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Liquid Assets – Leonard Oakes Estate Winery

In Liquid Assets on July 21, 2010 at 10:37 am

A few weekends back I joined some friends at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery for a tasting. The group I was with is planning the Harvest Dinner Under the Stars fundraiser benefiting S.O.L.E. (Seeds of Living Education), a local non-profit organization responsible for implementing the Giving Garden community teaching garden at Union Pleasant Elementary School in Hamburg. Leonard Oakes Estate Winery will be providing some of the wines for the dinner which is happening on September 25 in Memorial Park in the Village of Hamburg.

Leonard Oakes Estate Winery is the latest business venture of the Oakes family which has over a 90 year history in agriculture in Orleans County. Known for decades as apple growers, LynOaken Farms is an established and celebrated apple supplier and u-pick operation. The location of the farm, nestled in the northwest corner of the county, sits on unique and fertile soils left behind by the glaciers of the last ice age. This coupled with a climate moderated by the gentle breezes off Lake Ontario provide a great viticultural resource for the winery. Knowing this, Leonard Oakes planted their first grapes on the land in 2003. By 2007, they were releasing wines and opened their tasting room to the public. Today, Leonard Oakes Estate Winery has several award winning wines as part of their growing repertoire.

The always enjoyable and knowledgeable Jared Oakes and Wendy Oakes Wilson hosted our tasting. There were several standouts including their 2008 Blanc d’Orleans which to me is a perfect refreshing summer white. This crisp wine has hints of grapefruit and melon and a nice finish. Jared warned they were down to their last case of this vintage, so I had to purchase a few bottles which part of the proceeds benefit Hospice of Orleans. I also very much enjoyed their 2008 Red Oakes which is a blend of Noiret, Chambourcin, Frontenac, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has an earthy flavor with hints of pepper, cherry, and vanilla.

If you are a sweet dry wine lover, you will enjoy their 2009 Vignoles. Here is Jared giving a brief explanation of this young wine:

Riesling grapes do very well in New York State soils and climate. Leonard Oakes vineyard is no exception to this fact. If you enjoy a dry Riesling their 2008 vintage is definitely one to try. It has hints of spice with a nice lemon lime finish.

As mentioned, Leonard Oakes Estate Winery has received numerous awards for being such a young winery. Included in this group is their 2008 Ice Wine which won Gold at the New York Ice Wine Festival, Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, International Eastern Competition and was awarded a score of 88 points by Wine Spectator Magazine.  Another award winner is their 2008 Frontenac which has a surprising flavor with hints of cherry, brown sugar, and marshmallow. Here, Wendy Oakes Wilson, explains the Frontenac:

With over 19 wines to choose from, even the most discerning wine palate is sure to find something they enjoy. Their tasting room is open daily year round.  Leonard Oakes Estate Winery is located at 10609 Ridge Road in Medina.

To purchase tickets for the Harvest Dinner Under the Stars fundraiser, please contact Jean Gunner at

WNY Maple School – Maple Syrup 101

In Cooking Fresh, Edible Confections, From the Land, Liquid Assets on January 20, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Although I have no previous maple syrup making experience, I am keen to try it out this winter. The thought of having access to a natural sweetener produced feet from my house is really appealing. I am drawn in by the fact that for a few weeks out of the year, the trees in my backyard, which I normally don’t consider a food source, are able to provide me with free flowing sugar. With this in mind, I was looking forward to attending a day long series of workshops about maple syrup making.

This past Saturday a group of maple enthusiasts gathered at the Western New York Maple School and Trade Show in Gainesville, NY. The gathering was geared towards both experienced maple producers and beginners. It included three hour long workshops, a keynote address from Patrick Hooker, the NYS Agriculture Commissioner, and a tradeshow of maple products and sugaring supplies. I was encouraged to see when I arrived at 10am, that there was a large turnout of over 100 people. Many of them seemed to have been in the maple business for a while. A few of them, like me, were maple novices.

I attended the first morning session geared toward beginners and hobbyists. The presentation was given by Steve Childs, an experienced maple producer, who works for the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County. He clearly guided me through what anyone with some maple trees would need to know to make maple syrup this season.

