If it is possible to grow grapes somewhere, chances are there is not only a vineyard but several of them. And, to make the most of the different products offered by these many wineries, many places have made wine tasting an attraction by stringing them together in so-called wine trails.
After a day at Niagara Falls, we decided to go the grown-up route and spend a whole morning traipsing through the New York countryside tipping back samples of wine from a few of the area’s vineyards on the Niagara Falls Wine Trail. Fifteen wineries along this trail offer a variety of wines ranging from hybrids and sparkling wines to those made with native grapes. Reds and whites. Fruity and dry. Spicy and chilled. Whatever a person’s wine taste (and mine tends to be fruity, chilled and either white or blush), there seems to be something for everybody on this wine trail.
We knew we couldn’t hit all the wineries in the area, especially since we were driving ourselves, so we made some strategic choices to hit a few that sounded particularly interesting to us.
Our first stop was Niagara Landing Wine Cellars, where we discovered a warm, inviting tasting room and several different wines. Three generations of family viniculturists have been working the land at Niagara Landing, and the vineyard specializes in wines made from native labrusca grapes and European vinifera varieties. As my husband’s first wine tasting experience, we took the time to chat with our hostess about the proper way to taste a wine, many of which tended to be a bit on the sweet side, which I thoroughly enjoyed. My favorite was Rosebud Peach.
After several samples, we headed down the road to Freedom Run, a family owned and operated vineyard. The operation at Freedom Run seems to be much bigger than Niagara Landing, and it didn’t feel as cozy, but the employee who walked us through the tasting process was stellar. I clearly don’t know much about the order in which people should taste wine, so after sampling some sweeter wines, the host leading our tasting encouraged me to cleanse my palate and start over. His knowledge about the process of wine making and proper way to sample helped us understand why it’s important to sample in a certain order (driest to sweetest, so generally reds to wines to blushes and dessert wines). When he found out we’d traveled so far, he also treated us to a sample of ice wine, which means it was created with frozen grapes. It was exceptionally sweet, almost like a liquid honey. Though I didn’t care for the selection of wine at Freedom Run as much as that at Niagara Landing Wine Cellars, the experience was fantastic.
We were drawn to our finally winery of the day, Vizcarra Vineyards at Becker Farms, because the company also has a selection of micro brews. I knew the experience would be different at Becker Farms as soon as we drove up simply because the parking lot was packed. No where else did we encounter so many people on the wine trail, and that’s probably because this operation not only has a winery and brewery but also a farm market and the opportunity to self pick fruits and vegetables. While the all-encompassing concept of Becker Farms is an intriguing one, it didn’t match the intimacy we found on the rest of our wine tasting trip. The employees were just that … employees. They didn’t seem invested in the experience like the other people who poured our samples. Instead, the girl who dumped wine in our glasses just wandered away to check her cell phone. The wine itself was okay, but the environment left us feeling a bit empty so we chose not to do any beer tasting.
After downing the equivalent of several glasses of wine, it was time to sober up from our trip on the Niagara Falls Wine Trail before heading to the next destination on our epic summer road trip so we found a local pizza joint and devoured an entire pie. It may have been overcast and even a bit drizzly outside, but we laughed our way through lunch and reminisced about the experience (one of our favorite on the trip). On a wine trail, it’s nearly impossible to be unhappy.