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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Toast This Ohio Guy: His Winery Is Tops In Italy

CLEVELAND (TDB) -- Corks should be popping in honor of Frank Grace -- who grew up in Steubenville and played football at John Carroll University in the 1960s -- for building a reputation as a world-class winemaker. The products from his Tuscan estate in Italy are drawing raves from the cognoscente. The success of this Mondavian figure might even give a splash of attention to Ohio's homegrown wine industry, which isn't quite superstar but hopes to grow. Before the Civil War, Ohio was the nation's biggest winemaking state, and a belt of vineyards along Lake Erie thrived.

John Carroll has a piece about its increasingly famous former gridder in the current edition of its alumni magazine. ''About a decade ago, he acquired a lovely wine estate in the heart of Tuscany's Chianti Country and set about building a serious winemaking operation. He has arrived at that goal with trumpets sounding a loud fanfare,'' the magazine said. "Two years ago Molino di Grace was named the best new winery in Italy by Gambero Rosso, the equivalent for Italian wine of France's Michelin Guide. The guide has also now commended several editions of Grace's wines with its Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) prize designation."

Grace also picked up plaudits from Wine and Spirts, which recently rated his Tuscan estate among the world's 100 best wineries. The respected publication also called Grace's Il Riserva Margone one of the 100 best wines on Earth.

So can you buy the stuff in Ohio? It is supposed to be available in expensive restaurants and wine shops, including the Cleveland area. John Carroll, a Jesuit school, is popping buttons with pride, and points out that Grace did very well in corporate America by starting an executive relocation business that now is called Team Relocations. He worked in transportation in the military, and moved those skills into the private sector after leaving the service.

''While there may be subjective dimension to these awards, the indisputable facts are that Molina di Grace and Frank Grace have ascended into the aristocracy of the wine industry,'' the school said. "To come from nowhere to Grace's current state of recognition may be unprecedented in the passionately competitive and complicated world of wine."

So what would be a proper title for this newly-vinted aristocrat from the State of Ohio and John Carroll U? Baron of the barrels just doesn't seem to have the right cling to it. Michael Flatley, a Midwest boy born in Detroit and reared on Chicago's South Side, has made his mark in Irish circles as Lord of the Dance. Very noble sounding. Let us now dub Mr. Grace Ohio's Lord of the Vines.