The first thing to do is identify your maple trees. Any mature maple tree over 10 inches diameter can be tapped. Although hard maples (sugar maple and black maple) are generally associated with making syrup, all types of maple trees (including the soft maples: silver maple, Norway maple, and red maple) run sap and make fine syrup according to Steve. You may need some help identifying your maple trees, since even experienced foresters have a hard time identifying trees in the winter. The major differences between a soft and hard maple can be told by looking at the buds and leaves. Soft maple buds are round and red, and their leaves have saw-toothed edges. They are generally thought to have lower sugar content, but their sap runs earlier in the maple season. Hard maples have reddish brown buds with sharp points, and the leaves have rounded edges. Hard maples are thought to have sweeter sap, and run sap later in the season. However, the sugar content of the sap is quite variable, changing from year to year and tree to tree.

Once you have identified your maple trees, you must now wait until the weather is right for the sap to run. Sap runs when the winter days are warm while the nights still hit freezing temperatures. Generally this happens between February 10 and March 10. When the weather is right, drill a hole 7/16” in diameter, about 1.5” deep. Drill the hole at about chest height, or at a height convenient to lifting the collecting buckets. Depending on the tree diameter, you may drill more than one hole to tap. Make sure to never tap the same hole twice. (Tapping a recently tapped hole will cause yellow sap, which has an off flavor, to run.)

Once the hole has been made, gently tap a spile (or spout) into the hole. This will allow you to collect the sap. Then place a food grade container under the spout, keeping it covered so that debris doesn’t fall into the collection bucket. Once your bucket has filled with sap, remove it from the tree, and bring it back to be processed. Since maple sap is the perfect media (sugar and water) for microorganism growth, it is best to process it soon after collection. Filter the sap through a clean cloth or filter paper to remove debris. Since about 40 gallons of sap are needed to produce one gallon of syrup, most of your time will be spent boiling down the sap. A number of methods can be used to evaporate the water, and large scale syrup making operations use evaporators. In general you will fill a boiling pan with several inches of sap, making sure to watch that there is enough sap to keep it from scorching. Then put it over a heat source and let it evaporate until the sugar content hits 66% (this can be measured with a devise called a hydrometer). Alternatively, if the syrup is boiling at 219 degrees F, it is considered done. Once the syrup is finished it should be filtered one more time, and placed into clean containers while it is 180 degrees. Once sealed maple syrup can store for a long time without spoiling.

NYS Governor Paterson and Ag Commissioner Patrick Hooker

Another highlight of the maple school was a keynote presentation by Patrick Hooker. Patrick had grown up making maple syrup on his family’s dairy farm, expressing fond memories of it. He continues to tap some maple trees on his land today. Patrick talked affectionately of the maple syrup industry, pointing out that it receives little criticism. There are few negative environmental and health impacts from making maple syrup, and it is a tasty product in high demand. Patrick discussed New York State’s potential in the maple industry. New York has more maple trees than any state, while only less than 1% of the trees are being tapped. Currently NY ranks third in maple production behind Canada, and Vermont. Maple syrup is one of the few agricultural products where prices remain good, and demand is high. Larger corporations like Wegmans have interest in supporting local syrup. However, the number of maple producers in NY currently couldn’t meet that demand.

Patrick noted that one important way to encourage entrants into the maple industry is by demystifying the process. Those who have never made maple syrup, often think it is more challenging than it actually is. With events like today’s maple school, we can educate more people about how to make maple syrup. Another important step is to increase rights to tap maple trees. Instead of buying all the land that the maple trees are on, it could be possible to rent maple sap rights on other people’s land. One popular idea is to allow the tapping of maple trees on state land.

Wyoming County is home to a number of established maple producers who take pride in their business. I got to talk with Dottie of Merle Maple, whose family maple business has been going strong for 4 generations. They have 16,000 taps and make a number of products including cinnamon maple cream (which I sampled and loved), maple syrup, maple sugar, maple mustard, and many more. Merle Maple, along with many other maple producers will be part of the upcoming Maple Weekend. This two weekend event occurs March 20-21 and March 27-28, 2010. Maple producers will be open to the public with farm tours showcasing maple production, and other farm events. For more information about the Maple Weekend, visit

posted by Caitlin Henzler, aspiring farmer

Local Winery Wins Double Gold at Finger Lakes International Wine Competition

In Liquid Assets on April 3, 2009 at 1:26 pm




“We’re floored. Just our second vintage and we’re able to show off the great fruit and wine that can be produced in our little corner of the world”, says Jonathan Oakes co-winemaker of Leonard Oakes Estate Winery after being told of the prestigious award from the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. The cold-hearty Frontenac grape produces a deep red wine with great viscosity and intensity of character. The 2007 Frontenac boasts aromas of raspberry, cherry, and overripe red apples that dominate the nose, with a delectable strawberry jam in the distant background. Luscious flavors of brown sugar and blackberry are found in the finish. This unique wine will stand up to foods with strong flavors such as spice rubs and marinades and it pairs remarkably well with dark chocolates!

