The first incarnation of Vino Veritas was a successful restaurant and wine bar in the heart of Little Italy—even ranking on the 2015 Cleveland Hot List
as a top wine bar. But by 2016, owner Anthony Nunes Insana had set his sights on a bigger picture for his wines, which he had been making in the basement of his Little Italy establishment.
Opportunity presented itself when Insana stumbled upon Rising Harvest Farms, a 2.3-acre plot of land in Old Brooklyn. "I found the property by myself, driving around," Insana says. "I started talking to Rising Harvest Farms and they wanted out."
Vino Veritas Cellars
4103 Memphis Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44109
Insana swiftly started making plans for Vino Veritas Cellars
, securing a one-year lease for the land from Cuyahoga Land Bank
last September. In February, Insana made it official by signing a 25-year lease to buy the former Rising Harvest property, and he had the land re-zoned as a vineyard and winery.
With its grand opening last Thursday, Aug. 3, Vino Veritas Cellars officially became Cleveland’s first fully functional, federally bonded winery and vineyard.
“I can make wine, spirits and beer on the property,” Insana boasts.
He's off to a great start—the vineyard already has vines growing, but it will take a few years before grapes are ready to harvest. In addition to the vineyard, the property now has four buildings that include a production facility, where Insana can produce “many thousands of gallons of wine,” a shed and a walk-in cooler.
The centerpiece, however, is a 60-foot by 80-foot hoop house that serves as the winery’s tasting room and party center. “It seats about 100 people in the hoop and has heating, cooling and open sides,” says Insana. “We stained and sealed the concrete floor so it looks like leathered marble.”
For now, Insana brings in grapes from California to make six varietals: a chardonnay, a white blend called Frisky Filly, a red blend called Sicilian Stallion, a Sonoma cabaret, a zinfandel and a cherry wine called Cougar Juice.
Insana currently sells cheese plates to accompany the wines and plans to serve salads and pizza from wood-fired ovens. Of course, true to his Little Italy roots, Vino Veritas will have bocce courts.
All of the wine will be made on-site, as well as the manufacturing of bottles and labels. Insana currently employs eight people, but will eventually hire as many as 25 employees. “I will employ part-time adults with special needs,” he says. “I’m helping them find work. They express that they’re happy working, and their families are happy.”
In fact, a portion of Vino Veritas’ profits will go to Awakening Angels
, a non-profit research organization dedicated to helping those with Down Syndrome and developmental disabilities.
At the grand opening last week, the winery raised $900 for Awakening Angels. Councilman Kevin Kelley attended to celebrate the opening of the new establishment.
Vino Veritas' next big fundraiser is the First Annual Wine, Land and Sea Bash
pig roast and clam bake on Sunday, Oct. 15 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. The cost is $35, $8 for an extra dozen clams. Each bottle of wine sold benefits Awakening Angels. The event is open to the public, but there are limited tickets available..
While Insana says he enjoyed his presence in Little Italy, he is thrilled to be a part of Old Brooklyn’s redevelopment renaissance. “Little Italy is its own little village within the city of Cleveland,” he says. “But Old Brooklyn is
Cleveland. I met Old Brooklyn on the ground floor of its redevelopment, and it’s the largest community inside the city [limits].”
Currently, Vino Veritas is open Wednesday through Saturday.