Sunday, November 08, 2009

Erie Ties-News Says Wine Industry is Boon to Local Economy

Wine a boon to Erie County economy
21 wineries take part in sold-out trail event

"This is our first time here," Reismeier said. "It's beautiful -- and the wine's really good."
She and her husband, Mark Reismeier, drove from Altoona to stay with her cousin, Cindy Bihlajama, in Conneaut, Ohio, for the weekend.

The highlight of the trip was Saturday's tour of the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail.

The trail was well-trod Saturday.

Twenty-one wineries took part in Harvest Wine Weekend, stretching from Silver Creek, N.Y., to North East.

The 500 tickets for this weekend's event sold out, though there are still some tickets available for a similar Harvest Wine Weekend on Saturday and Nov. 15.
The event's success underscores the importance of the economic effect of the wineries to the region, said Bob Mazza, the owner of Mazza Vineyards and the vice president of the Wine Trail association.

A study released in 2007 by the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association showed 150,000 tons or more of grapes are grown on 30,000 acres of vineyards in Chautauqua County and Erie County each year. The farms and "grape-related production activities" -- such as wineries -- supported nearly 2,000 jobs and contributed $340 million to the economies of the two counties in 2004.

Those numbers make a statement about the importance of agri-tourism to the region, Mazza said.

"Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Pennsylvania, and tourism is No. 2," Mazza said. "We're uniquely positioned for both of those."
Couples and friends from Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, wandered through Heritage Wine Cellars in a matter of 20 minutes Saturday, joined by people from closer locales, such as Erie and Jamestown, N.Y.

Business during official wine-tour weekends doubles, said John Fisher, of Heritage Wineries.

"There's a lot to do to get ready for these weekends, but it's worth it," he said as another cheerful couple made their way into the winery.
It's not just the wineries that benefit from heavy use of the trail.
Grape Arbor Bed and Breakfast's eight rooms were sold out Saturday night.

It's common for visitors who are on the trail to stay the night at the North East bed-and-breakfast, owner Dave Hauser said.

"Obviously it provides a very significant part of our business," he said. "It's a main draw for people to come and visit us."

KARA MURPHY can be reached at 870-1858 or by e-mail.