Longtime residents welcome wine enthusiasts to new vineyard

by Joe Jancsurak

A U.S. president once said that nothing worth having comes easy. Forty-four-year Twinsburg residents and wine enthusiasts, Bill and Cookie Delgado, will drink to that.

The couple’s dream of owning a winery will become a reality this summer as they open The Blind Squirrel Winery at 7918 Pettibone Rd. in Bainbridge, about 1½ miles east of Parkside Church. But their road to success was anything but smooth. Some would say there were plenty of potholes, along the way.

“After buying the property, a foreclosed house on eight acres, at a sheriff’s sale, we knew it was going to take a lot of work and that we had absolutely no experience operating a winery,’’ said Bill, a retired teacher. “But I knew immediately what to name our place. We were a couple of blind squirrels with no idea of what we were getting into. But as my dad liked to say, ‘Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while,’ and this is our nut.”

Bill Delgado surveys a grapevine at a vineyard he and his wife, Cookie, opened in Bainbridge. Photo by K. Garred

After the property was purchased in 2015, the plan was to restore, renovate and be open for business in 2017.

“We loved the property’s connection to nature, with its pond, the forest and the primeval-ness of its rocky surfaces,” Bill said. “Then there was the cottage-like feel of the house and its location, next to Solon and Chagrin Falls, and nestled in an area that is agricultural and rural.”

While that may sound idyllic, with all the drywall removal, ceiling work, wood restoration, exterior improvements, rewiring, plumbing and installation of winemaking equipment, delays were inevitable, making a 2017 opening unrealistic.

Plus there was a lot to learn, though local winemakers and educators at Kent State and Ohio State universities proved to be valuable resources. Early in the process, Cookie, the winery’s chief financial officer and also a full-time customer service representative for KoneCranes in Solon, said she wouldn’t believe the winery was a reality until she saw evidence of an operational toilet. Eventually, Bill was able to send her a first-flush video at work.

It looked like The Blind Squirrel would open in February, until it suffered considerable tree damage from the Nov. 2 , 2017, storm that took down 26 of the winery’s trees, four of which were 80-year-old, 70-foot-high oaks. While the cleanup was labor intensive, the uprooted massive oaks left behind attractive glacial rock remnants, allowing for a unique patio extension. Another bump in the road occurred early this year when the Delgados learned that they needed to drill a new well to meet EPA guidelines.

All that is in the rear-view mirror now, as The Blind Squirrel prepares to welcome wine enthusiasts. The venue includes an 1,800-square-foot rustic tasting room for 35-40 persons with a 12-foot-tall granite fireplace. A separate 700-square-foot room is designed for private parties and special events. The patio overlooks the pond, woods and vineyard.

The wine list features eight blended wines with such names as Woodland White and Red, Fuzzy Tail and Sassy Squirrel, and light appetizers, though patrons are welcome to bring their own food or even have a pizza delivered. Live music will be offered on the patio, weather permitting, or inside the tasting room. With four married daughters and 10 young grandchildren, Bill said staffing will be a family affair now and likely into the future.

“We want to be known for being a cozy, family-owned-and-operated winery where customers come to enjoy good wine, food and music with their families and friends,” said Bill. “When they leave, we want them to be able to say that they had a memorable evening. That’s our goal, and I think it’s a worthy one.”

Featured image photo caption: Bill Delgado has lived in Twinsburg for more than four decades, but he now has a second home in Bainbridge with the opening of The Blind Squirrel Winery. Delgado said the winery is a dream fulfilled for him and his wife, Cookie, despite numerous setbacks. Photo by K. Garred