Co-winemaker Domenic Carisetti was equally proud of silver medal winners 2007 Meritage, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend, and the Frosé, a innovative Frontenac rosé. The 2007 Chambourcin also took home Bronze.

Wendy Oakes Wilson, president of the winery, stated that “the Oakes family has a 90 year history of ties to agriculture and the land in the northwest corner of Orleans County. In 2003 we planted our first wine grapes. From that initial planting of six acres and fourteen varieties has evolved into what is known today as Leonard Oakes Estate Winery.” Leonard Oakes Estate Winery is a member of the Niagara Wine Trail and their tasting room is located at 10609 Ridge Road (Route 104) in Medina, NY.

2009 Reader’s Choice Local Hero Award Winners

In Cooking Fresh, From the Land, Liquid Assets on March 23, 2009 at 2:59 pm



We are thrilled to announce the 2009 Edible Communities Reader’s Choice Local Hero Award winners for the Edible Buffalo community.  The winners are:

Beverage Artisan – Tim Herzog, Flying Bison Brewery
Food Artisan – Patrick Lango, White Cow Dairy
Chef/Restaurant – Mark Hutchinson, Hutch’s Restaurant
Farmer/Farm– Oles Family Farm, Promised Land CSA
Non-Profit OrganizationFood Bank of WNY

Please join us in celebrating our Local Heroes who have helped propel the local food movement forward in Western New York.  You can read all about our winners and the great work they do in the spring issue of Edible Buffalo available now.

You can now find edible Buffalo at all Western New York Wegman’s stores – check us out in the produce department!   For a complete listing of where to find us, visit here.

Buffalo’s Only Urban Winery Celebrates with Customer Appreciation Event Feb 7 & 8

In Edible Events, Liquid Assets on February 5, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Chateau Buffalo's Award Winning Ciders


Did you know Buffalo is home to one of the only few urban wineries that exist across the U.S.?   I’m referring to Chateau Buffalo on Hertel Avenue.  Most people who aren’t that  familiar with this NYS wine shop may only think of it as a mecca for NY wine lovers who are seeking out their favorite local vintages or are in pursuit of a wine  they tasted while visiting the Finger Lakes or the north fork on Long Island, which it is.  But Chateau Buffalo is also the creator of its own vintages including award winning artisanal hard ciders which are made with locally grown apples.  

Chateau Buffalo also introduced its version of an ice wine  this season called Glace de Ballet, which is an apple ice wine.   Using a cryoconcentration process which uses cold storage apples harvested in the fall and are then  pressed in December.  The cider is then left outside until the water in the juice is frozen and separates from the sugar, which is gravity-harvested.  The concentrated cider is then fermented into a smooth, luscious ice wine.  This award winning wine is best served as an apertif or as a nice accompaniment to a lightly sauteed foie gras or a fine cheese.

This weekend Chateau Buffalo is having a customer appreciation event where you can enjoy a free wine tasting in their tasting room, purchase any wine in stock with a 10% discount and even enter to win a case of wine!  The event is this Saturday, February 7 from noon to 8pm and Sunday, February 8 from noon to 6pm.   Their street address is 1209 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo.

Bare the Barrels and Clear the Tanks! Chautauqua Wineries Prepare for Upcoming Vintages with a “White Sale” Jan 17-19

In Edible Events, Liquid Assets on January 13, 2009 at 4:55 pm
Wine Barrels

Wine Barrels


The 2008 grape harvest was abundant for the wineries of the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail and they are eager to clear out their tanks and barrels to make room for upcoming vintages and they need your help!  This weekend they are having their first-ever “white sale” where bargains will be available on both wine and merchandise at each winery. 

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