Dalton 'Duke' Bixler

 
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Dalton 'Duke' Bixler was born in 1939 on a farm, the son of a steel worker and homemaker and is the youngest of seven children. As a kid, he was very entrepreneurial and always dreamt of having a junk yard. He started his first business at age 8, selling fresh picked fruits and berries. Almost 70 years later, he is still selling fruits and berries in the form of wine.

As a teen he hitchhiked across the country and enjoyed finding unique places to visit and jot down ideas, knowing someday he would put those ideas to use. After serving in the Air Force, he returned to the Sugarcreek area in 1959 where he enjoyed racing and fixing up old cars as a hobby. This is also the year he met and married Cynthia. They were married in 1962. They soon began a family, while establishing an ice route, delivering ice to the local Amish families.

They purchased their 70 acre farm on land contract, at the height of tough times in the mid 70's. In 1980 he established a small meat and cheese shop along a quiet route traveling between Dover and Sugarcreek. When the prospect of turning this market into a winery came up, they named their winery using a Pennsylvania Dutch term, which means "broad or bright stream". Breitenbach winery opened for business in September 1980. As business grew, both daughters joined the operation. The grandchildren also help out in the retail store. The winery grew from a mere 3,000 gallon operation to one producing 150,000 gallons in 2010.

Historically, the winery contracted for fruit with premier grape growers for 30 years but in 2008, Duke decided it was time to plant vines. In 2009, 3,000 vines were planted and he soon realized the valley where his winery was located was an ideal place for grapes. In 2010 a beautiful piece of land became available that was adjacent to the farm. These 70 acres were trellised for an additional 5,000 vines. Along with grapes, blackberries and raspberries are also farmed there to supply a growing demand for natural fruit and berry wines.

When his winery joined the Ohio Wine Producers Association in 1980, as the 20th winery in the state, he never would have imagined growing to the size and recognition that it has achieved today.

 
Ashlee Hayes