Lake Erie Wine Country runs for about 50 miles from Harborcreek, Pennsylvania (near my hometown) to Silver Creek, New York. More than 20 vineyards and wineries snake along the lake shore and with just three – yes, three! – traffic lights along the entire 50 mile route, visiting a few wineries is a perfect way to spend a weekend. Here are just a few to check out:
21 Brix Winery
You can hardly miss this winery, which opened in September 2011, with its larger than life pink elephant out front. Inside, the large open space is soothing in dark wood. Be sure to look around for all the jungle animals like more elephants and chimps! When I asked if there was a significance behind all the animals, I was told that the collection started with the pink elephant, which was to attract visitors to the cherry harvest. More animals found a home at 21 Brix after.
Tastings are $1 for 3 pours and I opted to taste all reds. I started with a 2011 Pinot Noir, with aromas of blackberry and cherry and a nice taste of coconut followed by allspice and a finish of fresh oak. I followed it up with a bit of a deeper red, a 2011 Syrah with hints of cracked black pepper, fresh herbs, and an oaky finish.
My favorite wine was a total surprise! A wine made of Montmorency sour cherries from Niagara, it is simply called Cherry Wine. It actually has a light aroma of banana and tastes delicious, just like a sour cherry pie (for adults). Pick up Cherry Wine of your own for $10.99 per bottle.
21 Brix is located on US Route 20 in Portland, NY between Westfield and Brocton. Hours are 10am – 6pm daily.
Vetter Vineyards Winery
Vetter Vineyards Winery is just a short drive from 21 Brix. Opened in 1987, the winery grows 25 different varieties of grapes on 20 acres. Run by Mark and Barbara, who have been wine makers for over 20 years, they certainly produce some interesting wines.
For a $1 tasting, I got five pours and started with a white called Mango Delight. It is a nice summer wine with flavors of mango and tropical fruit. When I asked what type of grape Mango Delight is made from, I was told it is the wine maker’s secret.
I then moved on to the reds, with another 2011 Pinot Noir, which had been aged in French and American oak for 9 months. I thought it tasted a bit “young” and was not a huge fan. The 2012 Concord smelled just like grape juice and it tasted just like grape juice, with a bit of a kick. It was a little on the sweet side for my tastes.
Next up were the specialty wines. I tried the Blueberry which is made from local blueberries and blended with a grape base. I was hoping it might be like the berry wines from Finland, which I really enjoy. Although it was good, it tasted more like drinking blueberry juice and was again on the sweet side. I finished off my tasting with Love Potion, which is a chocolate wine blended with Concord. It tastes just like eating a Tootsie Pop.
Vetter Vineyards Winery is located at 8005 Prospect Station Road in Westfield, New York. Hours are Thursday – Monday: 11am – 5 pm and Tuesday – Wednesday by appointment or by chance.
Johnson Estate Winery
Founded in 1961, Johnson Estate Winery is New York’s oldest estate winery and boasts 115 acres of vineyards on which they grow 11 varieties of grapes.
What I liked about this winery is that they make European classic wines. I tried all reds but I definitely enjoyed the 2010 Chambourcin, which is aged in French oak. Medium bodied, it had flavors of blackberry and black cherries with a hint of spice.
Johnson Estate Winery is located at 8419 US Route 20 in Westfield, NY. Hours are Sunday – Thursday: 10am – 6pm and Friday – Saturday: 10am – 7pm.
I only got to explore a small sampling of wineries in Lake Erie Wine Country, but I did find several wines I would enjoy at home. And unlike the other wine regions I’ve explored in the US, I didn’t have sticker shock at the prices after living in Europe for so long. You can really find some great wines for under $15 per bottle!
Would you like to explore the largest wine growing region east of the Rockies?