Jim Conti started making wine as a hobby five years ago. While his friends loved his wine, he wanted to do something with the sediment left at the bottom of his bottles.
“I didn’t want to throw it away,” he recalls. “I thought about what I could do with it. I tried it, and it was pretty good.”
Then one day an idea came to Conti: Why not make jams out of the sweet sediment left over from the wine he created? After many recipe trials and taste tests, Cleveland Jam
was born. Since 2013, Conti and his two partners, Dennis Kramer and Dennis Schultz, have been producing jams and jellies made from local wines and beers.
Conti begins the jam-making process by boiling down the wine to remove the alcohol, then processing it into jams and jellies. After perfecting the wine jellies, he thought “why not beer?” So Conti went to work on making beer jams as well.
Cleveland Jam now has five beer jams and three different wine jellies – all made with the aid of local brewers and vineyards and locally-grown produce. The company’s signature wine jelly flavors are Dynamite White Zinfandel, Rock and Roll Merlot and Press Play Cabernet.
The company has its own half-acre vineyard in the Clark-Fulton district off W. 25th
Street on Sackett Avenue. The eight varieties should start producing fruit in the next two years. The site is actually an old brewery from the Prohibition era and Conti hopes to open a storefront there. His ultimate dream is to open urban vineyards all over the city.
In addition to his original Beer Jam, Conti began working with Great Lakes Brewing Company
last year to create Burning River Pepper Jam
. In July, the two companies released Eliot Ness Fig-Apple jam. “They put it on prosciutto sandwiches,” Conti says. Cleveland Jam also makes two beer jellies with a brewing company in Catawba – blueberry IPA and mango habanero.
The jams are used on menu items at Great Lakes and are available in Great Lakes gift shops. Their popularity is keeping Conti busy these days. This summer, Cleveland Jam was chosen as one of three companies in the Old Brooklyn Community Development
’s business pitch competition to receive a grant to open a storefront in the Old Brooklyn. Conti says he hopes to open in the city in the next few months.