Chautauqua County has some of the best wine-growing regions in the state, so it’s no surprise that one of the country’s most well-known grape-growing areas is near Buffalo. Chautauqua County also happens to be home to a beautiful network of trails perfect for exploring local vineyards and taking in incredible views along the way. Travelers can experience nature at its finest while on the Erie Wine Trail, which connects more than 14 wineries throughout Western New York and into Pennsylvania. Here are our top picks from one of the area’s hidden gems: the Chautauqua Wine Trail.
History of the Chautauqua Wine Country
Thanks to the ideal growing conditions for grapes provided by the glacial ridges in Chautauqua County, this area provides 65% of New York State’s total annual grape harvest. As part of the Lake Erie Wine Trail, Chautauqua County contributes to 30,000 acres of vineyard over a 50-mile trail that’s home to 23 wineries.
Welch’s has deep roots in this area, dating back to Westfield, NY in 1897, and continues today. Chautauqua County provides the largest amount of grapes east of the Rockies and holds the global title for growing Concord grapes.
Best Chautauqua Wineries & Vineyards
1. Johnson Estate Winery
Johnson Estate Winery is New York’s Oldest Estate Winery. Founded with the purchase of land in 1908, Johnson Estate has been in the same family for three generations. They create their wines from the grapes they grow and the entire process is completed on-site. Their historic tasting room sports their complete menu of 44 award-winning wines and during the warmer months, you can enjoy outdoor food and wine pairings. You can even try out local craft beverages from other New York State distilleries.
2. 21 Brix Winery
Another of the best wineries in Western New York, 21 Brix Winery loves to bring people together. This third-generation farm believes that wine is better when shared with someone you love, whether friends or family. Their award-winning wines have won over 400 medals, including 50 Double Gold. Sit in their beautiful tasting room or on their picturesque porch and sip away the afternoon with one of Ella the Elephant’s favorite sweet wines or craft beers
3. Mazza Chautauqua Cellars
Mazza Chautauqua Cellars is New York State’s first combination winery, distillery, and brewery ensuring that they have something for everyone’s tastes. Sit and relax on their laid back patio sipping at your favorite drink. Enjoy live music or play lawn games. During the warmer months, they invite local food providers to pair nicely with their wines as well as others from around the world. If local craft brews pull at the taste buds of your group two, why not pair a wine tasting and a brewery tour at one of the best breweries in Western New York?
4. Liberty Vineyards & Winery
While the winery didn’t open its doors until 2008, this vineyard has been an operating farm since 1839. In fact, the Concord vineyard planted in the 1860s remains one of the most productive vineyards remaining on the property. Their award-winning wines are made from the grapes grown on the property and those grown by their friends and neighbors. Enjoy a tasting of 5 wines any time of year, or a flight on the patio during the warmer months. Come sip at wonderful wines and snack on their famous salsa for an enjoyable afternoon.
5. Noble Winery
Anyone who has visited this Chautauqua winery will not only talk about the excellent wine but the incredible views. Noble Winery framed its building with an amazing view of Lake Erie on one side and the rows of luscious grape vines on the other. Wine lovers will enjoy wines for every palate. Sit and enjoy these flavorful and clean wines while watching the sunset over a romantic landscape or come make some new friends through the love of a good glass of wine. Why not take a break and visit one of the wineries near Chautauqua Lake?
6. Woodbury Winery & Vineyards
Woodbury Winery is known for its unique wines like Blue Raspberry (yes, it’s blue) and Peanut Butter Cup. While they still keep in touch with tradition, they like to push the limits and make award-winning wines. If you’d like to witness this first hand, they offer a one-of-a-kind tour and tastings. They pride themselves on an intimate and casual atmosphere that encourages not just relaxation, but fun alongside some serious wine education.
7. Willow Creek Winery
For Chocolate lovers, Willow Creek is a must see. The Peppermint Patty Dessert wine is a personal favorite and provides that melt-in-your-mouth feeling of a dessert with all the perks of fine wine. The interior of the tasting room sports the original wood beams from the 1800s that were discovered during remodeling and this homey atmosphere is complemented by the large pond and waterfalls in their outdoor garden. A proud and delicious addition to the Lake Erie Wine Trail. If you’re looking for things to do in Buffalo why not drive out a little further to Silver Creek and enjoy amazing wine?
8. 6 Mile Cellars
This unique wine tasting room used to house horses as it’s built into the cellar of a 100-year-old barn. As part of Lake Erie Wine Country, 6 Mile Cellars offers tastings, but not year-round. They love to keep the historic atmosphere, with a few modern perks, so you can immerse yourself in the history of the area while you can sip on a full range of wines and ciders. During the warmer months, enjoy their patio or have a picnic on the vineyard grounds.
