Wineries of Canada’s Niagara Peninsula
Thursday, June 14 at 8:30 pm
Wineries of Western New York and the Finger Lakes
Monday, June 18 at 9 pm
“Wine is life.” ― Petronius, Roman writer
The ingredients are pure and simple: sun, soil, fruit and patience. In expert hands, they blend to create a delectable drink with a distinctive flavor and a strong sense of place. Two new WNED specials, Wineries of Canada’s Niagara Peninsula and Wineries of Western New York and the Finger Lakes, journey across the region to visit some of the hundreds of wineries that bring their unique product to a fascinated public through tours, tastings and events.
Follow regional wine trails, and explore history, natural beauty and quality wines along the way. The programs illustrate how each winery—and each wine—takes on a local character, reflecting the climate, the winemakers’ passion and process, and the land itself.
From tiny boutiques and charming estates, to multi-purpose hospitality enterprises, each winery takes on a personality of its own. For many, it’s a family affair, involving husbands-and-wives, or brothers, or several generations of relatives.
In an industry steeped in tradition, winemakers often continue what their ancestors began. Fred Johnson is a third-generation winemaker whose grandfather started the business incognito ― in his basement during Prohibition. Fred Frank is following in the footsteps of his pioneering grandfather, who introduced European wine grapes to the Eastern United States.
Others are relative newcomers, bringing fresh perspectives and new products to a growing industry.
In this cold region of roaring waterfalls, silent lakes, and rolling hills, Niagara and New York wineries showcase historic settings and a lush, natural beauty with unsurpassed views.
The WINERIES specials demonstrate how wines are made and enjoyed in an 1877 restored barn; a late-1930s fruit cannery; and at a family farmhouse kitchen table, where apple pie is served with a late-harvest Vidal. At the Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery, guests dine in a restored Victorian house, with a view of Lake Ontario and the Toronto skyline. At a Niagara County winery, visitors sample signature fruit wines in a 19th-century mansion allegedly haunted by five ghosts. And an 1860 stone cellar provides the ideal temperature for aging champagne at Chateau Frank in the Finger Lakes.
Each setting helps create a one-of-a-kind visitors’ experience, with a chance to see winemaking in action and sample the results in an inviting, relaxing atmosphere.
“We try to make our winery very friendly so that when you come in you feel welcome and … comfortable,” said Livia Sipos, co-owner of Crown Bench Estates Winery in Beamsville, Ontario. “We want you to be like part of our family.”
With verdant orchards, huge vats and stacks of barrels, wineries are romantic and sensual places — a treat for all the senses — but for many, they are shrouded in mystery. How is a grape, or fruit of any other name, transformed into wine?
By visiting area wineries, the WINERIES specials offer a glimpse into the diverse practices of the region’s winemakers, who often draw from the “pedigree” of the vineyard, while incorporating innovative, 21st-centruy techniques.
For some, the entire process is hands-on, from picking the fruit to affixing labels on the bottles. At Niagara Landing Wine Cellars, customers help pick and press the grapes, then join in a harvest celebration.
The Malivoire Wine Company in Beamsville, Ontario uses the hilly terrain and gravity to make wine gently. From sloping vineyards, grapes flow down a chute directly into a press.
Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Stratus Vineyards assembles a “palette” of 18 different types of grapes into a single, complex wine. Each year, the varieties are combined in different percentages, creating a unique taste.
Just about any type of wine is made here, but each area boasts world-class specialties, and numerous award-winners. Southern Ontario is known for outstanding ice wines. Finger Lakes wineries enjoy an international reputation for Rieslings. And fruit wines are the shining stars along the coast of Lake Erie and in Niagara County.
Made from both local grapes (such as labrusca) and vinifera (European) grapes, the diverse selection includes sauterne, chardonnay; sparkling wines; a pear/plum/cherry blend; chocolate-, vanilla-, and ginger-flavored ice wines; rhubarb, garlic and dandelion.
They have fanciful names like Misty Niagara, Pearway to Heaven, Cheektowaga White (with a pink flamingo on the label); Winter Spice (served hot), Appley Ever After, Livia’s Gold, Arctic Fox and Blue Newt.
Some wineries are expanding their offerings, operating restaurants featuring local cuisine or hosting classes in cooking and wine-food pairing. Culinary institutes offer learning opportunities for budding chefs and everyday wine lovers. Together, they are helping to foster a culinary identity expressing the unique flavors of the Niagara Peninsula and The Empire State.
“There’s something for everybody—a wine for every food,” notes Marti Macinski of Standing Stone Vineyards in Lodi, New York.
But with so many choices, how does one discern a good wine?
“If you like it, it’s good,” is the simple advice of one winery hostess.
“Experiment,” suggests Daniel Speck of St. Catharines’ Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery. “Try and try and try. ... you can buy so many great wines now at a really reasonable price. It’s a great time to be a wine drinker.”
Tune in and learn the answers to these questions and many more.
- What type of wine goes well with chocolate? salmon on the grill? steak? black bean spread?
- Is a fruit wine always sweet?
- What does oak do for a wine?
- What is an “estate” winery?
- Can wine be made with cucumbers?
- What makes an ice wine so sweet?
- What’s the Number 1 tourist attraction in New York’s Finger Lakes region?
- What makes champagne bubbles last longer?
- What’s most important when pairing food with wine?
- The region’s cooler climate helps create what kind of flavor in a wine?
- What does “Niagara Peninsula” on a wine label mean?
- What does swirling a wine accomplish?
Also learn how you can receive WNED’s Guide to Wineries of Western New York, the Finger Lakes, and Canada’s Niagara Peninsula. This comprehensive resource book lists information about and locations of more than 180 wineries, including those featured in the television specials.
Lockport: Niagara Landing Wine Cellars Inc. ● Appleton: The Winery at Marjim Manor ● Penn Yan: Fox Run Vineyards ● Westfield: Johnson Estate Winery ● Dundee: Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard ● Lodi: Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars ● Hector: Red Newt Cellars ● Standing Stone Vineyards ● Hammondsport: Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars ● Chateau Frank ● Forestville: Merritt Estate Winery ● Ripley: Blueberry Sky Farm Winery ● Schloss Doepken Winery ● Canandaigua: New York Wine & Culinary Center
Canada (all Ontario)
Beamsville: Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery ● Crown Bench Estates ● Daniel Lenko Estate Winery ● Malivoire Wine Company ● Vineland: Vineland Estates Winery ● Jordan: Cave Spring Cellars ● St. Catharines: Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Niagara-on-the-Lake: Strewn Winery ● Stratus Vineyards ● Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery ● Peller Estates Winery ● Inniskillin Wines ● Niagara College Teaching Winery ● Chateau des Charmes
The WINERIES specials are productions of:
WNED TV and Driftwood Productions Inc.
Produced by John Grant and Catie Siodmak
With support from:
- Yancey’s Fancy (artisan cheeses)
- The Premier Group
- The Niagara Parks Commission
- Hart Hotels
- Corning Museum of Glass