If the television series Gilmore Girls had been set in Ohio instead of Connecticut, it would have been set in the town of Bellville. And the town plaza where everyone gathered would be the park right next to the Wishmaker House Bed & Breakfast (& Winery). The park comes complete with small-town charm, main street accessibility, and a gazebo bandstand.
Located in the heart of the state of Ohio, with a population around 2,000, Bellville was the spot for a couple of nights of touring before a conference pulled me into Columbus. It struck me as classic small-town America, perhaps prettied up a bit, and if mid-west exploration is one your bucket list this is a good place to base your travels (the mid-Ohio race track, the Ohio State Reformatory, Kingwood Center, and dozens of outdoor activity sites are all close by).
I spent my two nights in Bellville at the Wishmaker Houe, owned and operated by Donnie and Jennifer Vanmeter. Jennifer, along with her staff, keeps the inn and kitchen running smoothly – and deliciously – and Donnie, a non-drinker, is the winemaker. It’s been a little over a year since this couple took over Wishmaker and they’re making quite an impact on the community.
I stayed in Whitney’s Room, also known as Room #5 (there are seven rooms in total) named for the daughter-in-law of a previous owner. It’s located on the second floor at the top of the stairs. The room is decorated with color of paprika and sage, with a dark-stained maple queen-sized bed. There is a small desk for working, wi-fi is free, and the room is laid out in a way to make it seem larger than it is. A look out the window gives you a peek at a small garden.
The private bathroom is spacious with plush towels and a shower. The lighting was flattering to my aging face, but I preferred the brighter daylight in the bedroom for makeup application and getting dressed.
The common areas at Wishmaker House are as comfortable as they are inviting. The living room features an electric fireplace surrounded by couches and chair for conversation, reading, or board games. Take a moment and look up at the ceiling – that’s a fully operational clock up there, artistic and practical.
Across from the living room is the wine bar, serving the house wines made on site. The wine side of things is a bit confusing. Originally, the previous owners couldn’t get a liquor license for the restaurant, putting a serious damper on their dinner business. The licenses were limited in number and there just weren’t any available. There was, however, an exception. A liquor license would be granted to a winery. Voila! A winery was born, a liquor license procured, and all’s right with the world. You can enjoy Wishmaker House wines in the wine bar or over dinner.
Currently, Wishmaker House produces about a thousand gallons of wine per year, using grapes from around Ohio or New York. Eleven wines are made on site, including a handful that took home medals in the 2015 and 2016 Ohio Wine Competition. While Donnie does not imbibe, he says it’s just science. What better laboratory to practice your science experiments than in a winery. If you’re lucky, you may get to head to the basement for a look at where it all happens.
In addition to house wines, Wishmaker House serves other wine from around the world as well as beer and cider.
Wishmaker House is a bed and breakfast, and Jennifer team will start you off with a healthy, nourishing breakfast. Seasonal fresh fruit was always included, and the entrees varied. Let them know at the time of booking if you have any dietary issues or concerns and they’ll make sure to have something that’s suited for you.
The restaurant is open to the public for lunch and dinner Wednesday-Sunday and overlooks the town square. The menu is small, but diverse, with a nice selection of salads, flatbread pizzas, small bites, and entrees. My recommendation: No matter what you decide to order, start off with an order (or two) of the house made pretzel sticks. Served with three kinds of dipping sauce, these were a big hit at our table of diners. The menu changes every three months, allowing the kitchen to work with the best seasonal products.
Another dining recommendation – save room for dessert! Jennifer makes amazing cheesecake, coming up with interesting taste combinations that stand right alongside classic flavors. A lot of inspiration seems to come from candy bar flavors, but Jennifer she’s constantly experimenting to try to come up with new favorites. Fair warning: These pieces are huge; a slice will easily serve two or more.
pretzel sticks at wishmaker house restaurant
NOTE: For those planning on attending the 25th anniversary of the movie, Shawshank Redemption, rooms are booking up fast. Wishmaker House is a convenient option.
The Wishmaker House Bed & Breakfast is located at 116 Main Street, Bellville, Ohio. Rates start around $145/night and include breakfast. Off street parking is available at no charge.