9. Merritt Estate Winery
As one of the most famous Chautauqua wineries, Merritt Estate Winery was one of the first farm wineries organized in Chautauqua County. The tasting room is open year-round where you can enjoy 5 different wines, or come back and enjoy a glass of your favorite, their famous XTC and Sangria slushies, or a local craft beer. They offer tours of the facilities and a gift shop full of funny t-shirts and gifts for wine lovers as well as unique bbq sauces.
10. Sparkling Ponds
With a catchphrase of ‘From the earth, to your glass’ it’s not surprising that Sparkling Ponds winery wants your visit to be more than sipping at a few wines, but a relaxing and pleasurable experience. The winery has two cottages in addition to its tasting room. Get away from the hustle and bustle of life and relax in the fresh air, and depending on when you visit, one that is filled with the fresh scent of sweet, ripe grapes. With regular events and daily wine tastings, why wait?
11. Quincy Cellars
If you’re a fan of tradition, Quincy Cellars is the premier stop for tradition and wine on the Chautauqua Wine Trail. Their 3-story converted barn is 130 years old and offers spectacular views of the vineyard from the third floor, a memorable event space on the second, and an inspiring stone tasting room on the first floor. Head over for a tasting or a special event like a Murder Mystery Dinner party featuring the Ripley Library Players.
12. Blueberry Sky Farm and Winery
This unique and tiny winery specializes in wine made from locally grown fruits. With older varieties of wine like elderberry and dandelion, their wines cater to a special group of wine enthusiasts. Watch out, they’re easy to miss. It seems like you’re driving up a private driveway rather than on your way to a small, but delightful tasting room. If you like fruit wines, but hate it when the label reveals grapes with fruit flavoring, then this is your winery. All their wines are made from the fruits listed, not grapes.
Just over the border into Pennsylvania, Arundel Cellars & Brewing is so good it needed to be on this list of best Chautauqua wineries. With a warm wood beam atmosphere, they used the best features of this 19th-century barn and cider mill to create the perfect tasting environment. Combine that with the excellent views and beautiful property, you can enjoy a tasting on the outdoor patio during the warmer months. All the renovations and decor were inspired by the family’s favorite castle, Arundel.
14. Lakeview Wine Cellars
Another small winery, Lakeview Wine Cellars combines amazing views with all oak-aged wines. Not just any oak either. All of their oak barrels are made from Pennsylvania white oak and toasted over an oak fire. That’s dedication! Enjoy a tasting on their covered patio looking out over Lake Erie, or their wine bottle shaped pond.
BONUS: Wineries Close to the Chautauqua Region
15. Full Circle Winery
Nestled in an amazing building built in 1896, Full Circle Winery in Girard, Pennsylvania is a great stop along the Lake Erie Wine Trail. All their wines are made in small batches from locally sourced juices. They create mostly dry wines, something that’s harder to find in their area, and have limited hours so they can serve their customers personally. Stop by for exquisite sips in a homey and cozy environment.
16. Ironstone Meadery
If you’re interested in an adventure, visit Ironstone Meadery in Erie, PA. They specialize in hand-crafted and slow-fermented meads that can take 6 months to a year to make properly. Mead is a wine made by fermenting the sugars in honey rather than grapes and then flavored with fruits and spice. It’s the oldest alcoholic drink made by humankind. Stop in and taste some of the finest meads in the area.
17. Markko Vineyard and Winery
If you’re planning on stopping along the Lake Erie Wine Trail, then take it a little further out into Ohio, you won’t regret it. The new generations at Markko Vineyard pride themselves on their grasp of tradition and old world wine-making techniques. They specialize in dry European wines like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, and Pinot Noir.
18. Buccia Vineyard Winery
Another Ohio favorite, Buccia Winery has unique wines made from a grape variety bred in 1856 exclusively on their vineyard. With picturesque property and overnight accommodations why not end your trail journey with beautiful wines, live music, and deliciously paired snacks? Taste their signature wines by the glass or a flight of favorites.
Frequently Asked Questions: Wineries in Western NY
What type of wine is most popular in Lake Erie/Chautauqua Region?
Sweet rieslings are a very popular wine made in this region and other areas of Western New York.
Where can I book tours?
Chautauqua Locale Wine Tours offers many tours in the Chautauqua area.
What is the Lake Erie Wine Country?
Lake Erie Wine Country is essentially a chamber of commerce that includes over 20 wineries that are found in a 50-mile stretch along Lake Erie, starting in Silver Creek, New York, and ending in Harborcreek Township.
Author: Heather Menz
Heather Menz has called the Buffalo area home for over 35 years. With a degree in archaeology and a keen interest in history, she has explored sites that are both easy to find and those hidden deep in Buffalo and Rochester’s history. As part of an active and outdoors-oriented family, she has traveled and hiked much and learned more about all that the Western New York area has to offer.