A labor of love, Killing Tree winery opens near Dresden

DRESDEN — A chance encounter with a glass of wine sparked Ernie Fry III’s curiosity and eventually led to the opening of Killing Tree Winery with his wife Amy.

Ernie was making a delivery to a customer at his woodworking business when the customer offered a glass of alfalfa wine. Curious and familiar with alfalfa from having grown up on a large farm near Wakatomika, north of Dresden, he tried it.

This weekend he started making his first wine. “Asian pears happened to be ripe and ready to do something,” he said. “This weekend we picked the pears, cut them and made the first batch.”

The wine was not a success. Still, Ernie was addicted. Amy bought him a wine kit, but that didn’t satisfy him either.

“He doesn’t do anything easy,” she laughs, recounting her quest to make better wine, from real grapes.

“Anyone can make a kit,” he said, “I want to know the chemistry behind it. I wanted the details.”

Over the years, he developed his craft, making fruit wines, grape wines, even a corncob wine. “You can ferment anything,” he said. This wine turned out to be a lighter version of moonshine.

Ernie began taking classes and selecting the brains of winemakers from the vineyards he and his wife visited.

Eventually, Amy suggested they open a winery on their land in the middle of the family farm, just down the hill from where Ernie grew up.

“Ernie has been making wine at home for 15 to 20 years, and we’ve enjoyed all of our wine hops,” Amy said. “We love the people we meet and the environment, and we just decided we wanted to do this.”

In August 2019 they opened Killing Tree Winery.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in price increases and delays, including an agonizing wait for their liquor license. But having worked in construction before opening his cabinetmaking business, Ernie was able to do much of the work himself, with help from family and friends, including his father, Ernie Fry Jr., and his mother Mary.

“It was a labor of love,” Amy said. “Seven days a week, 12 to 16 hours a day for a year.”

The walls of the ground floor of the cellar are covered with poplar felled on the farm, dried and crushed in Ernie’s company. Nearby Conesville pine makes the trim. Parts of a barn roof accent the walls and the siding of the family barn accents the bar.

One day, while looking at the construction, Amy realized that the cellar needed a second floor. “We probably don’t have enough seating,” she thought. A second story was added, which provided a terrace overlooking fields and woods, complete with a mid-century spiral staircase from a building in Cleveland.

“It was a lot of hard work, but at the same time we can look back and be very proud of what we did,” she said.

The winery opened Labor Day weekend and is celebrating a ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. today.

Fry said she’s had great customer reviews so far and word of mouth has already spread as far as Columbus. The winery will be part of the Coshocton County Wine Trail.

Ernie, a perfectionist by nature, has developed his own style. “I don’t want what everybody else wants,” he said, “I want them to be interesting,” he said. He has developed a wide variety of wines, from watermelon, peach, strawberry and rhubarb wines, to dry whites and reds, and a variety of blended grape wines.

“We know not everyone is going to like everything,” Amy said, “but we’ve had wives come in and tell us their husbands don’t like wine, and then their husbands go home with their own bottle. .”

“There’s something for everyone,” she said.

The winery is located at 16688 County Road 4, Dresden. It is open Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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