When it comes to wine production east of the Mississippi, the Finger Lakes region of New York often gets much of the attention, and with good reason. This wine region produces award-winning wines and even hosts its own international wine competition. However, the Lake Erie region in Pennsylvania and Western New York also boasts several outstanding wineries. With a unique climate that benefits
from lake breezes, this fertile region is great for growing several grape varietals.
Check out the following list of two of the best wineries in the Lake Erie wine region.
Johnson Estate Winery
Located in Westfield, New York, Johnson Estate Winery stands out as the state’s oldest continuously operated estate winery. The land was purchased in 1908 by Frederick Johnson, an English orphan who migrated to the United States from Canada. He planted orchards and vineyards with Concord grapes and named the business Sunnyslope Fruit Farm.
His son, Frederick Spencer Johnson, eventually became the first person in Western New York to plant French hybrid grapes. This was innovative in a region where Labruscan and Concord juice grapes were the predominant standard. In 1961 Johnson opened the winery after obtaining New York Farm Winery license No. 2.
Today, Johnson Estate Winery produces a number of award-winning wines, including the 2016 Traminette. Winner of the Gold Medal and Best in Class at the 2017 New York Food & Wine Classic, this white wine features aromas of sweet pea blossom, pear, and sugar snap peas and pairs well with a variety of foods, from shrimp and smoked fish to turkey and pork.
Johnson Estate Winery’s white wines also include May Wine. The 2016 vintage earned 94 points at the 2017 Beverage Testing Institute World Wine Championships. This bubbly, semi-sweet wine is made from Vidal Blanc grapes and is infused with sweet woodruff.
Meanwhile, award-winning red wines include the 2015 Ives, which took home the Double Gold Medal at the 2017 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. The 2016 vintage features strong grape and floral aromas and pairs well with pasta and eggplant parmesan.
Johnston Estate Winery also produces ice wine, which is popular in the “snow belt” of this area of New York. Although ice wine allegedly dates back to Roman times, it gained popularity in Austria and Germany, where it is called “eiswine.” Johnston Estate Winery harvests its ice wine grapes by hand in December or January after temperatures fall to approximately 12 degrees Fahrenheit.
The winery’s ice wine selection includes the Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, the 2016 vintage of which earned the Double Gold Medal and 97 points at the 2017 San Francisco International Wine Competition. This wine features aromas of honeycomb and apricot and pairs well with almond and apple tarts, lemon cheesecake, and goat cheese.
Johnston Estate Winery invites visitors to sample its wide variety of red and white wines, ice wines, and dessert wines at its tasting room, which opens daily throughout the year. The winery also hosts a number of events, such as Wine and Cheese Weekends, Cold Weather Vineyard Walks, and Cross-Country Ski Tours.
Arundel Cellars & Brewing Co.
Just across the New York state border in the town of North East, Pennsylvania, lies Arundel Cellars & Brewing Co., a winery named after an English castle. The former owner of the land saw the castle while serving in England during World War I. Upon returning home, he purchased the land and painted “Arundel” on the side of the 19th-century barn.
Today, Arundel Cellars & Brewing Co. offers a number of excellent wines, including the 2015 Vidal, winner of the Bronze Medal at the 2017 Pennsylvania Wine Competition. This semi-dry wine goes well with a fresh salad as well as various cheeses.
Other white wines include the 2015 Riesling, which features aromas of peach and apple and pairs well with crab cakes, fish, and soft rind cheeses, and the 2014 Vignoles. Made from white hybrid grapes of the same name, Vignoles features flavors of citrus and pineapple and goes well with spicy dishes.
Arundel Cellars & Brewing Co.’s red wines include Sweet Kiss, a sweet wine made from Concord grapes. This winery allows these wines to receive plenty of sun prior to harvest to bring out their sweetness. The result is a red wine that is best served chilled and pairs well with beef dishes as well as gorgonzola and feta cheeses.
Other red wines include the Gandy Dancer, which is named after the railroad crew that worked arduously years ago to lay the rail that crosses the vineyards. While this semi-sweet red wine goes well on its own, the winery also recommends pairing it with lemon-lime soda to prepare a spritzer in the summer.
Visitors to Arundel Cellars & Brewing Co. can also sample these wines as well as a number of craft beers brewed on-site. Further, the winery hosts both indoor and outdoor concerts throughout the year.