When most people think of the city of Buffalo and alcoholic beverages, the image of beer kegs and crushed tables at football tailgates comes to mind.
But Buffalo doesn’t get enough credit for its extensive wine scene. Despite its reputation for heavy beer drinking, the Queen City is in close proximity to many gorgeous vineyards, which produce some of the most exceptional wine in the country.
New York state is the third-largest wine-producing region in the United States, with over 335 wineries across five wine regions, each with its own particular micro-climate. The Buffalo-Niagara area’s climate, fertile soil and proximity to Lake Ontario make it an ideal location for planting grapes that thrive in cooler temperatures, producing distinctive wines that rival anything from other renowned wine regions across the world.
With summer winding down and the comfortable temperatures of fall approaching, it’s an ideal time to visit a local winery. Here are the best local vineyards, all within a short drive of Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
Local Wineries Around Western NY
Niagara Climate & Geography
The importance of the location of vineyards along the Niagara Wine Trail can’t be overstated. According to Arrowhead Spring, this region is known as the Niagara Escarpment American Viticultural Area. It features a rich, neutral soil consisting of limestone based clay that was at one time a sea bed. The soils and climate are similar to the famous Burgundy wine region, but the Niagara region’s weather allows for a wider range of grapes to be grown. The area is part of the Niagara Escarpment, a limestone ridge that runs for more than 650 miles through the Great Lakes region.
Surprisingly, according to Freedom Run Winery, the geography of the Niagara Escarpment and surrounding area results in a climate that is one of the warmest in New York State due to its proximity to the Great Lakes and the glacial rip of the Escarpment itself, which traps warm air currents from Lake Ontario. In combination with the soil’s makeup, these geographic features help the Niagara region produce some of the finest wine the U.S. has to offer.
Arrowhead Spring Vineyards – One of the most popular stops along the Niagara Wine Trail is Arrowhead Spring Vineyards, located in Lockport. They consider themselves a “wine lover’s winery,” focusing on traditionally made dry wines that are barrel-aged for 1-2 years, including Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Rosé, Syrah, Viognier and Chardonnay.
Arrowhead Spring’s location offers beautiful views of the vineyard from a quaint patio and a new climate-controlled indoor space. It’s also one of the environmentally greenest vineyards in the region — the vineyard features a 10-kilowatt wind turbine and roof mounted solar panels, and sustainable vineyard practices are used to reduce soil erosion, keep pollinators fed and prevent runoff from entering waterways. According to their website, Arrowhead Spring Winery also composts used grape seeds, skins and vine pieces and returns them to the vineyard soil, which helps create the delectable wines that have won them several awards for quality and taste.
Freedom Run Winery – Like Arrowhead Spring, Freedom Run Winery is located in Lockport along the Niagara Wine Trail and produces many award-winning wine varieties, including a sparkling wine, a pinot noir and a cabernet sauvignon. The winery takes pride in blending its grape varieties to showcase the top qualities of each in its wines. According to their website, their grapes feature a unique mineral flavor due to the composition of the soils, resulting in a depth and concentration that cannot be achieved in lighter soils.
If you’re planning a visit to their stunning vineyard, be sure to stop by the winery building, which has been expanded to 13,000 square feet, including a tasting room, barrel room, production facility and full kitchen. It’s also worth exploring the vineyard’s Manor House and Rustic Barn, which were both built in 1826 using stone from the Erie Canal. They have been enhanced and updated, preserving their significance while adding historic charm.
Bella Rose Vineyard & Winery – Another excellent vineyard along the scenic Niagara Wine Trail is Bella Rose Vineyard & Winery, which opened in 2019 and has already become one of Western New York’s premier wineries to visit. Bella Rose produces a broad spectrum of wines, including sparkling, sweet, dry, red and white varieties, all featuring the incomparable flavor of their Niagara Escarpment-grown grapes. After visiting the exquisite grounds of the Lewiston vineyard, take a trip to their tasting room on Old Falls Street in downtown Niagara Falls, NY to sample more of their tasty varieties.
Vizcarra Vineyards at Becker Farms – Becker Farms is widely known for its U-Pick berries and fresh produce, but many locals don’t realize that the 340-acre Gasport farm is also home to a large wine vineyard. The expansive vineyard grounds are so lovely that many use it for weddings and special events. Take a tour of the vineyard as you sample fresh produce from one of the area’s biggest producers of local fruits and vegetables. It’s already apple season, so you can participate in multiple fun fall activities when you pick apples and taste some of their delicious wine varieties.
Konzelmann Estate Winery – If you’re looking for something a little different from the New York vineyards, cross the Canadian border to check out the many wineries along Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario. One of our favorites is the breathtaking Konzelmann Estate Winery, which offers scenic views of its vast winery located right on Lake Ontario. Guests praise the elegant, well-manicured estate and say the wine is among the tastiest in the region.
Popular varieties include sparkling wines, flavorful peach wine made from local peaches, and their special icewine, a dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. According to Hope Family Wines, only about 10-20% of the liquid in the frozen grapes is used to create ice wine, and the liquid is extremely sweet, resulting in a product that’s sweeter than soda. Since the grapes must be naturally frozen outside and immediately processed, they must be grown in places with cold weather, such as Canada and Western New York.
If you’re feeling really fancy, Konzelmann Estate Winery offers a 60-minute private Vineyard Dome Experience, featuring a luxury geometric dome suite located on a raised outdoor platform. The dome gives guests incredible views of the vineyard and Lake Ontario, as well as a private structured tasting of the vineyard’s Family Reserve Series wines and locally sourced charcuterie and breads.