Cheers: Dalton Union Winery and Brewery

Dale and Tonya Mabry deliver fun and flavor at Dalton Union Winery and Brewery. (Photo by Damaine Vonada)

What’s in a name? Dalton Union Winery and Brewery’s name is packed with meaning. Owners Dale and Tonya Mabry liked “Dalton” because it’s a portmanteau word, combining three letters from their first names, while “Union” alludes to their relationship and location. “The two of us are a union,” says Tonya, “and we’re in Union County.”

The Mabrys live in a rambling stone house northwest of Marysville, where they’re members of Union Rural Electric Cooperative. Both were raised near Bellefontaine, and they met at a campground when they were kids. Dale, who grew up helping his grandfather make wine, was a wine hobbyist for decades, and the homemade Riesling that he and Tonya presented to people at Christmas always got rave reviews. Since they also enjoy hosting parties and family reunions, the couple decided to turn part of a barn on their 10-acre property into a tasting room.

“The winery got started because we liked making wine and enjoying that wine with our families and friends,” says Dale. “If a wine wasn’t enjoyable, it didn’t make the cut.”

They opened their winery to the public in August 2015, and it was an immediate success. Their flavorful wines and flair for hospitality were such a winning formula that within three months, the Mabrys needed to expand. Carving more space out of the barn, Dale built a spacious “tasting house” complete with a handsome stone fireplace for cozy winter gatherings and an outdoor patio for summertime sipping. “A large portion of our customers come from Columbus and love sitting on the patio,” says Tonya. “People comment that it is so quiet out here in the country, and they like seeing all the stars at night.”

Although open only on Friday and Saturday, Dalton Union Winery and Brewery is such a popular destination that it was chosen the 2018 Tourism Business of the Year by the Union County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Our growth was unexpected and unreal, and we really have to try to keep up with it,” says Dale. In fact, he and Tonya have left their former occupations — respectively, technology project management and data center support — to operate the winery. “Four years ago, we would have said there’s no way we’d now be doing this full time,” Tonya says. “It’s been just wonderful for us.”

Dalton Union’s diverse wines range from sweet to dry and are made on-site using select juices purchased from as far away as California, Argentina, and Australia. Their signature white wine — Summertime — balances the flavors of Riesling grapes and green apples, while bestseller Black Horse is an off-dry red containing pinot noir and black cherry. Hula Sunrise, a wine cocktail served year-round, blends white wines with coconut, lime and pineapple juices, and grenadine. “It’s like a vacation in a glass, and gives people a great excuse to drive here,” says Tonya.

The Mabrys also produce mead made with honey from a nearby bee farm and hard ciders in seasonal flavors such as rhubarb, pumpkin spice, and lemon-berry. Because they want non-wine drinkers to fully participate in the Dalton Union experience, they’ve also added an in-house brewing system. Dale focuses on using local grains for Dalton Union’s handcrafted beers, and he is especially proud of 43040, a golden ale whose name came from Marysville’s ZIP code. “With locally grown barley and hops, it’s 100% Marysville from seed to glass,” he says.

Dalton Union offers live entertainment every Saturday night, and from April through October, food trucks supplement the charcuterie trays served in the tasting house. Customers also are welcome to bring their own food or to order pizza from local shops. “Dale and I love hosting others and getting together with people,” says Tonya. “Now we get to do that every Friday and Saturday.”