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Lake Erie Living

October/November 2008

 

The Color Purple (Chautauqua Lake Erie Wine Trail)
By Christine A. Smyczynski



Driving along Lake Erie’s shore in New York’s Chautauqua County, you’ll note that you’ll often come across vineyards as far as the eye can see. That’s not surprising since the region is one of the largest Concord grape growing and juice producing areas in the United States, as well as the oldest Concord grape growing region in the world. About 65% of the state’s grape tonnage is produced in the region. There are about 30,000 acres of vineyards cultivated by over 800 farms.

 

In order to preserve and promote this area, in December 2006 the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation designated the 50 mile long region the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt Heritage Area; the first agricultural region to receive this designation.

 

The Concord grape, along with blueberries and cranberries, were fruit native to North America when the Europeans arrived. The first vineyard in Chautauqua County was planted in 1818 by Elijah Fay. His son opened a winery in 1859; however, its tenure was short-lived, due to the formation of the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement in the nearby Village of Fredonia, which frowned on the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

 

In the mid-1800’s, Dr. Charles Welch arrived in Westfield, an area with a large concentration of Concord grapes. He created a non-alcoholic beverage, which he called Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine; the named was later changed to Welch’s Grape Juice. Grapes grown in this area are still used to make Welch’s juices, jellies and syrups.

 

New York State, in naming the region as a heritage area, recognizes the history of grape growing in the area, as well as the important role grape growing plays in the local economy. The designation also provides for heritage tourism opportunities.

 

The area is managed by the Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association, which has close to 200 members in both Chautauqua County in New York and in northern Pennsylvania. This area encompasses about 22 towns and villages. There are about 85 farm markets in Chautauqua County alone, as well as 21 wineries in the region; 13 in New York and 8 in Pennsylvania.

 

The region is also known as “America’s Grape Country,” a collaborative effort between the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, the Concord Grape Belt Association and the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail. They are looking to promote the themes of heritage, hospitality and health to describe the region. Plans are in the works to build a Grape Discovery Center.

 

The region celebrated America’s Grape Country Week in August, which they plan to have as an annual event. It kicked off with a wine festival, as well as special menu offerings in area restaurants, and a food themed week at the renowned Chautauqua Institution.

 

 

The Grape Belt Heritage area recently commissioned artist Mark Baldwin from the Roger Tory Peterson Institute to create a map of the natural and cultural attractions in the region. Prints of the map are available in area wineries and art galleries.

 

In addition to tasting good in juice, jelly and wine, Concord grapes have been found to have a number of health benefits, including a high concentration of vitamin C. Medical research done at the Wisconsin School of Medicine has shown that purple grape juice may improve cardiovascular function, including improving arterial function in patients with narrowing of the coronary arteries. Another study, done at Boston University School of Medicine, showed that drinking Concord grape juice increased good cholesterol.

 

While juice is tasty, we can’t forget that one of the more popular ways people enjoy grapes is drinking wine. After the Farm Wine Act was passed in 1976, several wineries were established in Chautauqua County.

 

In recent years the number of wineries has increased significantly. Currently there are 21 wineries to choose from along Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail, a 40 mile long trail stretching from Silver Creek, NY to North East, Pennsylvania. While most wineries are open daily, year-round, it’s especially fun to visit during a wine trail special event. The Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail hosts three special events each year, including Wine and Chocolates in February, Wine and Cheese in June and Holiday Wine Trail Weekends in November.

 

Here is a brief listing of the wineries along the trail.
Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail (888-965-4800 or 800-374-6569; www.chautauquawinetrail.org) 8419 W. Main Rd., Westfield. Descriptions of all wineries and directions can be found on the wine trail’s website.

These wineries are located in Chautauqua County:

Willow Creek Winery (716-934-9463; www.willowcreekwines.com), 2627 Chapin Road, Sheridan. Open May-December, Monday–Friday 11-5, Saturday and Sunday 11-6. Open weekends December-April.

Liberty Vineyards (716-672-2067; www.libertywine.com ) 2861 Route 20, Sheridan. Monday-Saturday 10-6, Sunday 11-5.

 

Merritt Estate Winery (716-965-4800 or 888-965-4800; www.merrittestatewinery.com), 2265 King Road, Forestville. Open year-round Monday-Saturday 10–5, Sunday 12–5.

 

Roberian (716-326-3100) 2614 King Rd., Sheridan. Open November-April, Friday-Sun 11-5; May-October, Thursday-Monday 11-5.

 

Woodbury (716-679-9463 or 888-697-9463; www.woodburyvineyards.com), 3230 South Roberts Road, Fredonia. Open year-round Monday–Saturday 10–5, Sunday 12–5.

 

Noble Winery (716-326-2600; www.noblewinery.com ) 8630 Hardscrabble Rd., Westfield. Open daily 11-6.

 

Vetter Vineyards (716-326-3100; www.vetterwineyards.com), 8005 Prospect Station Road (off NY 20), Westfield. Open May 1-Nov. 30 10–6 daily, December-April 30 open Thursday-Monday 11-5.

 

Johnson Estate (716-326-2191; www.johnsonwinery.com), 8419 West Main Road, Westfield. Open daily 10-6.

 

Mazza Chautauqua (716-269-3000: www.mcc.mazzawines.com) 4717 Chautauqua-Stedman Road, Mayville. Open Monday-Saturday 10-6, Sunday 11-5.

 

Schloss Dopken (716-326-3636), 9177 Old Route 20, Ripley. Open daily year-round 12–5 for tasting and sales.

 

Blueberry Sky (716-252-6535; www.blueberryskyfarm.com ), 10243 Northeast Sherman Road, South Ripley. Open Monday-Saturday 10-6, Sunday 12-5.

 

Sparking Ponds (716-736-4525; www.sparklingponds.com ) 10661 West Lake Rd., Ripley. Jan.1-April 1 open Friday-Sunday 11-5. Rest of year open Monday and Friday 11-6, Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday 11-5, Saturday 10-6.

 

Quincy Wine Cellars (716-736-2021; www.quincycellars.com) 10606 US 20, Ripley. Tuesday-Thursday 10-6, Friday-Saturday 10-9, Sunday 11-5

 

Here are the wineries located in Pennsylvania:

Mazza (814-725-8695; www.mazzawines.com) 11815 E. Lake Rd., North East, PA. Open Mon.-Sat. 9-5:30, Sun. 12-4:30. The Mazza family also recently re-established South Shore Wine Company, one of the oldest wine businesses in the region.

 

Arrowhead (814-725-5509; www.arrowheadwine.com) 12073 E. Main Rd., North East, PA. Open Monday-Saturday 10-6, Sunday 12-5.

 

Penn Shore (814-725-8688; www.pennshore.com) 10225 E. Lake Rd., North East, PA. Open Monday-Saturday 9-5:30, Sunday 11-4:30.

 

Presque Isle (814-725-1314, 800-488-7492; www.piwine.com) 9440 W. Main Rd., North East, PA. Monday-Saturday 8-5.

 

Heritage Wine Cellars (1-800-747-0083, 814-725-8015; www.heritagewine.biz )12160 East Main Road (Route 20) North East, Pennsylvania. Sunday-Friday 12-5, Saturday 10-6. (Summer 10-6 daily).

 

Lakeview Wine Cellars (814-725-5040; www.lakeviewwinecellars.com) 8440 Singer Road, North East, Pennsylvania. Check website for hours.

 

Burch Farms Winery (814-725-0747) 9110 Sidehill Road, North East, Pennsylvania. Tours by appointment.