A summer trip spent sampling wines — dry and sweet reds and whites – is a salubrious prospect. Sip a chardonnay and take in the blue-green hues of a lake or the grassy scent of a meadow. Pause, reflect, savor the bouquet and feel the warm sun on your face. Summer enhances the pleasures of a glass of wine.
You need not fly off to France, Italy or California. Celebrated wineries are within a day’s drive of Ohio. Pack a hamper, corkscrew and cheese knife and set out for western New York and Pennsylvania to visit some of the best wineries east of the Rockies and west of the Loire.The Laurel Highlands
The Laurel Highlands are located in southwestern Pennsylvania where streams course through rocky chasms, country roads traverse covered bridges and trails wind through the Allegheny Passage, where purple laurel blooms in May and June. Then there are the wineries.
Housed in a handsome barn that dates to the 1850s, the Christian W. Klay winery in Chalk Hill (www.cwklaywinery.com
) stakes its claim as the highest mountaintop winery east of the Rockies. Down in the barn’s lower level, visitors sample wines named for historic sites on the nearby National Road, America’s first east-west turnpike. Klay’s Fort Necessity variety offers a buttery finish that complements wine and cheese, the semi-dry Nemacolin Castle carries the aroma of blue violets and Twelve Springs Peach pairs well with pastries.
Stone Villa Wine Cellars (www.stonevilla.com
) sits in the foothills of the highlands in Acme. Owner Randy Paul comes from three generations of stonecutters and winemakers — his father built Stone Valley’s cut stone winery. Buy a bottle of wine, picnic on the grounds and listen to musicians, who often play here. Wine choices include the semi-dry Villa Red, the citric Pinocitro pinot grigio and the plummy Vintner’s Select.
Glades Pike Winery in Somerset (www.gladespikewinery.com
) is the oldest winemaking establishment in the Laurel Highlands. Many of the wines produced here have garnered prize ribbons since Glades Pike began in 1995. The Glades Pike Red blends baco noir and Concord grapes. The owners say the 2006 Chardonnay is “sunshine in a glass.” Mountain Mead, a honey wine, may inspire visitors to picnic in the nearby mountains.Butler County
The rolling hills of Butler County, Pennsylvania, an hour north of Pittsburgh, shelter several wineries. Inside the knotty pine walls of Rustic Acres Winery (www.rusticacreswinery.com
) in Butler, owners Gary and Eirlys Matson offer their own creations — General Butler, a blend of sweet red and dry white, and Lighthouse Reflections, a blend of three whites with a grapefruit finish. They also stock an extensive selection of fruit wines, including cranberry, rhubarb and apple. The owner pairs the right wine with the right cheese and the right main course, for which she furnishes recipes online.
At Winfield Winery’s (www.winfieldwinery.com
) hand-carved hemlock tasting bar, visitors sip Winfield Country Red, an award-winning semi-sweet wine with a crisp fruit flavor, and the semi-dry Vignoles, another winner, with notes of citrus and pineapple. Winfield also sells cheese ball mixes, dip mixes and a selection of dipping oils.
Come summer, the Volant Mill Winery (www.volantmillwinery.com
) in Volant schedules cooking classes in its kitchen shop. Students learn how to turn something fresh and local into something continental, like a rustic country French brunch with seasonal berries.The Lake Chautauqua Wine Trail
The Lake Chautauqua Wine Trail stretches 40 miles along the southern coast of Lake Erie in New York and Pennsylvania. Glacial ridges composed of shale and gravel, along with spring and fall temperatures moderated by the lake, make this one of the most productive wine regions in the country. Many wineries here are known for ice wines, sweet dessert varieties produced from grapes picked frozen on their vines.
The Johnson Estate Winery (www.johnsonwinery.com
) in Westfield is New York’s oldest estate winery. It creates nearly 30 varieties from 11 types of grapes grown adjacent to the winery in vineyards that overlook Lake Erie. Visit the tasting room to sample Concord reds, as well as a broad selection of wines ranging from dry to sweet, and the award-winning ice wines, available in both red and white. Grapes also find their way into jellies sold here.
Blueberry Sky Farm Winery (www.blueberryskyfarm.com
) in Ripley, New York, produces organic blueberries (which visitors may pick) from mid-July until mid-September. The blueberries join other fruits, like blackberries, and dandelion greens in the winery’s organic sweet wines, which may be sampled in the cozy farmhouse tasting rooms. This is also a good place to stock up on garlic, jalapeno and tomato cooking wines, perfect for marinades, sauces, soups and salad dressings, or the distinct and sweet elderberry wine, known for its healing properties.
At the southern edge of the trail, Mazza Chautauqua Cellars (www.mcc.mazzawines.com
) in Mayville, New York, pours samples of their varieties at lunch. An open-air cafe overlooking a pond serves salads, including smoked salmon caesar, and sandwiches such as sauteed mushroom and onion sirloin. Mazza’s wines — ranging from a dry Chautauqua classic red to a sweet Lighthouse Point Rose (a blend of Niagara and Concord grapes) — complement the food.Finger Lakes
Mountains sheltering narrow lakes create ideal conditions for growing grapes in the Finger Lakes of New York. About 100 wineries stand in some of the most bucolic spots in the state.
Preeminent here is Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars (www.drfrankwines.com
) on the western side of Keuka Lake in Hammondsport. A European immigrant, Dr. Frank insisted wine grapes from his homeland could thrive in a cold climate. The results of his labor await in the tasting rooms. One red is made from the lesser-known Lemberger grape, while others carry the distinct flavors of colder regions, like gewurztraminer and their award-winning riesling.
Across Keuka Lake stands Rooster Hill (www.roosterhill.com
), one of the region’s newer wineries. Inspired by Tuscany’s golden sun, red soil and green vineyards, owners Amy and David Hoffman brought those hues indoors to their tasting room, adding copper and dark wood accents. The outside deck, overlooking the lake, will host “tunes on the terrace” this summer. At the center of all are the wines: three types of rieslings, chardonnays and cabernets.
Hazlitt 1852 (www.hazlitt1852.com
), on Seneca Lake, greets visitors to its tasting room at a broad horseshoe-shaped bar. Many visitors come for the legendary Red Cat, made of native
Catawba grapes. Owner Jerry Hazlitt first produced this variety one spring nearly 30 years ago in his driveway. That May a younger generation discovered the pleasures of wine in summer: Red Cat became the beverage of choice at lakeside hot tub parties.