John and Michelle Bisson had already unveiled plans for the new Vinifera Wine To Whiskey Bar when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Ohio last March.
“We had no choice but to go ahead with the project,” said Michelle, co-owner of the Cuyahoga Falls spot, which opened in November and has a creative menu in addition to many. wine and spirits.
A facility loan was in place and work had started on the business at 3236 State Road, in a commercial space on the ground floor of one of the buildings in the French Mill apartment complex.
“It really is John’s dream … I’m here to support him,” Michelle Bisson said at a recent party.
John’s culinary and wine experience includes his work in the former Bisson family grocery store. Most recently, he was the East Coast Sales Manager for North Coast Brewing, the California maker of Scrimshaw and other craft beers.
The Bisson’s want eaters to share the stage, offering Vinefera’s “signature” food – crostini with a variety of toppings. The menu also offers presses (think panini sandwiches), as well as cheese and meat platters.
“The word we use is comfortable” to describe the interior, said John Bisson.
“Comfortable and contemporary,” said Michelle Bisson.
The walls are wine colored and the main room includes a large V-shaped bar topped with white corian. Globe pendant lights help to give the place an intimate atmosphere. A lounge area has comfortable imitation leather armchairs.
With the pandemic still ongoing, employees are taking customers’ temperatures. Plexiglas dividers separate the tables, as well as the seats of the large bar. To allow for social distancing, the place can accommodate around 45 people, or half of the normal capacity.
For those who don’t want to eat or drink inside, Vinifera offers “Krushin ‘the Curfew” party kits. Four cocktails, two dips and two press sandwiches (panini) cost $ 70. The same kit, with a bottle of wine in place of cocktails, costs 50. The curfew is a reference to stopping 10 p.m. alcohol sales in bars and restaurants amid the pandemic.
Vinifera – which takes its name from the dominant grape species in winemaking – offers over two dozen wines by the glass, over 80 wines by the bottle and over 90 whiskeys. John Bisson plans to significantly expand the whiskey offering.
The place has one of the few distribution / preservation systems for Enomatic wine in Northeast Ohio. With the dispenser, the wine is drawn directly from the bottle into the glass, and an inert gas protects the wine from oxidation. This allows Vinifera to open around twenty bottles of wine at the same time, while each glass is served chilled.
Customers can purchase 2-ounce pours, as well as six-ounce glasses or half-bottles (served with a decanter) – all dispensed with the Enomatic. These wines are also all available by the bottle.
The 2-ounce pours allow customers to explore the wines – and sip on premium varietals – without wasting a lot of money, Bisson noted.
My two chardonnay wine tastings weren’t that adventurous for me; I am a big fan of white wine. I enjoyed the medium-bodied California Toad Hollow ($ 11 for a 6-ounce glass) and the Louis Latour Ardèche from Burgundy, France ($ 13 for a 6-ounce glass.)
The wine list, which includes brief descriptions of each selection, features several house wines that are not part of the Enomatic system. They cost $ 7 for a six ounce glass. Individual bottles of sparkling wine are also available.
Back to the food. With the crostini planks ($ 15), customers get three slices of warm ciabatta bread, each with their choice of topping.
Lucky for me, I tasted these three crostini: smoked salmon and caper cream cheese spread; brie, fig and apple jam; and white beans with sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, chili spices, ricotta cheese and garnished with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
Les Bissons also made sure I tried the creamy, crunchy and rich triple cheese press sandwich that includes these cheeses: Double Gloucester, Gouda, and Fresh Mozarella ($ 10). All the presses – which are made with homemade bread – come with a small salad.
The Bisson’s applaud their employees, including Nick Jones, who oversees the bar.
His background includes working for his uncle David Glenny, former owner of the area’s Bricco restaurants. Glenny sold the restaurants to Dave Sharp last year.
These days, Glenny can be spotted in Vinifera, where he works part time behind the bar.
Over a year ago, John Bisson decided to pursue his idea of opening a wine bar.
He and Michelle had become empty nests, and North Coast Brewing had wiped out its East Coast sales force.
The couple received a great deal of help from Jim Griggy of the state’s Small Business Development Center, who helped with the business plan. The center is located at the Bounce Innovation Hub in downtown Akron.
Along with the business plan, the Bisson’s secured a Small Business Administration loan available to veteran-owned businesses. Bisson served in the United States Marine Corps in the 1980s.
Next year, the Bissons are planning to open a patio on the south side of the Vinifera Wine To Whiskey Bar. The garage door style windows that open to the area are already in place and were open on a recent unusually hot day.
Vinifera’s opening hours are 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. “Krushin ‘the Curfew” party kits must be ordered before 9:00 PM. Call 234-571-0233. The website is https://www.viniferawinebar.com.
Closing of the Temo chocolate maker
No molded chocolate Christmas trees filled with chocolates this year. No molded chocolate Santa.
The 70-plus-year-old Temo Chocolates on West Exchange Street in Akron closed this fall.
I am sad and not surprised.
Owner Larry Temo told me last year that he was considering selling the business. That’s when I interviewed him in February about his molded chocolate hearts which were a Valentine’s Day treat.
Temo was 87 at the time and he noted that his two daughters, both with successful careers, live out of town.
Temo enjoyed a long break every year. It would close the store the day after Mother’s Day and reopen in September.
He and his brother, Jim, took over the family business from their father, Christ, in the 1950s. Christ Temo started his Akron chocolate making operation in his basement in Copley Road and moved the business to the location of West Exchange Street in West Hill in 1947.
For years, Acme grocery stores have sold seasonal chocolates. In 2019, Temo told me he even delivers the treats to Acme’s 16 stores.
His brother Jim, who died in 2018, created Temo’s heart, egg (for Easter) and tree molds, putting his mechanical drawing skills to work. Jim worked at B, F. Goodrich, where he was a design engineer, and he continued to help at Temo. He worked at the store after his retirement, with his wife, Elaine. As of 2019, she was still working there, with a few employees.
Lanning’s has new owners
As noted in The Beacon, Lanning’s longtime fine dining restaurant in Bath was bought by Bethany and Dean Martin.
“After 35 years of actively managing the family restaurant with my husband, Jeff Darnell, we look forward to retirement,” said Chris Cecil Darnell of the sale.
Chris Darnell is the daughter of Jess and Sue Cecil, who bought the place in 1972 from Frank Lanning Barnett.
Lanning’s, which adjoins Yellow Creek, is located at 826 N. Cleveland-Massillon Road.
New owners for Domenic’s Rose Villa restaurant
Mark Vaught and Tammy Leffel, residents of the Portage Lakes area, are the new owners of Domenic’s Rose Villa, a Portage Lakes staple.
The restaurant, located at 368 Portage Lakes Drive in the Township of Coventry, dates back to 1928 and was purchased by Domenic and Anna Fana in 1974.