Lake Erie – Chautauqua Wine Trail
Here in Northeast Ohio I live pretty close to the Lake Erie Vines and Wines Trail and have been to many of the wineries. It’s so much fun to visit the different wineries and taste their offerings. I’ve learned a lot about the history of grape growing in our region and how the wines are made. A few weeks ago when Dana and I spent a weekend in western New York state we thought it would be fun to visit some of the wineries on the Lake Erie-Chautauqua Wine Trail.
Now I’m no wine expert. Basically I like a semi-sweet to sweet wine, mostly whites. Some reds make my sinuses close up and I can’t abide the flavor of oak. My husband however likes dry reds. Mainly I enjoy going to wineries to see the wineries themselves and talk to the sellers. I especially enjoy the small wineries where the person pouring the wine and describing it is also one of the people planting, pruning and worrying over the growing process. The person who is in love with their wine, not just a sales person. We did find some of those in this region. Every one of them was interesting in its own way. We didn’t even get to half in the time we had. I picked the ones I thought sounded most interesting – we’ll have to visit others on another trip.
Our first stop was Blueberry Sky Farm Winery.
This winery makes exclusively fruit wines including blueberry, blackberry, elderberry, strawberry, plum, peach, rhubarb and dandelion. They utilize their own blueberries and elderberries but purchase other fruit from local farms. They also offer some vinegars and wine jelly. We purchased a jalapeno cooking wine here. Can’t wait to use it in salsa! We also tasted several of their fruit wines. All were good, but I especially liked their honey wine. And they had a very pretty, sunny tasting room.
Our next stop was Arrowhead Wine Cellars.
Very nice people here. Good wines. Dana bought their Cabernet Franc. Lots of fun, winey gifts. And this cool car was parked outside. We went next door to the Moblian Farm Market which wasn’t technically open, they were cleaning, getting ready for the season. But I found a really great cherry pitter there. Fits on a standard canning jar. I can report it works great! One of the proprietors asked us where we were from and when we told her “Mentor” she said, “I love the Mentor Mall.” Puzzled as to why she would bypass Erie and drive to Mentor to shop, she told us she makes runs to the Cleveland Clinic (I assume with a life squad) and that when they head home they stop at the Mentor Mall for a breather. Nice!
From there we headed to the South Shore Wine Company. I wanted to see this winery because of their historic wine cellar. From their web site:
The South Shore Wine Company was originally established by grape growing pioneers William Griffith and Smith S. Hammond over 150 years ago. The breathtaking stone wine cellar, now home to the newly re-established sister winery of Mazza Vineyards, stands testimony to the beginnings of the now flourishing grape and wine industry in Erie County.
Located beneath the former South Shore Inn, a popular restaurant and hotel for nearly a century, the underground stone cavern had seen few visitors since Prohibition closed the original winemaking operation in the 1920s.
This place was really amazing. And we didn’t taste even one of their wines! We were getting hungry and when we found that they didn’t sell wine in the cafe, we decided to head on down the road.
So we always try to find a local restaurant on our jaunts. Not really knowing anything about the area, we just headed in the direction of the next winery and came to the Freeport Restaurant in North East, Pennsylvania.
The food was tremendous. Dana had the Yellow Perch Basket which came with fries and I had the Freeport Sandwich which was grilled turkey, bacon and cheese. Very friendly staff and fun nautical decor. We will definitely be back here someday.
One more winery, Sparkling Ponds
I chose this winery just for the name but I had my favorite wine of the trip there. They had a wine called “Woman Pleaser” that was a version of their Niagara wine with a splash of cranberry which turned it into a blush. It was very good but I fell in love with one called “Fatal Attraction”, which was a luscious semi-sweet red. The sommelier was so enthusiastic about this wine. I had a taste. Then she gave me some white chocolate chips and I took a taste. The wine took on an entirely different taste. Then she gave me some semi-sweet chocolate chips and I again tasted the wine. Wow, it took on an even different taste. I was sold. Dana tasted and purchased their Marechal Forch, a light red wine.
** Note added August 17, 2010: Sadly, the bottle of Fatal Attraction exploded before I even opened it. A whole bottle of red wine all over the kitchen floor at 10 pm! Just sitting at room temp and boom! Literally. Also, when my husband opened his bottle of Marechal Forch and tasted it, it did not taste like the vineyard pour. It had a”hot bite”, and fizzed when he opened it. It was not a sparkling wine. What’s the problem, Sparkling Ponds? These were not the wines we tasted.
There are 20 wineries on the Lake Erie-Chautauqua Wine Trail. We made it to mere 4. That gives us plenty of incentive to take another drive through beautiful western New York.
See my previous post on the first part of this trip at Findley Lake, New York.