The island was landed upon by French explorer, Robert La Salle, in 1679. The abundance of wildflowers on the island impressed La Salle and his crew so much that they appropriately named it Isle des Fleures, the Island of Flowers. It would retain this name for the next 200 years until it was acquired by a German count in 1856. With the aid of immigrant German workers, the island was used for grape cultivation. This proved to be a very successful undertaking. Old aerial photos of the island (and its neighbor, North Bass Island) show the majority of the island covered with neat rows of grapevines.
By 1875, Middle Bass Island’s Golden Eagle Winery was reputed to be the largest wine producer in the United States. The Lonz family acquired the business in 1884 and owned and operated it until the death of George Lonz in 1968. Lonz Winery has often been compared with the wineries of the German Rhineland. The old castle-like structure has been visited by countless dignitaries including five American Presidents. The winery is now part of a corporation bearing the Lonz name. Since 1979, the wines have been made by Italian enologist Claudio Salvador.