Every spring, hundreds of people make their annual pilgrimage to the Lake Erie wine-growing region to pay homage to fromage in early May. But this is no ordinary wine-and-cheese party. Think award-winning artisan cheeses swirled into soups and desserts, sprinkled over miniature quiches, and baked into flavorful favorites like macaroni and cheese.
The Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail is located in the heart of a nationally designated American Viticulture Area (AVA). The Lake Erie AVA, which has a distinctive micro-climate, is the largest grape-growing region east of the Rockies. The trail spans two states and includes more than 30,000 acres of vineyards, which are home to 21 wineries, 8 in Pennsylvania and 13 in New York. Two new wineries are slated to open later in May, Courtyard Wineries in North East, Pennsylvania, and Sensory Winery & Art Gallery, in Ripley, New York.
The wineries will uncork their premium wines during Wine & Cheese Weekend, Saturday, May 1, and Sunday, May 2, filling glasses with buttery Chardonnay or fruity Fredonia; a savory Chambourcin or any number of varietals and special blends, like Reflections of Lake Erie.
Yancey’s Fancy, an artisan cheese maker located near Batavia, New York, is supplier of the event’s handcrafted artisan cheeses. Yancey’s won “Best of Class” in the 2010 World Championship of Cheese last month for its Jalapeno Peppadew Cheddar, earning 98.8 points from an international panel of judges. Chefs and winemakers are creating appetizers, main dishes and desserts using Yancey’s cheese list.
As for most wine trail events, tickets will be pre-sold. A ticket affords tastings of food and wine at each participating winery along the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail, a gourmet guide featuring recipes and wine-pairings, a commemorative wine glass, and a special gift. This year’s gift is a tempered-glass cheese server with leather hanging loop, accompanied by a silver-plated cheese spreader, perfect for entertaining guests at your own wine and cheese party.
Weekend tickets are $35/person, $60/couple. Sunday-only tickets are $30/person, $55/couple. Tickets can be ordered online at www.wineweekend.org or by calling toll-free, 1-877-326-6561.
Many local B & B’s and attractions are offering special getaway packages. Call for info and a wine trail brochure today, 1-877-326-6561.