Old Firehouse Winery ferments more than 20 full-flavored vinos along the glistening shores of Lake Erie. Diners can admire the dining room with its shelves of glossy wine bottles to the gently lapping lake. Visitors can opt to purchase sweet and dry wine tastings ($1 for two tasting trays), which each include 10 samples of single-grape and blended varietals. After sampling the full range of sweet and juicy concords to dry and full-bodied chambourcins, duos can imagine how each exquisite vintage would look inside their souvenir wine glasses and how advantageous the imprinted corkscrews would be during a close-range jousting match. In the warmer months, patrons can swill, sniff, and sip from a romantic lakeside overlook on the outdoor tasting patio and supplement the winery outing with a ride on a historic ferris wheel.
To the Spicola family, wine isn't simply something sipped on at dinner or during a party. Rather, it's the family heritage, which forms a bridge between generations. Today, Dominic Spicola runs the Winery of Ellicottville with his son-in-law, but years ago, he worked alongside his father, Francesco, an Italian immigrant schooled in his home country's winemaking tradition. Together, the duo crushed and pressed annual harvests into barrels of wine, making sure their relatives had enough to fill glasses at dinner and water balloons at family picnics throughout the year.
Today, Dominic and his son-in-law mesh this Old World wisdom with New World techniques to craft chardonnays and merlots, reds and whites. They sell their bottles from an unassuming shop on Monroe Street, where sky-blue walls, family pictures, and shelved knickknacks surround a sun-splashed bar.
Tarsitano's Artisan Winery used to be a dairy farm. "But I would rather squeeze grapes than cows, so I started a winery," Ken Tarsitano says. This isn't the only reason Ken turned his 17 acres—which has been in his family for five generations—into a vineyard. His grandfather, Michael Tarsitano, "always had something bubbling away in his cellar," and it was Grandpa's ability to transform elderberries, apples, and even dandelions into wine that inspired Ken.
Today, Ken is the owner, vineyard manager, and winemaker at his eponymous winery and vineyard, whose 25 grape varieties have been organic since its 1998 inception. Wine isn't the only thing visitors dine on here: winery goers savor flatbreads and cheese plates. Tarsitano's Artisan Winery even hosts events, such as moon-viewing parties, where guests gather to launch sky lanterns in the light of a waxing moon.
Matt Meineke was at an impasse. After crafting many batches of wine in his own home, Matt was running low on ways to improve the product's quality, save for one: growing the fruit himself. He and his family eventually settled on a 12.6-acre lot that was already planted with Niagara grapes. But that was barely the end of his trials. The old vines would need to be removed, the land would need to be adjusted for pH and nutrients, and the entire plot would need to be left fallow for a whole year. It would be 2011 before the first batch of wine could be bottled.
But it was worth the wait. That lovingly nurtured wine now fills the racks inside M Cellars' rustic tasting room, waiting to sigh "about time" with each popped cork. Shoes clapping on the hardwood, visitors can swirl pours of Matt's pinot noir, cabernet, and riesling into their glasses, furthering their enjoyment by snapping up bottles to take home or by expanding their wine knowledge with friends in one of the shop's Wine 101 classes.
For more than a century, the Woodbury family has tilled the rich, porous soil of the Fredonia area to craft one-of-a-kind, flavorful wines from homegrown grapes. The vineyard’s serene surroundings—from the doting shelter of the nearby Allegheny uplands to the temperate words of encouragement from Lake Erie—work together to rear aromatic, mature, and emotionally balanced crops. Sippers may indulge in the complex flavors of a full-bodied cabernet ($24/bottle), the peppery floral notes of the Gewürztraminer ($24/bottle), or the regional sweetness of a niagara ($9.50). In addition to bottling up high-quality grape juice, the expert vintners at Woodbury shake down local orchards for refreshing fruit wines, such as a tastefully tart cranberry ($12) or delicate apple ($12), simultaneously capable of banishing thin-skinned doctors and impressing teachers with its semidry personality and ability to rinse chalkboards.
As the sun rises over the winery's 57 acres of vineyard land, it illuminates a seemingly endless expanse of fruit. Surrounded by this fertile patch of farmland, Kim and Wendy Flintoft craft wines with estate-grown fruits?including tart rhubarb, rich elderberries, and luscious peaches?without using concentrates or artificial flavours. With these key ingredients, they aim to appeal to virtually all palates by fermenting potions with flavour profiles that range from bone-dry to as sweet as a kiss blown by a newborn kitten, and have been awarded best specialty wine by Lake Erie Living Magazine. The Flintofts let guests take in the complex magic of winemaking through tours that completely sever the bond between the words "wine" and "snob."