If world-famous waterfalls, stunning architecture, and quick and easy access to Canada weren’t enough to visit the Buffalo-Niagara area, a blossoming wine trail is drawing visitors. Located next to Lake Ontario, the geography and microclimate of the Buffalo-Niagara region make it ideal for growing grapes, especially Rieslings, fruit wine, and ice wine. In the past 10 years, the region hasn’t grown; it has exploded. As of July, 2014 there were 20 members on the Niagara Wine Trail – a number that continues to increase. Wine barrels collect in a cellar — Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/xlibber
Many have expanded to include hard apple and pear cider, and several breweries and distilleries have been cropping up that make for an interesting combo trip. During the summer and fall, wineries host festivals and events with live music, food, and entertainment. While each winery has something unique to offer, there are a few standouts that provide a more robust travel experience.
Spring Lake Winery
A day can easily be spent at this 76-acre property that boasts its own private Lake and nature trails. On select dates, a unique Amtrak train excursions is offered. Upon arrival, visitors can enjoy a light breakfast and hop aboard the “Vineyard Express” for a 45-minute scenic train ride to the Medina Railroad Museum. A barbecue lunch and live music will be waiting at Spring Lake Winery when passengers return. There is always something going on with events like the Niagara Wine Trail murder mystery, wine and food pairings, private tours, and pick and pick-your-own-grapes.
The start of a perfect pour — Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/Betsssssy
The Winery at Marjim Manor
Located in Appleton, New York, The Winery at Marjim Manor is a 19th century estate that is ripe with ghost stories and tales of spooky encounters. It was even featured on the television series, “Ghost Hunters” and on the Travel Channel series “Most Terrifying Places in America.” During the day, it a relaxing place to sample specialty fruit wines in one of three tasting rooms. Some of their award-winners include “True Blue” rich blueberry wine, the sweet Cherry Concerto and “Adams Apple,” a blend of cranberry apple that was their 2012 signature wine.
Leonard Oakes Winery
There’s always something going on at this winery, which has a few awards under its belt for ice wine and Steampunk cider. The annual Steampunk festival draws crowds each August with food trucks, fireworks, music, tastings, and costume contests. Check their event board to see what’s going on, or you can also try their wines from time-to-time on the Spirit of Buffalo's sunset wine sailboat tours.
A fruit and cheese platter is an excellent complement to a glass of wine — Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/Calvert Cafe & Catering
Freedom Run Winery
Planted in spring of 2005, the vines at Freedom Run are growing varieties of Pinot Noirs, Bordeaux (Cabrenet and Merlot), Rieslings, Chardonnays, and even champagnes. Visitors can see the production room and sample wines in their unique tasting room, decorated with modern artwork and designs. Special events include movie nights on the outdoor screen, weddings, and private tastings. Visitors also have the option of staying overnight at The Vineyard Manor House, located on the property.
Niagara Landing Wine Cellar
Opened in 2002, this trendsetter is the original winery on the trail that first created the buzz. Although “new” by most standards, the land has been dedicated to growing grapes since the 1800s. It has been honored with “gold medals” for its Rosebud Peach and Rosebud White wines, as well as full-flavored port wine.Fresh grapes ready to be harvested — Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/Wendy Harman