With more than 30,000 acres of grapes and 24 wineries in Lake Erie Wine Country, area residents and seasonal visitors will have much to explore this season.
According to Julie Pfadt, executive director for Lake Erie Wine Country, the organization hosts a total of four major events and will kick-off the season with a Wine and Cheese weekend, which is scheduled for May 3-5. The event, for which admission is $39, includes food and wine sample pairings at 23 wineries.
"Wine and Cheese is a great event to kick-off our season because the weather is usually nice, and everyone is excited to get out and enjoy the beauty of our region," said Pfadt. "Also, Yancey's Fancy cheeses are fabulous and are used in all of the recipes. The food selection is great. People come to our events ready to explore, try new wines and have a great time. It's a very happy business."
Lake Erie Wine Country will kick off the season with a Wine and Cheese weekend on May 3-5. The event, for which admission is $39, includes food and wine sample pairings at 23 wineries.
In addition to the Wine and Cheese weekend, Lake Erie Wine Country hosts three other event weekends. In February, the organization hosted its annual Wine and Chocolate event. Then its next event, the Wine and Cheese weekend, is held in May. The organization's other two events, Harvest Wine weekends, are held in November during the first two weekends.
The reason the events are held annually is because Lake Erie Wine Country is a unique destination with many wineries and vineyards located within a short distance of each other, said Pfadt. And, with a recent addition, directional signs have been placed near each winery to direct visitors to the next five wineries located nearby.
"We have a great location in the middle of three big urban markets, so a trip to Lake Erie Wine Country from each is quick and easy," said Pfadt. "Each location offers something different. Our wineries are small, and winemakers and owners are often around to talk to visitors. They are a very nice group of people, and each winery has a personal feel to it. Most of our wineries grow, harvest and press their own grapes. And, we are the largest and oldest Concord-grape-growing region in the world."
The bulk of Lake Erie Wine Country's land that is dedicated to growing grapes is found in Chautauqua County, where 20,000 acres of grapes and 13 wineries reside. Several of the vineyards in Chautauqua County with an extensive history include: Johnson Estate Winery, of Westfield, established in 1961, the oldest estate winery in New York state; Liberty Vineyards and Winery, of Sheridan, established as a winery in 2008, has been growing grapes since the 1860s; Merritt Winery, of Forestville, established as a winery in 1976, has been owned by the same family since the late 1800s; and Woodbury Vineyards, of Fredonia, established as a winery in 1980s, began tilling land for grapes in 1910.
In addition to the locations with history, new vineyards and wineries make their way into the area each year. 21 Brix Winery, in Portland, opened in 2011, and 6 Mile Cellars, in Harborcreek, Pa., opened in 2012. Pfadt is particularly excited about the addition of 6 Mile Cellars because it changed the organization's geographic location.
"Now our wine region matches geographically the Concord grape belt region," said Pfadt. "It (6 Mile Cellars) is in a remodeled barn that is just beautiful, and the wines are great too."
This summer, Arundel Wine Cellars in North East on Route 20 will join Lake Erie Wine Country. The owners are remodeling Schultz's Arundale farm market and apple barn.
"Every new winery is exciting because each is unique and brings more diversity to our region," said Pfadt.
According to Pfadt, even long-time residents of the area have something to look forward to this summer. Willow Creek Winery in Silver Creek has completely gutted its old farmhouse tasting room, and is in the remodeling process. Mazza Vineyards, which is located near Chautauqua Institution, will open a new facility on Route 20 in Westfield in June. In addition to the winery, Mazza Vineyards will continue making distilled spirits, and are also adding a brewery.
The vineyards all host their own events throughout the season. For more information call 877-326-6561 or visit www.lakeeriewinecountry.org.