Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chautauqua Wine Trail Attracting Visitors From Pennsylvania and New York

Vineyard at Noble Winery in Westfield on the Chautauqua Wine Trail.

Libation vacation on Lake Erie’s shore
By Carl Francis Penders

Updated: April 25, 2010, 6:32 am

Published: April 25, 2010, 12:30 am

The words “lake effect” can have a chilling consequence on Western New Yorkers. But for grape growers along its shore, Lake Erie provides the opportunity to fill glasses with delightful fruits of the vine. And through New York’s Chautauqua County, and Pennsylvania’s Erie County, that fruit turns into some excellent wine.

With 30,000 sandy soil acres dedicated to growing grapes, the region enjoys a mild climate moderated by “lake effect” weather. Cool springs keep buds from growing too soon, and warm late summers and mild autumns extend the growing season while reducing the risk of frost.
In recent years, more wineries have taken root in the area, and more wine lovers have been drawn to follow the Chautauqua Wine Trail.

A recent addition to the trail is Liberty Vineyards ( , 672-4520), where innovative branding ideas flow as freely as wine. Owner Gary Burmaster is a fifth-generation grape grower. Burmaster said his daughter Beth produced “a fully integrated plan for the marketing of a winery” for her 2005 master’s thesis at St. Bonaventure University. This academic endeavor spurred his decision to expand from grower to wine entrepreneur. Beth, who now joins her parents in the enterprise, said, “It’s great seeing things I put on paper are now actually being used.” Burmaster exhibits a flair with words in naming his wine offerings. His Liberty Vineyards markets brands like White Side of the Moon, a white wine with a fruity, sweeter taste. He said his Purple Haze “is a fun little way of promoting the Concord grape,” and Lucy in the Sky is a white wine made from diamond grapes, which the winemaker terms “an old Native American variety.”

In their vineyards in the town of Sheridan on Route 20, the Burmasters grow 13 grape varieties on 93 acres. They produce 21 wines, including a 2008 Pinot Grigio and 2009 Riesling and Diamond, which won gold medals in the 2010 Grand Harvest Awards in Sonoma, Calif. Open every day for tasting and tours, Liberty also has a gift shop selling nonalcoholic products like Concord Grapeseed Oil and Concord Grape Pie Filling& Topping.

Behind the tasting bar is an antique oak humidor. Now used for display, the case was built in Buffalo by A. F. Meyer& Sons, formerly at 404-408 Broadway, and hails from a Dunkirk tobacco shop. Liberty now counts among its customers the 93-year-old daughter of the owner of that tobacco shop.