's perspective on what it's been like to take over a family business and how they transformed it into a business both her and Tom are passionate about.
We never envisioned ourselves having an "Urban Winery'' in the country when we conceived our dream of starting a winery. However, that all changed overnight when Tom’s mom had a stroke and we took over his family’s business. The idea of shutting down the family business after 40 years of dedication was not an option, so we started to brainstorm how to infuse our vision with that of the family business.
The space and land were challenging, which forced us to become creative. Sunny Slope was a convenience for those on the far edge of town. We wanted to keep some of the “convenience store” roots in place, while building the winery. Which is why you will find deli cases, freezers with products, as well as a few essential items inside. The laid-back style (couches, board games, mismatched seating, and cool décor) sets Sunny Slope apart from other wineries, where everyone feels welcome and relaxed. By opening the side yard and turning it into a backyard neighborhood gathering, more time can be spent enjoying the great Ohio summers and fall.
When it came to grapes for production, we knew the grapes are not going to be harvested from our own vineyard, as none currently exists. Tom grew up on a farm and has hinted that “once soil is in your veins it is hard to remove”, so it is possible in the future we may also become a farm to table experience. For the time being, we are enjoying working with farmers and their harvest selections. This freedom has allowed us to be more creative and pickier with our selections, creating unique and flavorful wines.
Like most Ohio wineries, we have a concord wine. Our concord “Slap” came to be thanks to our neighbors who would tell us, "It's so good it makes you wanna slap yo Mama''. Slap was the wine shifting us from homebrewers to professional winemakers. Friends and family liked it so much they wanted to buy bottles to have on the weekend, or to take to parties. We could not sell it as we were not licensed yet, the hobby was becoming expensive. Slap was the motivation Tom and I needed to pursue making our future BRIGHTER with WINE.
Sunny Slope Winery began to take shape and we were eager to share our passions. Tom’s passion and care for wine making is therapeutic. He calls his lab “the box”, this is where he shuts the world out and lets the creativity flow. Tom’s winemaking skills are also reflected in his cooking. He savors the slow methodical process of seasoning each layer. His mouth-watering creations, food, or wine are often celebrated with people begging for seconds. While Tom does all the heavy lifting in the winemaking department, I (Tara) have a fun time helping him come up with wine ideas and blends. Some ideas are standard expectations for an Ohio winery, while others reflect our history together.
"Wicked Christmas'' is one wine that stems from our own passions. We fell in love with Maine 16 years ago, on a babymoon, before our 1st child was born. We traveled up Route 1 and experienced our first harvest of Wild Maine Blueberries. There is just something about being in Maine at harvest. The ocean, mixed with the pine trees, the cooler air temps and of course the wild Maine blueberries, it is intoxicating.
When creating our "Wicked Christmas" blend we wanted to highlight our beloved wild Maine blueberries. Why use the term Wicked you ask, because “Wicked” is jargon in Maine for anything cool, fantastic, rad, delicious, or awesome. Tom has been making wild Maine blueberry wine since we first fell in love with the berry, so we blended the blueberries with cranberries and blood oranges to create the New England Christmas punch blend known as, "Wicked Christmas".
"Good Times & Bright Wines” comes from my love of entertainment. Where Tom is more introverted and gets his battery refilled from being in "the Box" I am extroverted and get my battery filled from being with people. I thrive in being able to set an environment for people to experience. Tom and I have created deep friendships and have even been able to partake in creating a micro-community of sorts in our store. New friendships and connections have grown over our three years of being opened, for me has been the most fulfilling part. The building of relationships and community.
Holmes County has felt like calming during such a hard time in the rest of our world. We are in a community with huge faith and grit. When the orders from Governor DeWine came out to only allow carry out and delivery for restaurants and wineries, we knew we needed to take that leap of faith with the hope it would be received by our community. We have found that people do want it and appreciate it!
In the first week and a half we ran over 75 deliveries, each week we the orders have been coming in more and more. Sunny Slope Winery is delivering in a 15-mile radius around Sunny Slope Winery plus we deliver all of Wooster. We charge a $5.00 flat rate fee but offer delivery free to anyone over the age of 60. Our wine slushies, sangrias, full bottles, deli items, are not only keeping our family business going, but we have seen the joy it is bringing to those who order. We love to see all the smiling faces and hear the many thanks with each delivery we make!
We are so proud to be a part of the county and we will get through this together. Our motto is " Pour yourself into all you do, and don't forget to pour yourself a glass or two"
TNT (Tom and Tara)
Sunny Slope Winery