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Gervasi Vineyard

The Gervasi Story

Location: Canton Ohio

In less than a decade, Gervasi Vineyard has gone from one family’s dream to a destination for lovers of fine wine and dining experiences. And now, Ohio’s Tuscan-inspired winery resort gives guests more luxurious reasons to visit with a new distillery and luxury accommodations.

The moment you pass under its arched gateway, you are transported to an Italian village that feels miles away from the sleepy Canton neighborhood Gervasi calls home. The leafy vines and picturesque spring-fed lake immediately set the tone for a magical escape, whether it’s for a wine tasting with friends at The Crush House, upscale dining in The Bistro or a weekend escape in one of the Tuscan-inspired villas.

The family-run resort has expanded again, giving people more reasons to visit the 55-acre property with the addition of a craft distillery and a boutique inn called The Casa, which has 24 fireplace suites with private verandas to meet the demand for more overnight lodging options.

Peeking over the sun-drenched vines in the south vineyard, a 20-foot-high metal spire towers over The Still House, Gervasi’s new distillery housed in a mission-style, whitewashed building with arched colonnades and a bell tower. Inspired by the 17th century St. Gervasio Church in Denno, Italy — the Gervasi family’s ancestral village — the structure is considered the centerpiece of the property, just as churches are the heart and soul of small towns that dot the Tuscan countryside.

By day, The Still House is a coffee shop serving Gervasi’s proprietary blend of coffee along with pastries and savory snacks. By night, it’s a craft cocktail lounge with small plates and bewitching potions made with more than 120 different liquors on hand, including its own wine barrel-finished bourbon, a blood-orange gin called Saint’s Desire and a rosé vodka called Sinner’s Blush. Drink it all in while surrounded by the little details that add to The Still House’s ambiance: exposed wooden beams, iron accents, stained-glass windows, a marble-topped bar and little nooks, such as the Sin Room, an outdoor heated cigar lounge.

Adding the hotel and distillery further exemplifies Gervasi Vineyard as a destination resort and realizes a long-standing goal for its owners to expand the property’s experiences while continuing to exceed the expectations of its guests. "It's never been our ambition to get bigger and bigger," says Scott Swaldo, the general manager of Gervasi. "We want to deliver a world-class experience."

The Dream Begins

In total, 14 buildings, including four restaurants, comprise the village-like campus of Gervasi Vineyard. The property bears little resemblance to the untended and overgrown tree farm Scott’s father Ted Swaldo purchased a decade ago with little more than a dream to spend more time with his family when he retired from his position as CEO at a leading manufacturer for the automotive industry.

Ted had only been retired 45 days before he got antsy to do something. "I guess retirement didn't agree with me," says the former engineer, who came up with a plan to draw upon the family’s Italian heritage, a love for entertaining and appreciation for the finer things. "We hit upon the idea to open a little winery in the existing barn that would serve wine and maybe some trail bologna and cheese.”

As the seed of the idea began to germinate, Ted realized he wanted to build something that would become a lasting legacy. Before ground even broke, he had convinced Scott to leave his lucrative manufacturing job to manage the winery.

"The oldest family-owned business and continuously operating business in Europe is a winery," Ted says. "Part of my thinking was let’s see how many generations can do this."

Because family has always been at the heart of the vineyard’s operation, the business carries Ted’s mother’s maiden name to honor her and her Italian origins. Mama Mary was a typical Italian mother who always made sure her large family was well fed, even during the lean years of the Great Depression.

"When my wife and I were first married, we'd go to my mom's house for entertainment because there were always people gathered there," says Ted. "We wanted to capture her spirit and generosity while building a quality experience at Gervasi Vineyard. My only regret was that she couldn't see what we've created.”

Becoming A Dream Destination

In 2009, while the land was being cleared and landscaped, a barn dating to the 1820s was painstakingly renovated and modernized, using 90 percent of the wood to create The Bistro. Gervasi Vineyard became a reality in less than a year, and it was an instant success. The Swaldos knew they couldn’t have done it alone; they had assembled a great team to make the dream happen.

Winemaker Andrew Codispoti and Executive Chef Jerry Risner have played key roles since the winery’s inception, mirroring the high standards the Swaldos set for themselves in terms of creating a memorable, immersive experience for customers.

"One of the first questions Ted asked was ‘What wines should we make?'" says Codispoti, who had been happily retired from an engineering career before joining the Gervasi team. “We knew we’d have to provide a range of products to appeal to everyone’s taste."

Growing up on a small vineyard in Italy’s Calabria region, Codispoti knew a lot about winemaking by learning from his mother, who had a reputation for producing great wine. “I got a PhD in Wine from Grape Stomper’s University,” he jokes.

When his family emigrated from Italy and settled in the Canton area, making wine from Ohio-grown grapes became an annual ritual, but not a source of income. Despite being a hobbyist winemaker all his life, producing wine for Gervasi Vineyard became Codispoti’s first foray into commercial production

"It didn't scare me," he says. "I wasn’t reinventing the process. I knew who to call for support." With guidance from Ohio State University’s Viticulture and Enology Outreach Program, the Gervasi team planted five varieties of grapes, but decided ultimately to focus on Marquette, Frontenac Gris and Aromella for use in estate reserve wines. When the first of the grapes were harvested, Codispoti’s proud mom was there to support her son’s efforts (and to make sure he was de-stemming the grapes properly).

"She comes every harvest and sits on a little stool while we process the grapes," says Ted. "She reminds me a lot of my mom — one of those hardworking, Italian moms."

Traditional varietals acquired from California and Europe round out the portfolio of the 20-plus wines Gervasi Vineyard produces in house — many of which have won awards at regional and international competitions year after year.

Executive Chef Risner, who took on his first head chef position when he joined Gervasi, worked on developing delicious upscale Italian cuisine that would not only complement the wine, but also make Mama Mary proud. More than 90 percent of the items on the menu are made from scratch, including pasta, sauces, bread and pastries. Brick-oven pizza and homemade gnocchi pair well with Truscano, a bold Sangiovese with hints of black currant and plum, while roasted chicken goes well with the award-winning Bellina, an oaked chardonnay with notes of tropical fruit.

Impeccable service, fine dining and wine in a beautifully themed setting proved to be a winning formula. Within three years of opening, Gervasi had already outgrown itself as the demand for wine, events and overnight lodging led to the explosive growth that has continued over the last 10 years.

Both Scott and Ted acknowledge there are still more ideas to explore, guest experiences to enhance and opportunities to grow through distribution, online sales and private-label products, including a plan to jar marinara sauce based on an old family recipe directly from Italy.

“We pride ourselves for listening to our customers and employees,” says Ted. “Everything we do centers around creating a quality experience that keeps customers coming back again and again.”

Gervasi Vineyard is a premier destination winery resort located in Canton, Ohio that provides guests with fine Italian dining, beautiful grounds, full-service hotel suites and so much mor

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Wow that food looks amazing

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