The new additions are expected to open in late 2018 or early 2019.

CANTON  One of Stark County's biggest tourist destinations is expanding.

Gervasi Vineyard is adding a distillery and luxury boutique hotel to its 55-acre Gervasi Village on 55th Street NE.

"We're excited about it. It's a really great opportunity for us," said Scott Swaldo, owner and general manager of GV Destinations.

The Swaldo family owns and operates GV Destinations, which includes Gervasi and the Twisted Olive restaurant in Green.

Gervasi has grown extensively since opening in 2010, Swaldo said.

The winery now includes three restaurants — The Bistro, The Crush House Wine Bar & Eatery and the seasonal Piazza — two lodging facilities, the Villas and the Farmhouse, and event spaces.

The new mission-style buildings will be located on open land in the southwest corner of the estate, near the south vineyard, and are expected to open in late 2018 or early 2019.

In a news release, Canton officials praised the new development.

“Gervasi is a first-class destination for locals and tourists for our great city,” said Mayor Tom Bernabei. “The current assets... make me proud that Gervasi Vineyard calls Canton home. The addition of the hotel and distillery will be over the top.”

Luxury hotel

Gervasi says it welcomes about 250,000 guests every year.

It's a popular site for events, retreats, conferences and weddings, but high demand means they've had to turn people away, Swaldo said.

"We've evolved from what was originally a small winery and small restaurant to a resort," he said. "And when you're a resort, you need more rooms than 24."

The single-story, 18,000 square-foot hotel will double that capacity. The 24 large suites will be arranged in a horseshoe shape with two shared lobbies and a European-style courtyard in the center. 

The hotel will offer the same luxury accommodations as the Villas but in a quieter space away from the activity of Gervasi Village, Swaldo said.

Rooms will feature verandas, high ceilings, king beds, fireplaces, heated floors and other amenities. Guests can take advantage of an Italian-style continental breakfast delivered to their room as well as in-room services such as spa treatments, massage and yoga.

With such high demand, Gervasi could have opted for simpler, more accessible accommodations, Swaldo said. "But the reality is we have high demand for what we have, we just need more of it."

The hotel's name and design will be announced at a later date.

Stark County is known for being a family destination, but the area is starting to attract new demographics including empty-nesters and millennials, said said Allyson Bussey, president of VisitCanton, the Stark County Convention and Visitors' Bureau.

"People are looking for a more dynamic and upscale experience," she said, adding that locals are also seeking those types of outings.

Distillery

Visitors to Gervasi — whether they stay for a weekend or just an evening — want to have as many different experiences as possible, Swaldo said.

Distilleries are a relatively new venture in the area, he said.

"People are fascinated with how you make wine and spirits. It's a unique environment to relax and enjoy," he said.

They're still developing liquor offerings but plan to have a wine-barrel-aged bourbon, similar to an existing collaboration with Watershed Distillery in Columbus, he said.

Gervasi also could develop vodka, gin and Italian-style liqueurs.

The distillery will make products that are popular and mainstream while also connecting to Gervasi's Italian heritage and identity as a vineyard, Swaldo said.

The 10,000 square-foot distillery will include a "beautiful, unique cocktail lounge environment" and an outdoor cigar lounge. The space will feature plenty of soft seating, coffee tables and warm and inviting lighting.

Guests will be able to peek into the production area while enjoying cocktails. Stills have a "very, very cool look" that Gervasi wanted to showcase, Swaldo said.

Gervasi will offer public and private tours as well as tasting experiences.

The distillery will attract a new, different audience, appealing to the millennial demographic. While wineries tend to attract more women and older guests, distilleries are more popular with men and younger adults, he said.

"It's a something for everyone kind of thing," he said.

The distillery also will include a new welcome center with centralized check-in for overnight guests. The space will have employees who can answer questions, interactive maps of the property and video tours.

In anticipation of offering their own liquor, Gervasi has now opened a full bar inside The Bistro restaurant.

The extensive craft cocktail menu features a "gangster" theme in reference a shootout that took place on the property in 1922, according to a news release.

Local tourism

Culinary tourism is a growing segment of the industry, Bussey said, pointing to the popularity of vineyards and craft breweries in the region. "This is a segment that's not going away. It's expanding and growing."

Gervasi will be the second craft distillery in Stark County. Canal Spirits in Canal Fulton opened in 2014.

VisitCanton is looking forward to promoting the expansion, alongside Gervasi's existing offerings, as an example of what the area can offer, Bussey said.

It's another reason why Stark County tourism is projected to grow exponentially in coming years, she said.

"Everything they do, they do top notch. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this will continue to exceed our expectations."

Reach Jessica at 330-580-8322 or jessica.holbrook@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @jholbrookREP.