Donniella Winchell was elected to the Ohio Wine Hall of Fame in 2002.
Donnie grew up among concord grapes in Madison Ohio and had no intention of 'coming back to the farm.' As a no-too liberated woman of the sixties, her intention was to graduate from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania with a teaching certificate in history, work with kids in the classroom for a number of years, acquire additional certification and become the first female superintendent of her home school district.
As the saying goes, 'Life is what happens when making other plans.' After marriage and the birth of two daughters, an unexpected third child caused her to re-think career plans. In 1978 she was asked to become the 'Executive Secretary' of the fledgling Ohio Wine Producers Association. That year, the thirteen Ohio wineries approved an annual budget of only $700 and limited her hours to six per month to reserve enough money to purchase postage stamps. The part time position allowed her to raise a family - and as her family grew, she was able to devote more time to the organization. With tremendous support from the industry's pioneers, Winchell went on to help build the association into one of the most respected wine organizations in the nation.
With the belief that the best wine marketing programs are based on a strong public relations component supported by consumer tasting events, she helped promote the industry though news releases and relationship building with tourism organizations and at consumer tasting events. In the early years, the association conducted hundreds of small wine tastings at service clubs and churches. More recently, the nationally acclaimed Vintage Ohio Wine Festival provided a pattern for expanding the tasting concept to large outdoor vernues across the state.
Winchell has serves on the boards of the Winegrape Growers of America, the WineAmerica State Advisory Panel, the Ashtabula County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Ohio Travel Association and on the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism Advisory Committee as well as on several other travel and economic development councils. She has contributed to several national wine publications including the Wine Enthusiast as well as Practical Winery and Vineyard, writes a weekly wine newspaper column and speaks regularly at regional and national wine and tourism conferences.
The Winchell family a brochure distribution service in northern Ohio as well as a family entertainment center, Adventure Zone, in the resort community of Geneva on the Lake, Ohio. She and her husband Larry have three grown children, several beautiful grandchildren and live on the shores of the Grand River in Ashtabula County.