The holidays are over, it’s the middle of winter and warmer weather is still a few months away. A good way to beat the winter doldrums is to plan a getaway weekend, perhaps sampling wines and good food. We are fortunate to have dozens of wineries right in our own backyard to enjoy a wine weekend without going far from home.
The Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail, located about 90 minutes south of Buffalo, has twenty wineries; thirteen in Chautauqua County and seven just over the Pennsylvania border. The forty mile trail is located in the Chautauqua grape growing region along Lake Erie. Designated the Grape Belt Heritage Area, it is the largest and oldest Concord grape growing region in the world.
It’s fun to visit local wineries; in most cases the owner is right behind the bar pouring your samples and they are usually eager to discuss their winery and the winemaking process. It’s especially fun to visit during a wine trail event.
The upcoming Wine & Chocolate Weekend, which will take place on February 9 & 10 from 10-5 each day, is a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your significant other. Each ticket holder receives a complimentary wine glass, along with wine samples and a special treat/dessert at each winery, along with recipes for each dish served.
According to Bill Merritt, who operates Merritt Estate Winery in Forestville, there are several strategies people follow when they come to a wine trail event, especially since there are so many wineries to choose from. “Some people go to their favorite wineries, while others visit the new wineries they haven’t visited before. Some will start at the most distant winery and work their way home,” said Merritt. He added that if people spend Saturday night in the area after a day of winery visits and get an early start Sunday morning, they will probably be able to visit all the wineries.
“Saturday is usually the busier day,” said Merritt. “It’s usually a quieter time on Sunday and the winery staff has more time to spend with customers.” Merritt plans to serve a chocolate stuffed éclair paired with wine at his winery for the Wine and Chocolate event.
The wineries listed below are in geographical order from north to south.
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. Willow Creek is one of the few smaller wineries that freeze the wine during the process to remove skins and yeast. Some of their wines include Cayuga White and Concord.
Liberty Vineyards (716-672-2067; www.libertywine.com ) 2861 Route 20, Sheridan. Monday-Saturday 10-6, Sunday 11-5. This new winery will open just in time for the Wine & Chocolate weekend. They will have five wines to sample, Diamond, Traminette, and Noiret, along with two red blends, Rufus Red and Cat Noir. They will eventually have 15 wines to choose from.
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. The winery has a large tasting room and gift shop. Some of their specialties include Chautauqua White and Bella Rosa.
Roberian (716-326-3100) 2614 King Rd., Sheridan. Open November-April, Friday-Sun 11-5; May-October, Thursday-Monday 11-5. This winery has several different varieties of wine, including Riesling, Chardonnay, and Merlot.
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. Wines include White Renard, Seaport Blush, and my personal favorite, cranberry dessert wine.
Noble Winery (716-326-2600; www.noblewinery.com ) 8630 Hardscrabble Rd., Westfield. Open daily 11-6. The tasting room of this winery has a great view of Lake Erie. Ask to borrow a pair of their binoculars, on a clear day you can see Port Dover, Ontario across the lake. Some of their wines include Delaware, Niagara, Riesling, and Pink Catawba.
Vetter Vineyards (716-326-3100; www,vettervineyards.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. This small winery, operated by Mark and Barbara Lancaster, is set up on a hill overlooking the vineyards. Some of their hand-crafted wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling.
Johnson Estate (716-326-2191; www.johnsonwinery.com), 8419 West Main Road, Westfield. Open daily 10-6. Established in 1961, this 200 acre winery is the oldest exclusive estate winery in New York State. Their signature wine is Liebestropfchen (Little love drops).
Mazza Chautauqua (716-269-3000: www,mccc.mazzawines.com) 4717 Chautauqua-Stedman Road, Mayville. Open Monday-Saturday 10-6, Sunday 11-5. Located on the shores of Chautauqua Lake, this winery produces wines like Chautauqua Blush, Niagara and Merlot. They also make fruit brandy in their copper pot still.
Schloss Dopken (716-326-3636), 9177 Old Route 20, Ripley. Open daily year-round 12–5 for tasting and sales. This small farm winery, established in 1972 by J. Simon Watso and his wife Roxanne, is located in a 100 year old farm house. They make traditional wines, like Chardonnay and Riesling, along with some more interesting wines like Cheektowaga White and Ripley Red.
Blueberry Sky (716-252-6535; www.blueberryskyfarm.com ), 10243 Northeast Sherman Road, South Ripley. Open Monday-Saturday 10-6, Sunday 12-5. Located on a blueberry farm, the winery specializes in over two dozen fruit wines, including dandelion, honey and of course, blueberry.
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. Named after the ponds on the winery grounds, this winery is known for its red wines, as well as ice wine and sparkling wine.
Quincy Wine Cellars (716-736-2021; www.quincycellars.com) 10606 US 20, Ripley. Tuesday-Thursday 10-6, Friday-Saturday 10-9, Sunday 11-5. A tasting room located in a stone wine cellar is the focal point of this winery. Some of their wines include Cabernet, Concord, Niagara, Riesling, and Merlot.
The following wineries are located in the town of North East, Pennsylvania, which ironically is located in northwestern 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. This family-owned winery is noted for Riesling, icewine and Vidal Blanc. The Mazza family also recently re-established South Shore Wine Company, one of the oldest wine businesses in the Lake Erie region. The tasting room is located in a stone cellar that was the original home to Erie County, Pennsylvania’s first commercial winery.
Arrowhead (814-725-5509; www.arrowheadwine.com) 12073 E. Main Rd., North East, PA. Open Monday-Saturday 10-6, Sunday 12-5. Wines made at this family-owned winery include Chardonnay, Riesling, Niagara, Pink Catawba, along with a variety of fruit and sparkling wines. They also have one of the area’s largest winery gift shops.
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. Established in 1969, this winery has a variety of wines to offer, from table wines like Crystal Lake White to premium wines like Seyval Blanc and Baco Noir.
Presque Isle (814-725-1314, 800-488-7492; www.piwine.com) 9440 W. Main Rd., North East, PA. Monday-Saturday 8-5. Some of their wines include Concord, Niagara and Pinot Grigio. They also carry a large selection of winemaking supplies, including a large selection of juices.
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). This winery, operated by 6th generation farmers, features 53 varieties of wine. They make more familiar wines, like Concord, Blush, Niagara and Delaware, along with more interesting sounding specialty and sparking wines, like elderberry, loganberry, Bubbly Niagara and Bursting Blueberry.
Lakeview Wine Cellars (814-725-5040; www.lakeviewwinecellars.com) 8440 Singer Road, North East, Pennsylvania. Check website for hours. This small boutique winery, which will open in May, will specialize in oak aged wines. Some of their specialties will include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Niagara and Riesling. They have a view of Lake Erie and a pond on their property shaped like a wine bottle. They will not be open for the Wine & Chocolate weekend.
Burch Farms Winery (814-725-0747) 9110 Sidehill Road, North East, Pennsylvania. This newer winery, located in a long-established country market, offers tours by appointment.
From Buffalo, take the New York State Thruway to exit 59; then follow local roads to each winery; watch for the wine trail signs pointing to the wineries. Maps to the trail can be obtained at each winery and online at the wine trail’s website.